Match Report by Birmingham's Stephen Hodgkinson.
Final round of the season with all roads leading to the heart of the Midlands to the Birmingham circuit. 11 riders for each race format saw 20 heat formulas for both meetings. The weather held up well throughout although a threat of rain for later in the day failed to materialise. The usual format of one race from each format worked well with no one too out of breath to need extra Time!
The 60's top 3 were sorted although Mr Coventry Joe McLaughlin was hoping to add his own flavour of spice to proceedings.
The 50's were pretty much sorted although 3rd place was up for grabs and needed an appearance by Ray Oliver to ensure he maintained his season long top 3 place however a non attendee meant he surrendered that place.
The 40's had the most to play for with the title decided the battle for 2nd was likely to go to the wire between Hellingly Lion Martyn Hollebon and Birmingham reigning double champion Mark Winwood.
The usual suspects dominated proceedings in the 40's. Heat 8 saw the Hellingly man defeat the home star for early bragging rights and with a solid 19 points was joint top scorer, his only defeat to fellow joint top scorer Kev Burns. Winwood, with another defeat to Burns in heat 20 to amass 18 points and a final appearance. The 3 were joined by champion in waiting Marchant.
The B final was won by Mark Whitehead who himself held 3rd place for a chunk of the season but a slight dip in consistency saw him lose out in the final 3rd of the season.
So on to the main final with Burns on 1 , Hollebon on 2 whilst Marchant and Winwood took 3 and 4 respectively. Burns made the gate for a comfy win and Marchant had made a decent gate to slot in behind which left Hollebon to defend against Winwood on the opening corner. With the Leicester pair clear Hollebon knew he simply had to defend his position with Winwood also aware he needed to finish 2 places above his rival and the chance to nick 2nd overall was as good as over. That didn't stop there being a fight for 3 and a bit laps.
Onto the older generation with plenty of the field battling for a final place to end their series. Heat 3 saw the first battle of the main challengers with Timms getting a superb gate off 2 over hodgkinson on gate 1 and held off from increasing pressure from Venson. Mclaughlin beat Hemming in heat 5 whilst ht 6 saw hodgkinson defend 4 laps of pressure from Frith. That was to be Frith's only defeat of the day as he scorched to 19 on the day. Frith was the only rider to beat Timms in heat 11 who joined him on 19 points as joint top scorer. Venson was also beaten by Frith to join the duo in the A on 18.
The battle for the last final place went to the last group of heats. Hemming beat Hodgkinson in heat 15 to put both on 13, likewise Joe. Heat 17 saw the first battle decided with Hodgkinson winning heat 17 from Joe to put him on 17. That left Hemming needing to win heat 20 to also take 17 points but had to make do with 2nd to champ in waiting Venson.
Hemming winning the B final from the 60's trio whilst the A final saw all 4 riders close throughout. Frith led from the start but had Venson on his tail throughout. Timms maintained pressure throughout whilst Hodgkinson was waiting for a slight mistake to capitalise. An excellent race to end the 50's series.
That left the 60's qualifiers decided also with Joe taking a grid 1 for amassing 16 points with the so far unbeaten A finalist this year Terry Kirkup on 2. Steff Whitehead was on 3 with Fred on 4. Terry battled with Joe for a lap and a bit before the elbow pressure saw him back off and with the pressure off allowed the chasing pack thru. What a great addition Leicester's Steff has been for the last 2 rounds and it would be great for the competition if he was able to make more in 2017. Likewise Joe has had a torrid season thru injury which has halted his competition this season so he will be delighted to end the season with a win. With the likes of Timms and Hemming joining the 60's next year the category is likely to be even tougher.
The 50's also is due to get new blood with Paddy Wenn due to move up next season alongside elite league Wednesfield star Mark Griffiths if he chooses to take part in the near future.
The 40's are also likely to include a couple more of the Birmingham riders with Andy James and Carl Winwood (the younger brother of Mark) looking to join the series in 2017.
Another great year for the series with nearly a grand raised thanks to all for supporting the series!
Terry's Little Bit On The Side
Definitely a long, drawn-out season not just for the Euro-Vets but everyone else in most if not all of the Regions. This is 49th year of my connection with Cycle Speedway and I have to say I'm loosing the flavour a little, but that's what my Northumbria Club's season in the Northern League has done to me, though of course I am very much still All Go for the Euro-Vets, an altogether more civilised brand of racing. You'd think then, that with a certain amount of previous experience behind me I would refrain from changing a well known and reasonably successful formula, what was really a well-oiled machine, for the final Euro-Vets meeting of the season. Wouldn't you? Well it is of course fairly standard practice in motorised bike racing to try next years stuff in the final meeting of the year, especially if you've already wrapped up a title. In the push bike world, however, maybe not so clever. I only went and changed the gearing on the bike for the Birmingham Finale, which may not have been so bad had I at least straddled the bike before the match, rather than sticking it in the van and hoping for the best before heading down to the Midlands. The result was of course a disaster, I couldn't ride the thing properly and found my little legs spinning out far too quickly. Silly old fool. Still some excellent racing to watch though, especially the top clashes in the Over 40s category, and as Stevie says, great way to round off another successful Veterans Grand Prix Series. Extreme gratitude to 1960s Manchester legend Kevin Greenhalgh for turning up to present the trophies today. Roll on 2017.