Tonight's top notchers Image Credit: Ron MacNeill

Rory wins for the fourth time

REPORT Saturday 12th May 2018, 1:45am

by Mike Hunter

Rory Schlein rode brilliantly to pick up his fourth Scottish Open Championship title at tonight’s meeting sponsored by Harrison’s of Peebles. He thus equalled Peter Carr’s Armadale record and it’s debatable if there has ever been a more deserving winner in the 60 previous stagings of the championship.

The winner said afterwards “I made a ‘mare of a start in the final! I looked at gate 4 and thought ‘I can’t miss it!’ But I did, it didn’t seem to bite as well. It made for an interesting final!

“All the lads were committed down the back straight and that’s what opened the door for me. Four times! I’ve equalled a guy I really looked up to. I grew up watching the videos of this meeting and I know how prestigious it is.”

Rory dominated the first corners in each of his five qualifying heats, and so made the final with the full 15 points. He was joined by Ricky Wells and the excellent Mark Riss both with 13, and coming through from the semi-final was Richie Worrall who defeated former home hero Sam Masters. Erik Riss didn’t leave the start in the semi.

But in the final, it did seem briefly that Rory would come unstuck. He thought gate 4 was best but he didn’t get away well at all, and was pretty much last as everyone sorted themselves out round the opening bends. Down the back straight, all four were in with a shout but it was Worrall who took over before the end of the first lap. However with magical move part one Schlein cut through into second place as the first lap was completed, and (magical move part two) a superb tight inside turn on the pits corner of lap two took him inside Worrall and to the front.

Mark Riss fell before the end of lap two but mercifully moved quickly to clear the track and allow Rory to complete the heat. He was extremely happy after the race, a totally deserved winner and of course that meant he had equalled Peter Carr’s four Scottish Opens at Armadale. Rory’s dad Lyndon had ordered the meeting DVD from Australia before we got to the post-meeting celebration.

Earlier on, it hadn’t been the best Scottish Open we have ever seen. The weather was a problem and the track had been made ready on the assumption that the forecast rainfall would arrive. It didn’t and the level of incident was not as high as we hoped for. There were some highlights – Sam Masters put Ricky Wells under strong pressure in heat 2, Erik Riss won his first two heats and looked very powerful at that stage, and some of the lesser lights had their moments. Full marks to Jordie Stewart for getting a race win, and to that great enthusiast Rafal Konopka for getting to the track for two heats.

The story with the likeable Pole was that he was only called up at 4:30 to replace Matt Williamson who had a traffic problem. Rafal knew he would be pretty late but he never turns a ride down, and after not quite getting out for heat 11 (in spite of the referee’s generous time allowance) he finally got on track for heat 14. He fell after three-quarters of a lap and was excluded. He managed the full four laps in heat 17 and picked up a point and we can only thank him for his enthusiastic efforts.

In the end the meeting will be remembered for Rory’s superb performance. He has already hinted that he has his fifth Scottish Open in his sights.