Just when people were preparing to write Marcel Helfer off, the young German speedway star produced his best performance for Edinburgh Monarchs against Glasgow Tigers in yesterday’s dramatic Premier League derby fixture at Ashfield Stadium.
Helfer picked up five points from his five starts, but was still unable to stop Monarchs going down 52-40 as the Tigers exacted ample revenge for their Knockout Cup quarter-final reverse at the start of the month.
But 21-year-old Helfer displayed signs that perhaps his shock signing could yet turn out to be something of a masterstroke. On a track where passing was at a premium, Helfer pulled off one of the few overtakes of the match when he blasted past Tigers star Robert Ksiezak to claim third place in heat 8. He also secured a paid win when he followed partner Theo Pijper home for an unexpected 5-1 advantage against Ksiezak and Josh Grajczonek four races later.
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess was as surprised as anyone with Helfer’s contribution, saying: “His second place behind Theo was deserved as he made the gate and held his position very well, and I’m sure his confidence is now ten rungs up the ladder, and that’s what speedway is all about.
“Marcel has been unfortunate that he has found his home track at Armadale to be different every week simply because of what the weather has been like. But he definitely proved he can ride Ashfield and we’ll see what happens from here.”
Helfer was delighted with his score and said afterwards: “The Glasgow track shape is more similar to what I’m used to racing on in Germany. It has bigger bends and it’s a lot easier to ride. I’m very happy to have scored five points for the team.”
Monarchs got off to the worst possible start when Craig Cook and Derek Sneddon surrendered a 5-1 to Tigers skipper Joe Screen and Mason Campton in the first race and the home side had opened up a 30-20 gap at the halfway stage as the capital outfit struggled to make any sort of impression.
But Monarchs closed the gap to just four points after heat 12 and were desperately unlucky in the very next heat when Andrew Tully slipped off on the fourth bend while dicing with Tigers’ maximum hero James Grieves.
Tully’s slip-up, which left him winded, gifted their hosts a big 5-1, and any hopes Monarchs had of rescuing a point were dashed in heat 15 when Screen and Grieves once more extracted maximum points against Theo Pijper and Tully, which enabled the Tigers to snatch all three league points.
Harkess added: “If you don’t gate at Ashfield you don’t win and for half the match we did not gate. We got our act together a bit later on and Andrew was very unfortunate in heat 13, otherwise we might have gained a point.
“But it was disappointing not to come away with anything.”
Glasgow: Grieves 15, Screen 12, Bager 7, Grajczonek 7, Campton 6, Ksiezak 5, O’Malley 0.
Monarchs: Tully 9, Pijper 8, Wethers 8, Cook 5, Helfer 5, Sneddon 4, Dyer 1.