LEICESTER produced an improved performance in a 48-42 defeat at Belle Vue in a hard-fought contest in Manchester on Monday.

Skipper Max Fricke was immense for the Watling JCB Lions on his old home circuit, dropping just one point from six rides and being involved in a series of spectacular races.

In fact, Fricke would have gone through the card unbeaten had it not been for a dramatic last-ditch pass by Dan Bewley to edge him out on the line in Heat 13.

Fricke’s heroics weren’t enough for the Lions to take an away victory, but this was a far more encouraging display at the National Speedway Stadium and in some cases the points elsewhere in the team didn’t reflect the effort put in.

And the eventual six-point margin also puts the Lions in a decent position for the aggregate point when the sides meet in the East Midlands next month.

Fricke and Richard Lawson got the Lions off to a dream start with a 5-1 over Bewley in the opening race, but the Aces quickly established control with a run of heat advantages.

Connor Bailey passed Craig Cook to win the reserves’ race before a 5-1 followed in the next as Jaimon Lidsey took the lead off turn two and Ben Cook made his way past Sam Masters on the last lap.

Ryan Douglas held Bewley at bay for a time in Heat 4 before the British Champion shot through, with Bailey again getting the better of Cook to make it 14-10.

Lions then pegged the meeting with four successive shared races, Fricke riding strongly to defeat Lidsey in Heat 5 before Douglas held off the threat of Norick Blodorn in the next.

Masters looked set to take Heat 7 in what would have been a Leicester 4-2 before Bewley snatched it on the line, whilst youngster Luke Killeen, a late guest booking for the injured Sam Hagon, held an excellent second place in Heat 8 for another 3-3.

But Heat 9 saw the match go away from the Lions as Lidsey and Ben Cook combined for a 5-1 over Douglas and Craig Cook, leading to boss Stewart Dickson bringing Fricke into the next race as a tactical substitute in place of Luke Becker.

Fricke rode overtime to get the better of Blodorn, but with Lidsey overcoming Masters for third place the Lions were held to another shared race.

They did grab a 4-2 in Heat 11 as Fricke held back Bewley’s charge, but after Masters took a shared Heat 12, Bewley delighted the home crowd with his Heat 13 effort against Fricke, whilst Blodorn defeated Douglas for third.

That left the Lions needing an unlikely two 5-1s to draw the contest, and the Aces secured victory when Ben Cook stormed under Becker to win Heat 14, although Killeen again took credit for his third place over Bailey.

The final race was another cracker as Fricke this time got revenge over Bewley despite the Aces rider’s spectacular move off the fourth bend, and third place for Masters over Lidsey narrowed the final gap to six points.

Dickson said: “It was certainly a better performance than the last performance at Ipswich, and we showed a bit of fight and a bit of character.

“Again I’ll say the same thing, I’ve not got all seven riders firing. I know every team manager will say the same, but when I look down the programme we’re still one or two scorers short to where we could be.

“It makes such a difference if you can just get another two or three points here or there, because it becomes a four or six-point swing, and that’s been the story of the season.

“It was certainly a better effort, a more spirited performance, and the aggregate point is up for grabs – but at the same time I’m still not overly pleased.”

Lions are next in action next Monday (July 1) when they visit improving King’s Lynn on what could be an important night of racing.

BELLE VUE 48: Dan Bewley 14, Jaimon Lidsey 11+1, Ben Cook 9+4, Norick Blodorn 8, Connor Bailey 5+1, Connor Mountain 1,  Brady Kurtz r/r.
LEICESTER 42: Max Fricke 16+1, Sam Masters 7, Ryan Douglas 6, Richard Lawson 5+1, Luke Becker 3+1, Luke Killeen 3+1, Craig Cook 2.

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July 18, 2024 19.30

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