One of the biggest crowds seen at Sheffield in recent memory turned out to pay tribute to Ricky Ashworth, one of the most popular Tigers’ riders of the modern era.
Supporters were treated to an evening of blockbuster action on an emotional night as people from across the country flocked to Owlerton in honour of Ashworth.
The former Sheffield hero earned a rapturous reception as he did a lap of honour in an open top car prior to the action.
Ashworth, who remains the track record holder at Owlerton, suffered brain damage in a horror crash at Scunthorpe in August 2013.
Some of speedway’s biggest names subsequently put on a spectacular show in his honour to raise money to support his ongoing recovery.
Yet it was home favourite Simon Stead who fended off a star-studded field to claim a sensational victory and cement his reputation as the man to beat at the Tigers’ fast, sweeping circuit.
Stead topped the scorechart heading into the semi-finals, spectacularly passing Thomas Jorgensen on the final lap of heat five and fending off the previously unbeaten Freddie Lindgren in heat 10 on his way to 14 points.
His only points were dropped when his colours were lowered by Grand Prix star Niels-Kristian Iversen in heat 15. However, Stead advanced untroubled from his semi-final before making a textbook gate in the final and storming clear of Iversen to claim the top prize.
Iversen eventually prevailed over the impressive Fredrik Lindgren in the battle for second place, whilst Ben Barker– trailed at the back in the decisive race.
From a Sheffield perspective there were some positive signs, with young Frenchman David Bellego making it to the semi-final.
He mounted a serious challenge on Iversen in the second semi-final before eventually bowing out.
Josh Bates also fought his way to five points and had plenty of speed in place of the injured Chris Harris.
With skipper Stead triumphing in stunning fashion it was a promising night for Tigers’ prepare to kick-off their campaign.
Yet the night was all about Ricky Ashworth, ata show fitting for a true Tigers’ legend.
Result: Stead 14, Iversen 12, Lindgren 12, Barker 10, Schlein 9, Jorgensen 9, Bellego 8, Watt 8, Bjerre 7, Nicholls 6, Bates 5, Wozniak 5, Auty 4, Karlsson 4, Howe 3, Hansen 2, Cooper (res) 2.
Semi-final 1: Stead, Barker, Watt, Jorgensen. Semi-final 2: Lindgren, Iversen, Bellego, Schlein. Final: Stead, Iversen, Lindgren, Barker.