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SPEEDWAY: Back-door bid for brave Brits; WORLD CUP ACTION FROM POLAND.

Byline: MIKE BERRY

DECIMATED Team Great Britain dug deep in a valiant but vain attempt to give Poland a run for their money in a rain-hit launch to the inaugural Speedway World Cup last night.

The opening meeting at Gdansk, delayed over four hours due to a torrential early-afternoon downpour, was always going to be a two-horse race, and Poland's extra pedigree saw them overcome the injury-weakened Brits by 62 points to 49 to win a place in Saturday's final.

Team GB now have to take their place in the Last-Chance repechage at Wroclaw on Thursday night, from where the top two finishers also go into the final.

Minnows Finland and Germany fought their own battle for third place, with the Finns emerging triumphant to keep alive their hopes of also taking part in Thursday's meeting as one of the best finishing also-rans.

Three Polish riders - Tomasz Gollob, Krzysztof Cegielski and Sebastian Ulamek - dropped just a point apiece as the host nation pocketed 16 race wins to Britain's eight.

Lions boss Neil Middleditch said: "The Poles were very quick but our main aim was to reach the final and we can still do that through Thursday's meeting."

A track that had been flooded by the deluge dried remarkably, and the Brits gave the partisan Polish fans early food for thought when Mark Loram and Carl Stonehewer took the chequered flag in the first two heats.

But Piotr Protasiewicz's victory in heat three began a sequence of six Polish wins in seven races, and Middleditch's men were unable to stay the pace.

Bees heat-leader Lee Richardson got close to Gollob in heat four, and also burst past Tommi Reima and Gerd Riss down the back straight in heat eight, but the gap between Poland and Team GB was then 10 points.

The Lions briefly threatened a comeback when Gary Havelock beat Poole team mate Cegielski in heat 10, Loram doubled his second place to four points as a tactical joker in 11 and Richardson flew from the start to win 12, with the Pole, Miroslaw Kowalik, finishing third behind Kaj Laukkanen.

But Protasiewicz and Gollob confirmed Poland's controlling interest, and they gradually pulled away, though the impressive Richardson, who came of age on the international stage, denied Protasiewicz a maximum in heat 23 and Loram did likewise to Gollob in the final race when he drove under the Grand Prix leader in typical style on the second lap.

BEES reserve Paul Lee returned to competitive action after a two-month injury lay-off by scoring 11 (paid 13) guesting for parent club Sheffield in last night's 65-25 rout of Swindon in the second leg of the Premier Trophy final.

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ON SONG: Lee Richardson won three heats
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 2, 2001
Words:455
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