Joe Jacobs made a winning return to his old stomping ground at Mildenhall on his first start of the season to take home the Palmer Trophy.
After deciding to take a break from the sport, the 22-year-old thrust himself back into the spotlight at a track which he has enjoyed some of his finest moments on, to defeat Ben Morley and fellow former Fen Tigers favourite Jon Armstrong in a run-off and end his eight month hiatus in a blaze of glory.
“I respect all the other riders here today but I didn’t come here to lose and winning it makes it all the better,” said Jacobs, of Sunday’s victory.
“There were some tough races and good riders here today but I knew that in the back of my mind I could beat them.
“I have just got to thank everyone who has stuck with me through thick and thin. I have shown everyone today though that I can still do it.”
Showing no signs of rustiness, Jacobs blasted away from the tapes in his opening ride in heat four only to be brought down by Danny Ayers on the second bend.
Dusting himself down Jacobs again made the gate before getting the better of an entertaining battle with Armstrong to record the first of four successive victories.
After having to settle for second best behind Jacobs, and current Fen Tigers captain Dan Halsey on his next outing, Armstrong rattled off a hat-trick of wins, including in the penultimate race, to put himself in the frame for a potential run-off.
Former Fen Tigers hero Armstrong was not the only one applying the pressure to Jacobs with Morley matching his efforts until his third race when suffering the first of two second-placed finishes, leaving him having to take victory in his final outing to tie with Armstrong and hope for a slip up from the seemingly untouchable Jacobs.
Although current Fen Tigers captain Halsey was another rider to plunder three wins, his chances of winning the title rested on other results going his way after failing to finish his opening ride, and with Stoke Potters star Armstrong taking heat 19 his fate was sealed.
Having proved unbeatable all afternoon, Jacobs, needing only a second place to assure victory, crucially missed the start in the concluding contest.
With Morley out in front it looked as though a straight run-off between the Kent Kings star and Armstrong was in store.
That was until the hard pressing Jacobs muscled his way past Josh Bailey to clinch third place on the penultimate bend of the final lap and ensure all his previous hard work was not lost.
Choosing gate three in the final, the former Wolverhampton Wolves rider made sure he was not to make the same mistake again as he roared from the gate before holding off the late challenge of Morley to take home the trophy.
“I just fluffed the start in heat 20 and as I was trying so hard I nearly high sided it a couple of times,” said Jacobs.
“I knew if I didn’t pass him (Bailey) I wouldn’t be in the run-off so I had to go for it. It did ride it hard but I didn’t put him in the fence.
“I was so nervous in the run-off and I dreaded the first gate pick. It was Danny (Halsey) who said go for gate three.
“It was good to win as these boys were all race fit and I have not had a competitive race this year.”
In the Bernie Klatt Memorial Trophy, which ran alongside the feature event, Ben Woodhull proved to be in a league of his own taking the four-heat competition with an 11 point haul.
n Mildenhall were scheduled to face the Birmingham Brummies at Perry Barr in the National League last night before returning to action at West Row on Sunday to face Eastbourne Eagles in the National Trophy (3.30pm).
Scores (after run-off): 1 J Jacobs (Unattached) 13; 2 B Morley (Kent Kings) 13; 3 J Armstrong (Stoke Potters) 13; 4 D Halsey (Mildenhall Fen Tigers) 11; 5 C Coles (Mildenhall Fen Tigers) 11; 6 Kyle Hughes (Rye House Raiders) 10.