Wolverhampton star David Howe made the perfect start to the campaign by carrying off the Alan Hunt Memorial Trophy in Birmingham's first meeting of the season last night.
Howe proved to be the class of the field and scored a faultless 15-point maximum in near-perfect track conditions a minor miracle considering the heavy rain earlier in the weekend.
And Howe's achievement was all the more remarkable given that he had been in danger of starting the season on the injured list after sustaining a nasty knock to his ankle in the Telford ice meeting last month.
Howe finished three points clear of his nearest rivals last night, although he had to win a tough heat 20 to clinch the title as both Steve Johnston and Brummies skipper Jason Lyons could have pipped him had they forced him back into the minor places.
However, Howe surged clear and left Johnston to contest a run-off with Daniel King after both riders finished on 12 points. It was King who took that race with one of the best moves of the night, a thrilling swoop around the boards on the fourth bend to come past the experienced Australian.
Lyons was left to rue an uncharacteristically slow start to the meeting when he was left at the back in heat three and could only salvage third place from James Birkinshaw, and he could never quite make up for the dropped points.
There was also a mixed series of results for the other Brummies riders on show, with Kyle Legault showing up well on ten points, starting the meeting off in fine style by storming inside Ricky Ashworth on the third bend to win heat one.
Phil Morris was solid throughout to finish halfway down the field alongside former Brummies skipper Brent Werner, and Adam Roynon seemed to be gaining in pace throughout the meeting although he will be unhappy with some of his starting.
Brummies' lower order found the going somewhat tougher, not surprisingly given the strength of opposition, although Jack Hargreaves clearly has work to do before the first-team meetings of the season against King's Lynn on Good Friday as mechanical problems meant he failed to finish in all but one of his five rides.
RESULTS: David Howe 15, Daniel King 12, Steve Johnston 12, Jason Lyons 11, Ulrich Ostergaard 11, Kauko Nieminen 10, Kyle Legault 10, Phil Morris 8, Brent Werner 7, Adam Roynon 6, Lubos Tomicek 6, Ricky Ashworth 5, James Birkinshaw 3, Lee Smart 2, Shawn McConnell 1, Jack Hargeaves 1, Jack Roberts (res) 0.
Meanwhile, Howe, who has a key part to play in Wolverhampton's season, returns to team action tonight in the first big Midlands derby of the campaign as the Monmore club host Coventry in the Craven Shield.
The Bees are defending all three of the Elite League's major trophies and have already stated their intentions to continue their blistering away form from last season, which saw them win on each of their three trips to their rivals.