Chris ready to take centre stage

CHRIS Louis, who has scored more points than any other Ipswich Witches speedway rider, will be the centre of attraction at Foxhall Stadium tonight (start 7.30pm).

CHRIS Louis, who has scored more points than any other Ipswich Witches speedway rider, will be the centre of attraction at Foxhall Stadium tonight (start 7.30pm)

The 34-year-old makes his comeback after nearly two years out of the saddle following a back injury sustained in Sweden.

Many felt that he would never race in earnest again, and Louis admits that it was not until January that he decided to place himself in an Ipswich team that he had helped to assemble during the winter months.

After a false alarm when last Friday's scheduled challenge match at Peterborough was rained off, Louis is now all set to re-start his career in heat three of tonight's fixture against the Panthers.

He admits that he will be nervous and apprehensive, and that it might take a while for him to re-discover the quickest way around Foxhall.

But the return of the former world number three to the Evening Star Witches ranks has been received with delight by supporters who endured their team's miserable 2003 campaign when they finished 12 points adrift at the foot of the Sky Sports Elite League table.

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Louis temporarily took out a promoter's licence and transformed interest in a club that has struggled to make an impact since it won a magnificent treble in 1998.

If his results on the track compare with his results off it this year, then Louis' average will soar from its current 6.18 level.

Louis first rode for Ipswich in 1988 and has scored 5,857 points from 527 matches at an average of 9.10. Jeremy Doncaster rode 583 matches and scored 4,748 points at an average of 7.81, while Louis' father John rode 408 matches and scored 4.211 points at an average of 9.86.

The fourth greatest Witches rider is the late Billy Sanders with 3,543 points from 403 matches and an average of 9.04.

While it is a big night for Louis, it is also a new start in the careers of Danish riders Hans Andersen and Jesper B Jensen.

Both are Grand Prix riders, and both will have hectic schedules. But the Witches debut-makers have already shown themselves to be right behind the cause, and with Louis and England's number one Scott Nicholls they could help form a potentially lethal Ipswich spearhead.

Every rider is donating his points money tonight to help finance an air fence that is compulsory at both ends of the Foxhall track from this season.

Some experimenting and tinkering with machinery can be expected - Andersen has switched to Jawas this year - but every emphasise will be put on winning against a Panthers side that is rated highly in an Elite League that has seen its standards diluted over the close season.

Peterborough promoter Mick Horton has vowed to silence the pundits who have tipped the Panthers as also-rans in the title race.

The East of England showground-based club has made several team changes over the winter, with only new skipper Gary Havelock remaining from last year's squad.

Horton said: “We're going to be great entertainment this year, and we're going to be there or thereabouts. I am definitely targeting to win the league.”