Premier League Riders Championship

PREVIEW Sunday 26th September 2010, 12:00pm

by Gordon Fraser

Monarchs hopes for success in the Premier League Riders Championship tonight at Sheffield (5.30) rest on their Californian No.1, Ryan Fisher, who is riding at the top of his form right now with a long string of near perfect scores and who sits proudly on top of the Premier League averages list.

Having dropped only one point to an opponent at Owlerton when Monarchs visited last month, he shows the big, super-fast track holds no fears for him. However he faces a high class field of riders, several of whom may well be stepping up to the Elite League next year and will be keen to impress

In order of PL averages, Linus Sundstrom of Rye House comes second to Ryan. The young Swedish rider's season has been interrupted by the ash cloud and by injury, but he certainly doesn't lack speed and although much of his scoring will have been done on the tight confines of Hoddesdon, he could do equally well round Owlerton.

Next come Newcastle's sensational Danish duo, Kenni Larsen and Rene Bach who propelled the Diamonds into second place behind the mighty Monarchs this year. Of the two, Larsen is likely to be the stronger challenger ? but there isn't much in it and both could receive offers of EL places for next season.

Jason Lyons will sport No. 16 on his back tonight but he finished as one of the top six Premier League stars this year. The 40-year-old Australian is still a formidable opponent at this level and leads the Birmingham scoring charts, but he may be more of a 'spoiler' than a likely winner on this flat-out track.

Travis McGowan ensures the Glasgow fans will have something to cheer after the withdrawal of Joe Screen through injury. The experienced Australian is another who will be out to catch the eye as he seems likely to depart the West of Scotland if the Tigers have decided not to go with a 'big two' in 2011.

Now we drop a long way down the top twenty riders to reach David Howe at seventeenth in the averages. The leading Scunthorpe rider achieved 8.50 in the side which finished only eighth. However he has ridden at the top level and can never be counted out for a place on the podium if all goes his way.

Leigh Lanham (33) is the Newport representative, having spent most of his speedway career in the deep south at Arena Essex and Lakeside. Injury has dogged him in recent years but he is another who can hold his own with the best. None of the other riders in tonight's event feature in the top twenty averages.

Former World Champion Gary Havelock from Redcar is coming back into some decent form. Jordan Frampton shares the Rye House hopes with Linus Sundstrom but is likely to be a stronger challenger this time next year. The same could probably be said for young Australian, Taylor Poole of Stoke.

King's Lynn send their third best averaged rider in Tomas Topinka. The likeable Czech Republic star replaces the injured Kevin Doolan and his recent replacement Oliver Allen. Despite his good form of late, it would be a major surprise if Tomas made it to the top step of the podium.

Now we come to those whose averages may not be the best but whose experience around the Sheffield track could bring them strongly into the reckoning. Workington's surprise No.1, Rusty Harrison loves the Owlerton track which suits his racing instincts and he could spoil one or two opponents' evenings.

Berwick's Lee Complin has had a good spell free of injury at last and his career is very much on the way up once more. The 25-year-old Yorkshire-born rider started his career at Sheffield and the track definitely suits his all-out racing style. Definitely a good dark horse bet for a top three finish.

Last but not least comes Sheffield's own representative, Josh Auty, who will have a huge and vociferous home support cheering him on. Having denied current title holder Ricky Ashworth the chance to defend his title, Josh must be one of the favourites for the top prize in spite of his 8 point average.

This event is notoriously difficult to predict, as it should be, but if you had put your money on a Sheffield rider every year it has been held there, you wouldn't have gone far wrong. On paper the top four should be a combination of Fisher, Larsen, Sundstrom and McGowan with Auty capable of being in the mix.

Kevin Doolan unkindly says of Ryan Fisher that he is just as likely to have a great night as he is to make a mess of things. That could be said of anyone, but Ryan will never have a better chance and if he does become PLRC Champion, nobody could deny that he would have thoroughly deserved it.

Likely line up:

1. Leigh Lanham (Newport), 2. Kenni Larsen (Newcastle), 3. Ryan Fisher (Edinburgh), 4. Taylor Poole (Stoke), 5. Lee Complin (Berwick), 6. Travis McGowan (Glasgow), 7. David Howe (Scunthorpe), 8. Linus Sundstrom (Rye House), 9. Josh Auty (Sheffield), 10. Russell Harrison (Workington), 11. Rene Bach (Newcastle), 12. Cory Gathercole (Somerset), 13. Gary Havelock (Redcar), 14. Tomas Topinka (King's Lynn), 15. Jordan Frampton (Rye House), 16. Jason Lyons (Birmingham)