Great Britain's speedway stars are riding on the crest of a wave after they stormed into the World Cup final at a packed Arlington Stadium last night.

While the Brits go marching on to Poole on Saturday, defending champions Sweden must do it all again, along with last night's other losers, Poland, in Thursday's race-off, also at Poole.

Britain, in charge for most of the night, finished with 58 points, while Sweden were beaten on 50, Poland finished with 39 and no-hopers Hungary with six.

The home side's hero was former Eastbourne favourite Mark Loram, who set the stadium alight on his return to his old stamping ground.

Loram roared to a scintillating 15-point maximum in arguably the best individual display seen at the Sussex track for many years.

Loram was Britain's only winner in the first nine heats, beating Sweden's Andreas Jonsson and Poland's Tomasz Gollob in the opener and then clocking the fastest time of the night, 56.0sec, in heat six to beat Peter Karlsson and Greg Walasek, who had both won first time out.

Two more Loram victories, over Mikael Max and Jarek Hampel in heats 11 and 16, were the prelude to his best when he trounced Tony Rickardsson, Sweden's multi-world champion and track record-holder, in heat 21.

Loram set the tone, and once his team-mates began to sing from the same hymn sheet, there was no turning back.

Sweden led briefly by a point after heat eight, but three wins on the bounce in 10, 11 and 12 by Lee Richardson, Loram and David Norris put the home nation in the driving seat.

None of the main contenders was ever going to be knocked out of the competition last night.

Hungary, like Italy in tonight's second event at Arlington which features Australia, Denmark and the Czech Republic, were only there to make up the numbers.

Predictably, their points all came gift-wrapped courtesy of other people's misdemeanours, three tape exclusions, two falls and an engine failure.

What this was really all about was putting down a marker, and Britain did that superbly by claiming the one automatic final spot while the others now have to fight over the scraps.

Even the sight of their main rivals wheeling a couple of jokers out of the pits failed to upset them.

Gollob's win over Joe Screen in heat 13 did net six points, but it was not long before the Poles faded from the front line.

Sweden blundered by nominating Jonsson, who was duly beaten by Scott Nicholls, in the next race when Rickardsson would have been a far better bet in the one after.

While Loram was undoubtedly the star, Britain's strength was in the team's all-round display.

Eastbourne skipper Norris completed a hat-trick of wins with a brilliant last-gasp effort over Gollob in heat 22, while Nicholls also finished with three in a row.

Screen was the only rider not to win a race, but he didn't let the side down, producing some of the most exciting action of the night with a couple of sublime overtakes.

It was Screen who made certain of Britain's passage to Poole with a tremendous second place in heat 23 after Norris had brought the house down by beating Gollob.

It was never easy, but the British riders held their nerve when it mattered after Sweden and Poland had both threatened in the early stages.

Only two points separated the three teams with nine heats gone.

Norris took a flyer on the straight while trying to pass Antonio Lindback in heat seven, and it took ten of the 25 races before anyone except Loram got in front to notch a British victory.

Once they did, the home side were dominant, with Britain winning ten of the remaining 16 races.