Sunday April 15, 2012
What a difference a week makes! Having had press and practice day cancelled due to snow and rain affecting the track a week before, the first meeting of the season for the Buxton Hitmen on Sunday was bathed in sunshine with the track having to be watered on several occasions to keep the dust down.

The meeting - a challenge match against the USA Future team who ended their UK tour at the Buxton track was a great display of speedway with both teams evenly matched and taking the lead at different points during the afternoon. The Hitmen with three new riders; Tim Webster, Richard Andrews and fifteen year old Michael Neale used the meeting as a chance to work out the notoriously difficult track and different bike setups receiving help and advice from the other team members with Buxton experience. Former Hitmen riders Jason Garrity and Adam Allott also put in appearances to support the lads on their first meeting of 2012.

Heat one saw Buxton take the lead with a 4-2 from Robert Branford and Richard Andrews, however the score was reversed in heat two with the USA’s Brad Pappalardo (current world champion Greg Hancock’s Nephew) and Aaron Fox to make the progressive total 6-6. Heat three saw the Hitmen fight back with dynamic duo Luke Priest and Dean Felton on a 5-1 to get the total to 11-7. Heat four and team USA levelled the score again with a 1-5, but Priest and Felton in Heat five came back with a 4-2 to edge the lead once more. Heat six was a 3-3 but USA hit back again to level the score in heat seven with a 2-4. Heat eight was looking promising with a great start from the home side until a collision between two riders saw the Hitmen’s Ryan Blacklock excluded whilst in the lead. The re-run went into the USA’s favour with a 1-5 putting them in the lead 22-26. Heat’s nine and ten were both 3-3’s getting the gap closer once again at 28-32. Heat eleven saw the downfall of the Hitmen with Buxton’s Tim Webster being put at 15 meters due to a tapes infringement and the USA therefore winning with a 1-5. Heat twelve and Ryan Blacklock took a fall leaving Priest challenging for first place however the score of 2-4 put the visitors further in the lead with 31-41. Another 2-4 followed in thirteen but a win for Buxton’s Dean Felton in heat fourteen did little to catch the USA. Heat fifteen and a 3-3 put the final score at 39 – 51 with a big win for the visitors. However Buxton team manager Jack Lee says the loss isn’t a worry “since our team didn’t get a practice day last week due to the weather this challenge meeting was the first chance the lads have had to ride the 2012 track after a few changes during the winter. The USA have ridden most nights this week, one being last night so were well practiced for coming here today but we still managed to give them a good battle in the first half of the meeting. Luke, Dean and Robert all looked to be settling in again today with some heat wins under their belts and Ryan is noticeably much quicker now and mixing it with the other lads. The new boys just need to settle into the track and when they do the points will start building I’m sure.”

It was also a relief to have a full team today after two of the new riders Michael and Richard took heavy falls at Stoke the night before (Saturday) in the Under 21’s semi final, with Richard being taken to hospital for tests after a nasty heat one collision with the fence. Luckily both the lads escaped this time with just bruising and were able to ride today.

The Hitmen have a tough meeting next week with league favourites Mildenhall in town, the meeting starts as usual at 3pm.


BUXTON HITMEN 39: Robert Branford 11+1, Luke Priest 10+2, Dean Felton 8+1, Richard Andrews 4, Tim Webster 4, Ryan Blacklock 2, Michael Neale 0.

USA FUTURE 51: Gino Manzares 16, Aaron Fox 10+1, Russell Green 8+1, Bryce Starks 7, Mikey Buman 6+1, Brad Pappalardo 4+1, Dylan Black r/r.

Man of the Match: Luke Priest