The Belle Vue Colts were crowned the 2017 National League Champions after a fiercely contested grand final with Eastbourne, lifting their first major silverware at the National Speedway Stadium.
The home team trailed by 12 points going into the title decider in Manchester and faced a challenging night after the loss of Andy Mellish in the first leg while also still being without Lee Payne.
But both injured riders were determined to be a part of the Cool Running Colts big night and were present at the stadium to lend their help and support to their team mates as battle commenced.
In typical fashion, Belle Vue were in command of proceedings almost immediately despite their handicap and recovered the aggregate scores to within four points after just five intensive races.
They went on to level those scores, and so began a seemingly immovable deadlock that persisted to Heat 12 before Rob Shuttleworth and Luke Woodhull were able to take action and advance.
This came after a terrifying collision between team mates Kyle Bickley and Dan Bewley in Heat 10, the latter of whom got completely out of shape and all but wiped a defenceless Bickley out.
Thankfully both escaped without major injury, and Bewley was able to team up with Jack Smith in Heat 13 to extend the Cool Running Colts’ lead to six points with two heats to go.
And it was the skipper Rob Shuttleworth who was able to seal the deal in Heat 14, bagging a 3-3 which ensured the IT First Eagles could not catch them and so confirm Belle Vue as champions.
An ecstatic Jack Smith said: “It’s been a dream to be part of this club this year. My dad was a legend of the Aces and I’m so proud to have represented Belle Vue at both levels this year.
“On the night, it was a bit of a frustrating start for me because my engine went on the line in my first race and my dad had suggested changing bikes before I went out; and I wish I had!
“But that’s trivial compared to the achievement of the team. We’ve gone all all season unbeaten at home and now we’re National League Champions, it’s just an indescribable and amazing feeling.
“We’ve put in the hard work all year and we came too far to throw it away. It was a tough ask without Lee and Andy but everybody pulled together to win this title. I’m so proud of this team.”
The Cool Running Colts return home on Friday October 20 in pursuit of Knock Out Cup glory when they will be targeting a big win over Mildenhall to progress through to the final.
Words: Hayley Bromley
Image: Ian Charles