Coventry ace Scott Nicholls stole the thunder from a night of Wolves legends at Monmore Green.
Fans flocked to the stadium to see 51-year-old Sam Ermolenko take to the track once more and Freddie Lindgren attempt to land an extraordinary fifth successive Banks’s Olympique handicap title.
Neither disappointed, ‘Sudden Sam’ bringing the house down with a fine race win in heat 12 and Lindgren battling hard to defend his crown.
A third Monmore great, Peter Karlsson, was a late cry-off after badly injuring a finger in an incident with a lawnmower. It’s something of an irony that Karlsson, one of the safest riders on shale, has such a chequered injury history with everyday household objects. The mower joins a list in which trampoline and skateboard both figure prominently.
But it was Nicholls’ night. The Great Britain stalwart claimed a record-breaking seventh national title at the stadium earlier this year and was clearly in the mood to end a run of Olympique appearances which has seen him on the podium four times without previously reaching the top step.
He dropped just the one point, in heat six, when he ended a fine dice with Peter Kildemand by driving the Swindon man into the deep shale on turn four.
But while he was fighting that particular battle, the admirably consistent Ricky Wells was opening up a decisive lead at the head of affairs and could not be overhauled.
Lindgren also lost an early point, missing out to Nicolai Klindt. The Dane’s badly-broken shoulder is still affecting his confidence in traffic, but give him fresh air and a 20m start, as Lindgren had to in heat five, and the outcome is all but inevitable.
The decisive momentcame when Nicholls and Lindgren met each other in heat 10 with both off 15 metres. Lindgren fluffed the start and could make no impression on his rival.
Terrace romantics were hoping that Jacob Thorssell and Kevin Doolan might delay Nicholls’ passage sufficiently for Ermolenko, off scratch, to take the victory and give Lindgren a shot at a run-off.
Of course, it was not to be. Nicholls swallowed up his rivals and went on to clinch a deserved victory.
Lindgren, needing a second place in his final outing to finish runner-up, retired disconsolately after waiting for a red light which never came following Kildemand’s jump start.
That left Wells second overall with third spot decided by a run-off won by Danny King against Lindgren and Ryan Fisher.
But for many supporters, it was the night when Ermolenko took what will surely be his final Monmore race victory.
Scorers: Scott Nicholls 14, Ricky Wells 11, Danny King 10, Freddie Lindgren 10, Ryan Fisher 10, Adam Skornicki 9, Kevin Doolan 8, Andrew Tully 8, Peter Kildemand 7, Nicolai Klindt 7, Jacob Thorssell 7, Pontus Aspgren 7, Tom Perry 6, Sam Ermolenko 4, Aaron Fox 1, Darryl Ritchings (res) 1, Oskar Fafjer 0, Ashley Morris (res) 0.
Run-off for third place: King (59.50), Lindgren, Fisher (fell).