Chris: I used to dread 16-lap Classic

"IT is the event I used to look forward to with dread."So says Ipswich Evening Star Witches co-promoter-elect Chris Louis as he prepares to help run tonight's 16-lap Classic meeting at Foxhall Stadium (start 7.

By Elvin King

"IT is the event I used to look forward to with dread."

So says Ipswich Evening Star Witches co-promoter-elect Chris Louis as he prepares to help run tonight's 16-lap Classic meeting at Foxhall Stadium (start 7.30pm).

"It is unique, and you use up as much energy in one race as you do in a whole night of normal racing," added Louis, a winner of this event a record four times.


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"Other clubs have tried to stage similar events since Ipswich instigated a marathon race format in 1979. But they have all been mediocre.

"The Ipswich formula is perfect now with riders having to do well in the qualifying races – as these scores are included in the overall total. And the top scorers start off the back grid over 16 laps, which means they have to have a good strategy.

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"They have to know what they are doing, hang on in there and pass at least two riders to take the top prize."

Louis won this event in 1992, 1995, 1997 and 2000, beating Jason Crump and his father Phil who have both won three times.

Witches skipper Scott Nicholls is holder after finishing second behind Paul Hurry in the 16-lap race last year. Jarek Hampel was third, and Freddie Eriksson fourth after coming third in the main race.

Nicholls is favourite this time round to collect the £1,000 prize for finishing on top of the rostrum.

"But it will not be easy, as I found out on a number off occasions," said Louis. "It was great fun, but a lot of hard work involving both man and machine."

Louis, who emphasised that at the moment he is still a speedway rider, is set to join his father John in promoting the Witches next season. Both attended a British Speedway Promoters' Association meeting in Rugby on Tuesday.

"There were talks about next season, but nothing has been finalised," said Louis junior, who in his next statement virtually confirmed that the Witches will stay in the top flight if costs are reduced.

"I would prefer Ipswich to stay in the Elite League in 2004," he said.

If so Nicholls is set to stay as Witches skipper. "Scott has been the main man for Ipswich this year," added Louis, who has not ridden since suffering a back injury in Sweden in April last year.

"But like all good riders I am sure he feels he could have done better on the international front.

"He has settled himself into the Grand Prix scene, but it does take time to find the consistency necessary to make a big impact.

"Scott must search for this in 2004, and follow the example of Leigh Adams a rider good enough to be world champion but one who has moved slowly up one place at a time for the last four years and is set to finish fourth this time round.

"It could be Leigh's time next season."

Tolway Fixtures and Ipswich Witches Supporters Club are sponsoring tonight's meeting, and there will be a firework display in what is likely to be the last speedway meeting of the season at Foxhall.

The Witches finished bottom of the Elite League, but they want to go out with a bang as they look forward to what should be a bright new era for the club.

Tonight's field

S. Nicholls, K Jansson, L Lanham, D King, J Screen, S Johnston, C Harris, C Stonehewer, S Parker, A Skornicki, D Howe, B Woodifield.

There will be 12 heats with every rider having four starts. The top eight scorers will go into the 16-lap marathon with the remaining four taking part in a six-lap consolation final.

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