Speedway: Nicholls and Harris suffer bad breaks to lose shot at home win
Forget about the multiple riding accidents, the refereeing controversies and any question marks there were over the safety of the man-made track, the only concerns for the majority of more than 42,000 fans leaving the British Speedway Grand Prix in Cardiff late on Saturday were for the wellbeing of their crestfallen heroes, Scott Nicholls and Chris Harris.
Twelve months after Harris became the first British rider to triumph here, it was the turn of GB captain Nicholls, at the eighth attempt here – and in his 62nd Grand Prix overall, the longest sequence of any rider still awaiting a maiden victory – to race-off in the Grand Final in front of this passionate home support. Sadly, though, the pressure of the situation proved decisive: coming from gate three, he dramatically false-started and subsequently broke the start tape resulting in an automatic disqualification.
Afterwards, the 30-year-old assured any worried fans that he would learn from the experience. "Maybe I was a bit too enthusiastic. This was my first Cardiff final, and I wanted to do well," he said. "The problem is that the ruts at the start line were too deep. Once I moved forward I couldn't hold the bike back."
It is likely that Harris would have been competing alongside Nicholls at the end had he not suffered a broken nose in heat 20, after a collision with Niels Kristian Iversen. Displaying tremendous fortitude, after nearly 10 minutes of treatment on the track, a dazed Harris raced in the second semi-final but was off the pace, finishing third.
In the final reigning world champion Nicki Pedersen of Denmark crashed on lap two. Justice, perhaps, given that he was awarded three contentious reprieves by the race referee. Taking advantage, Jason Crump comfortably held off Greg Hancock to win a record fourth British Grand Prix, closing the gap on Pedersen in the world championship standings to 10 points. All four finalists, however, were vocal in their disapproval at the deteriorating quality of the indoor track. Crump said: "It's bordering on the dangerous. It's amazing the ambulance crews didn't come out more often."
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