SPEEDWAY: Wolverhampton ended the 2006 season trophy-less — but with a clear idea of how they wish to progress next season.
Friday's Midland Trophy defeat at the hands of local rivals Coventry summed up their campaign in so many ways, not that anyone could have scripted the way in which the derby was decided in the Bees' favour.
Two points ahead after the first leg, Coventry were hot favourites to add a home win but they were hit by problems at reserve and Wolves appeared to be taking full advantage.
The Monmore men led 40-32 on the night with three heats remaining, and by six points on aggregate, only for Coventry to trim that margin to two going into the last race.
But Wolves still had control of the trophy until the very last bend of heat 15 when race leader Fredrik Lindgren fell under pressure from Scott Nicholls. His mistake also impeded partner Peter Karlsson and, as Nicholls took the race win, Rory Schlein shot into second place to draw the match on the night and clinch the trophy for Coventry.
While that particular competition would have been nowhere near as high on their priority list as Elite League or Knockout Cup progress, the narrowness of Wolves' defeat indicated how close they were overall to matching the trophy haul of their opponents, who reached the League play-offs and, as well, added the KO Cup and Elite Shield to that dramatic Midland Trophy win.
Largely, the Wolves promotion solved the problem which had afflicted them in 2005, which was a lack of race-winning ability in the big races at the end of meetings. This year, the top three of Karlsson, Billy Hamill and Lindgren all increased their averages and provided one of the strongest top-threes in the country.
Wolves are keen to hold on to all three riders for next season and they could be joined by club asset Mikael Max to address problems lower down the order.
Max, Wolves No 1 two seasons ago, crashed badly in Sweden in July 2005 and after recovering from a broken thigh spent the majority of this season on loan at Arena Essex.
The Hammers have already declared their interest in keeping Max on for a further year at Purfleet although that is further complicated by reports of a takeover of the League's basement side.
But Wolves promoter Chris Van Straaten says that there have been no discussions whatsoever between the two clubs, nor will there be until his own planning is complete.
With a trophy-laden season, albeit missing out on the Elite League title, Coventry seem unlikely to make major changes for next year although much will depend on the decisions taken at the annual promoters' three-day conference in mid-November.
Among the items up for debate will be the points limit for the Elite League and also the controversial double-point tactical ride rule which played a massive part in Peterborough's title triumph over Reading.