A Year in Summary : 2003
The Grand Prix
Nicki Pedersen emerged as an unlikely World Champion in 2003. The Dane had always been a lively competitor at GP level but inconsistency had been his downfall. He wore the number 12 throughout the competition, an indication of his lowly finishing position the previous year, and even Nicki himself could not have envisaged topping the standings at the end of the year.
Nicki's success was built on a consistent run of results. A win at Cardiff was his only victory but he reached the final in another six rounds. Strangely enough, the only two rounds in which he didn't reach the last four were the two staged in Sweden.
Runner up, for the third successive year, was Jason Crump. Crumpy suffered a good deal of back luck, with engine and fuel problems costing him dear. He remains a consistent threat at this level and won the rounds in Denmark and the Czech Republic. Surely the title will be his one day ?
Rickardsson and Adams were separated by a single point in third and fourth positions. Tony's form suffered after a mid-season injury and we didn't see the best of him in 2003. Leigh rode consistently well throughout the series but only managed to reach three finals.
The Elite League
There can be little doubt that the Elite League season of 2003 belonged to the Poole Pirates. The south coast club carried off a treble of prizes - Elite League, Knockout Cup and British League Cup.
The Pirates team had unequalled top-end strength with Tony Rickardsson and Leigh Adams proving a formidable partnership. Lukas Dryml was a reliable third heatleader but injury ruled him out from August onwards.
The League success was remarkable as the campaign got off to the worst possible start. A 47-33 home reverse, from a poor Oxford side, provoked concern amongst the Pirates faithful. An away win at Ipswich and a draw at Wolves followed and their season was back on track. The Pirates went on to win a further six away matches and easily qualify, in top spot, for the playoffs.
Their opponents in the Grand Finale were the Coventry Bees. A first-leg win away from home put Poole firmly in the driving seat. They clinched the title with a very convincing 55-35 win in the return. Hero on the night was Ales Dryml, a late season signing, who recorded a paid maximum from his 5 races.
The Pirates progress in the KO Cup was relatively straightforward. Eastbourne were defeated in a two legged encounter staged in a single day in April. The next round, the semi final, was not staged until September and Oxford were brushed aside. This set up another clash with Coventry in the Final. Poole won their home leg but only had a four point advantage to take to Coventry. After seven heats of the return leg it looked all over. Coventry had opened up an 'unassailable' eighteen point lead and the Pirates were dead and buried. Nobody told that to the Pirates however and they staged an incredible fightback. A last race 5-1 from Adams and Rickardsson closed the gap, on the night, to just two points - enough to win the cup for Poole.
The Pirates tracked a vastly different team in the British League Cup competition. Former favourite Craig Boyce was recruited on a part time basis and led the side throughout. Aussies Cameron Woodward and Tony Primmer also turned out in the majority of their fixtures. The side proved to be more than strong enough and progressed to the final where they defeated Eastbourne over two legs.
The Premier League
Edinburgh Monarchs had waited 55 years for a League Title, 2003 was to be their year. The Monarchs opted to build their team around the vastly experienced Peter Carr and Frede Schott. Backing them up was a posse of up and coming kids including Rory Schlein, Magnus Karlsson and Theo Pijper.
Schott proved to be an inspirational skipper and his own personal contribution was immense. In 2002 he had been a solid eight point performer, in 2003 his average remained over the ten point mark all season. This increased scoring, the solid contributions from Carr and the marked improvement from the youngsters made the Monarchs a force to be reckoned with. The side chalked up nine away wins in their league campaign and kept a clean sheet at home. This was more than enough to bring them the title.
Isle of Wight Islanders were the Monarchs' main challengers for the title. They didn't do enough in the end but were compensated by their success in the KO Cup. They travelled to Sheffield for the second leg of the final with a narrow lead. Sheffield were red hot favourites to clinch the title but the Islanders had other ideas. They battled hard throughout and clinched success in a nerve-wracking heat 15.
The Conference League
Mildenhall Fen Tigers were almost as dominant at Conference Level as Poole were in the Elite League. They captured the Conference League and KO Cup titles. The critics had a field day when the Tigers tracked experienced riders like Ben Howe, Paul Lee and Wayne Broadhurst in their side. To many the use of such riders was against the ethos of the league, the Tigers would point out that no rules were broken. It remains a problem that the clubs at Conference Level have differing objectives. Unfortunately it's a problem without an obvious answer.
This article was first published prior to October 2002
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