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All revved up for Billy memorial match

PUBLISHED: 11:26 16 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:33 03 March 2010

IT is now 17 years since Billy Sanders died, and it is a testament to the impact he made on Ipswich speedway that tonight's Foxhall Stadium 2002 opener bears his name.

IT is now 17 years since Billy Sanders died, and it is a testament to the impact he made on Ipswich speedway that tonight's Foxhall Stadium 2002 opener bears his name.

And it has all the makings of a memorable meeting with all the Ipswich riders on show.

Instead of going for an individual event that would have limited appeal, promoter John Louis has wisely plumped for a match that will give his riders valuable practice before their Sky Sports Elite League season starts with a home match against Wolverhampton next Thursday. And also give the public value for money.

All the Ipswich riders went through their paces at Foxhall Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday in the traditional Press and Practice Days.

And they are thirsting to get back into competitive action tonight - after the long winter break.

Sanders, a former world number three, came to England from Australia as a 16-year-old in 1972 and immediately made an impact.

He matured into one of the best riders Australia have produced and stayed with the Witches for most of his career, apart from a spell at Birmingham in 1979 and seasons with Hull in 1981 and King's Lynn in 1982.

In the four meetings before he took his own life in 1985 he was in prime form averaging 11.53 and winning the Golden Helmet. Domestic problems led to his decision to commit suicide.

Witches heat leader Craig Boyce will ride for the Kangaroos tonight, and so will Danny Bird, the youngster Ipswich have signed to share the number six race jacket with Leigh Lanham.

Bird rode Down Under this winter for Great Britain Under-21's and has been given temporary Aussie status.

It will be interesting to see how he goes, and also Joonas Kylmakorpi the man with duel Swedish and Finnish nationality who has been signed on loan for one year from Eastbourne to replace Jarek Hampel.

This is a big year for Chris Louis, Scott Nicholls and Carl Baldwin.

The former has to show to himself that he can fully overcome the trauma of his life-threatening crash in Poland last June, while Nicholls makes the jump to Grand Prix competitor and has a lot on his plate.

For Baldwin it is a case of showing he is still good enough after a 13-year break to hold his own at the age of 37. If he wants any guidance in that respect he only has to ask Jeremy Doncaster who is starting his 21st speedway season at the age of 40.

Ryan Sullivan, one of Australia's very best, leads their side and Shane Parker is always good value. Adam Shields is an Isle of Wight rider who comes to Foxhall with a big reputation.

The match will be run on 1998 lines with the final three races for nominated riders.

Ipswich select: C Louis, J Kylmakorpi, J Doncaster, L Lanham, S Nicholls, C Baldwin.

Kangaroo select: R Sullivan, N Sadler, C Boyce, D Bird, S Parker, A Shields.


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