Carl Stonehewer emerged from Coventry on Sunday afternoon as Premier League Riders Champion for the second successive year.

He won a pulsating final the hard way after bursting through to take the lead from Simon Stead and then hold on from a hard chasing Sean Wilson. Bjarne Pedersen came home third after he too passed Stead late in the race.

Young Stead was almost inconsoleable post-race. Wilson, his club captain at Sheffield, took the time to whisper words of encouragement to Stead before taking his place on the parade lap.

Stonehwer becomes only the second rider to win this title twice (it was the National League Riders Championship under the old league structure) and only the second rider to win it more than once. But he was fortunate to reach the semi-final, let alone further.

An opening ride third place was followed by a fall on the fourth turn of the first lap in heat eight. The crowd, expecting the white exclusion light to come on, were surprised when the announcement came that there was to be a re-run with Stonehewer in it - the referee saying that he had stopped the race prior to Stonehewer falling due to an 'unsatisfactory start'.

The heat in question had added significance as, in addition to Stonehewer, it featured three other leading contenders - Wilson, Stead and Paul Thorp. Stead impressively won the re-start from Thorp after he went under Stonehewer in mid race.

The slow starting Wilson in rear. The point gained by Stonehewer making the difference between a semi-final place or an early drive home in the end, although eight points would have been enough following Thorp withdrawing through injury later.

That heat eight field would send three of the four to the final, Paul Thorp being the unlucky one. He seemed set for at least a semi final place with eight points from his first four rides and a comfortable position in his final outing until Ray Morton had a rush of blood and sent Thorp head over heels and out of the meeting with what looked like an arm/wrist problem. A win in that race for Pedersen sent him to the final as joint highest qualification scorer, along with Simon Stead who knew a third place in his final ride was enough.

Thorp's withdrawal meant that pre-meeting fancies Wilson and Stonehewer had to win their final races after not setting the world on fire earlier, both being handicapped by some inconsistent gating. But neither made any errors in heats eighteen and nineteen respectively to book their places in the semi-final.

Paul Fry bagged an impressive eleven points in qualifying as did James Grieves, arguably something of a shock qualifier. He went about his business very well to match Fry's total.

Wilson, Stonehewer, Fry and Grives lined up for the semi knowing only the first two would make the final and the opportunity to load a brand new Jawa in the van. Wilson pinged away from the start but drifted out too wide round turns three and four which allowed Fry to take the lead - but not for long as Wilson came back strongly practically elbowing aside Fry to regain premier position. Stonehewer then gave chase battling in to second place and on to the final and a second consecutive PLRC win.

He now has almost the 'full set' this season after taking the Premier League Pairs title with Peter Karlsson and Workington winning the Premier League Fours - only the Premier League title being beyond reach.

FINAL
Stonehewer, Wilson, Pedersen, Stead

SEMI FINAL
Wilson, Stonehewer, Grieves, Fry

QUALIFYING SCORES:
Simon Stead 12
Bjarne Pedersen 12
Paul Fry 11
James Grieves 11
Sean Wilson 9
Carl Stonehewer 9
Paul Thorp 8
Michael Coles 7
Steve Masters 7
Robert Eriksson 7
Brett Woodifield 6
Ray Morton 5
Adrian Rymel 5
Leigh Lanham 3
Paul Pickering 3
Armando Castagna 2