Eastbourne Eagles kicked off their Elite League campaign in fantastic style with an emphatic victory over Wolverhampton Wolves at Arlington on Saturday evening.
A magnificent triumph, they bagged a maximum three league points – the reward for a win by more than seven points – which will serve to boost confidence levels with visits from Belle Vue and Birmingham next on the agenda.
The Eagles carried on where they left off in the challenge match with Poole six days earlier, picking up points throughout the order. Pole Dawid Lampart was the only member to struggle for form.
But the shining beacon of this performance came from Simon Gustafsson, who produced a classy 15-point maximum, his first in Eastbourne colours. The Swede won his first outing in some style, but eyebrows were well and truly raised when he inflicted a first defeat of the season on Wolves powerhouse Freddie Lindgren in the fifth.
Gustafsson continued in earnest, sharing a second 5-1 with home skipper Cam Woodward in heat nine over Peter Karlsson and this was arguably the point at which the hosts took control of the fixture.
He made it four out of four, with Lewis Bridger in third, to edge Eagles ever closer to victory but the piece de resistance was still to follow as Gustafsson trapped alongside Bjarne Pedersen in the last race of the night. The pair conspired to fend off the attentions of both Karlsson and Lindgren, for a 5-1 that truly raised the roof.
The visitors, themselves hotly tipped for honours this term, had been fully expected to threaten Eastbourne’s home dominance with the likes of Lindgren, Karlsson and Great Britain international Tai Woffinden in their ranks.
But after a nip and tuck opening the Eagles took control. Woffinden suffered a nasty fall and struggled to find form, as Gustafsson came to the fore. Pedersen, in his first Elite League match at Arlington since joining on loan from Poole, lived up to his billing, while Lewis Bridger also impressed on his return.
Wolves duo Karlsson and Lindgren couldn’t make their mark either. Gustafsson and Pedersen’s 5-1 in the final heat consigned the Wolves pair to third and fourth. Not many riders will repeat that feat in the weeks to come.
Arlington was truly a happy place to be, at least for the grinning home contingent.
The Eagles face a visit from Belle Vue Aces on Saturday evening, when they are set to line up against Ricky Kling, who rode in Sussex last season.
Eagles: Gustafsson 15(5), Pedersen 12+1(5), Bridger 9+1(5), Kylmakorpi 8+1(4), Dryml 7+3(4), Woodward 6+2(4), Lampart 0(3). – 57
Wolves: Lindgren 12(5), Karlsson 8(5), Wells 7+2(5), Woffinden 4(4), Proctor 3(4), Lindgren 2+1(3), Burmeister 2(3). – 38
Number of rides in brackets.