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GONE in 60 seconds. But what a minute that was.

Belle Vue’s Premiership title defence ended in the most breathtaking fashion after one of the best races of the season.

The ATPI Aces looked dead and buried at 10 points down on aggregate with three races to go against Ipswich in the Play-Off semi-final, second leg, at the National Speedway Stadium.

Then came two sensational maximum race wins, including Dan Bewley and Brady Kurtz outgunning the Witches’ powerhouse spearhead of Emil Sayfutdinov and Jason Doyle. Now they needed to do it again to reach a third successive Grand Final.

And for 50 metres, in just over a blink of an eye, it looked as if Kurtz and Bewley would do it as they briefly nosed ahead down the home straight.

However, Doyle cleverly and forcefully burst under Kurtz into the first turn, shuffling the pack, and then both Witches moved under Bewley out of turn four and it was all over for the Mancunians.

In just 347 metres, hope had turned to heartbreak.

It delivered a most surreal silence. From the euphoria of anticipation of a Grand Final and title defence, in just that one minute, the season was over. It went from motorcycling magnificence to ‘see you next March’.

In truth, the semi-final was lost in Suffolk just a few days earlier. On a deep track, the ATPI Aces just didn’t get going. The 18-point deficit was just a bridge too far against a Witches side with such a world class top two.

Until that moment, it had been an outstanding titledefending year. The ATPI Aces were rock solid and comfortably topped the Premiership league table.

Something special would be needed to stop them retaining the league championship. And it did in that Heat 15.

Boss Mark Lemon admits it was a curious end to the campaign. He said: “It definitely was a brutal finish.

M W D L Pts 1 BELLE VUE 24 15 2 7 44 2 Wolverhampton 24 12 5 7 38 3 Sheffield 24 15 0 9 37 4 Ipswich 24 14 0 10 34 5 Leicester 24 12 3 9 34 6 Peterborough 24 7 1 16 20 7 King’s Lynn 24 3 1 20 9


For a minute, the boys looked like they were going to pull it out of the fire. Then suddenly it was over.

“We hadn’t really had time to get our breath back and now the season was done.

“It was a hard one to swallow to be quite honest. We had made it very hard for ourselves after the first leg.

“But I genuinely felt if we could get a bit of momentum at the NSS, we could do it. As it panned out, that’s what happened. The big difference was Jason and Emil in the end.

Charles Wright

They just had enough in the tank to deny Brady and Dan when it mattered.

“However, that is speedway. They deserved it over the two legs, the scoreline doesn’t lie.

“What is hugely frustrating is that we only had two bad meetings all season really. One at Wolverhampton in the rain early in the season when we got beaten by 26 points. That cost us a go at the KO Cup.

“Then the 18-point defeat at Ipswich in the semi-final also cost us. We had our worst two meetings at the worst possible time.

“You can go over those meetings time and again and people will blame individuals. That’s human nature. But that’s just sport.

“Over the entire season, the eight riders who performed for us did a great job, pretty much what we asked of them. There were off-nights here and there, but to finish top of the league underlines what a brilliant and consistent season they all had.

“You also need luck to get over the line. Over the years, it’s been frustrating to lose key riders before the PlayOffs.

“I’ve lost count of how many times it has happened. Even recently, we lost Brady before the 2021 Play-Offs and

Dan Bewley and Jake Mulford

December 9, 2023 speedway star 27

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