Reigning speedway world champion Mark Loram became British champion for the third time after winning the British Final at Coventry on last night [Saturday].

Beaten just the once, by old rival Chris Louis in his opening ride, Loram was the class act on the night coping expertly with difficult and inconsistent track conditions. He was joined on the rostrum by home rider - and surprise package - Stuart Robson and 2000 British GP winner Martin Dugard.

In addition to the British Championship, the riders were competing for a place in the next stage of qualification towards the 2001 Grand Prix series. Loram, in addition to current grand prix riders Andy Smith, Chris Louis, Carl Stonehewer were exempt from that and, so, the qualifiers for the Overseas Final at Poole on 17 June will be Robson, Dugard, Scott Nicholls, Gary Havelock, Paul Hurry and Paul Fry.

Big title fancy Louis opened with two smooth wins before taking a tumble in heat twelve as he battled with Gary Havelock, having to withdraw from the meeting on medical advice as a result. Heat seventeen was really the deciding moment as the three main contenders - Loram, Stonehewer and Dugard - came to the tapes with the winner all but assured the title. Loram made no mistakes to claim the heat win and his third British title.

The tale of the tapes:

Heat 1: Havelock, Wilson, Smith, Norris (F/Rem)

Norris leading until falling on the start of the second lap. Wilson drove around Smith through turns three and four on the first lap.

Heat 2: Louis, Loram, Morton, Richardson (R)

Louis started the better and had a narrow lead over Loram, who put in a sustained challenge but Louis just had the edge.

Heat 3: Stonehewer, Barker, Fry, Nicholls (R)

Nicholls had this heat in the bag until throwing a chain in mid-race and gifting three points to Stonehewer. Behind him, Barker and Fry were taking it in turns to make mistakes and let the other through.

Heat 4: Dugard, Robson, Hurry, Moggridge

Dugard had the lead all the way. Moggridge tailed off at the back.

Heat 5: Richardson, Norris, Moggridge, Barker (F)

In contrast to his ride in the previous heat, Moggridge got a flyer to lead in to the first turn, where he hit problems and his front wheel lifted sending his machine almost vertical. Unable to regain control, he went straight in to the path of Barker accidentally leaving the Eastbourne man nowhere to go but the fence. The unfortunate Barker sustained injuries which kept him out of the remainder of the meeting. Richardson won the re-run from the gate.

Heat 6: Robson, Stonehewer, Morton, Smith (EX)

Smith rolled in to the tapes and was excluded. Stonehewer 'did a Moggridge' but, fortunately, Morton was able to act smartly to avoid a nasty incident. These events allowed Robson to sail away for a comfortable win. Stonehewer made up yards on Morton to snatch second place over the line.

Heat 7: Louis, Nicholls, Dugard, Wilson (F)

Louis had it all his own way from Nicholls. Dugard had Wilson snapping at his heels constantly until the Sheffielder spun off attempting a tight inside move in to the final turn.

Heat 8: Loram, Havelock, Fry, Hurry

Havelock had the line in to the first turn until Loram blasted out wide and in to the lead. Hurry went under Fry in to third place over the line to start the second lap but then drifted far too wide around the next turn and Fry regained his position.

Heat 9: Nicholls, Morton, Hurry, Norris (R)

Nicholls managed to get over from the unfavourable outside starting gate to win the heat. Hurry made Morton do just that to hold on to second place.

Heat 10: Dugard, Fry, Smith, Richardson (R)

Fry held a narrow lead from Dugard, who went in to the lead after a fine cut back move and just had the speed to hold off Fry's challenges.

Heat 11: Loram, Robson, Wilson (three riders only)

Wilson managed to outgate Loram, but then hit the same spot that had already caused Moggridge and Stonehewer problems in earlier heats. Wilson desperately tried to stay aboard but could not. He was able to remount unscathed and claim a point as Barker had been forced to withdraw by his injuries.

Heat 12: Stonehewer, Moggridge, Havelock, Louis (FX)

At the first time of asking, Moggridge, Havelock and Louis were in very close proximity fighting for second place. Louis attempted a wide swoop round the pair of them towards the end of the third lap, but ran in to difficulties and fell picking up shoulder ligament damage and taking no further part in the meeting. In the re-start, Havelock became another victim of the first turn lifting problem and lost his chance.

Heat 13: Robson, Fry (two riders only)

A match race between Robson and Fry due to the Barker/Louis withdrawals.

Heat 14: Loram, Nicholls, Moggridge, Smith

Biggest winning distance of the night from the world champion.

Heat 15: Hurry, Stonehewer, Wilson, Richardson

Hurry had this one sewn up early. Wilson held second place and was working hard to hold off the strongly challenging Stonehewer, who took Wilson on the run into the line.

Heat 16: Dugard, Havelock, Morton (three riders only)

Early leader Morton went from first to last as Dugard capitalised on his mistakes to take the lead and then Havelock found a way past also.

Heat 17: Loram, Dugard, Stonehewer

The title decider as the three main contenders lined up against each other. The prized title of British champion awaited the heat winner. Loram made no mistakes to take it by some margin and become a champion for the third time adding to his previous wins in 1997 and 1999.

Heat 18: Hurry, Smith (two riders only)

Another match race which Hurry won easily to get the three points that would guarantee his ticket to Poole.

Heat 19: Fry, Wilson, Moggridge, Morton (F/Rem/R)

Wilson edged in to the lead from Fry with a clever little cut back in to the back straight for the final time taking him up the inside. Fry had the outside run which allowed him to keep the throttle open and find the speed that would take the win on the run in from the clearly disappointed Wilson.

Heat 20: Nicholls, Robson, Havelock, Richardson (EX)

Richardson did not make the track. Nicholls won from the gate but Robson's second spot gave him the same dozen point total as Martin Dugard, so a run-off now needed to decide the rostrum placings behind Loram.

Second place run-off: Robson, Dugard

Race of the night without question. Robson edged in to a narrow lead until Dugard found a gap narrow enough to just take the advantage at the end of the first lap. The pair of them then duelled continually for the remaining three laps passing and re-passing each other constantly. Robson had the lead in to the final turn and Dugard fell attempting a 'Hail Mary' move.

Overall scorers:

Mark Loram 14Stuart Robson 12Martin Dugard 12Carl Stonehewer 11Scott Nicholls 10Paul Fry 9Gary Havelock 9Paul Hurry 8Sean Wilson 6Chris Louis 6Ray Morton 5Alan Moggridge 5Andy Smith 4Lee Richardson 3Dean Barker 2David Norris 2