Chris set to lead Witches

A NEW era in Ipswich speedway looks on the cards.After riding for The Evening Star Witches for virtually all his distinguished career, Chris Louis is now set to step up and join his father John in the promoting hot seat.

By Elvin King

A NEW era in Ipswich speedway looks on the cards.

After riding for The Evening Star Witches for virtually all his distinguished career, Chris Louis is now set to step up and join his father John in the promoting hot seat.

Both are likely to be co-promoters of the club in 2004, with John's wife Magda continuing as director.

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This news will increase the chances of Ipswich staying in the Elite League next season, despite finishing bottom of the table this term and feeling the pinch financially.

Louis junior has been involved with top-flight speedway since 1991 and is thought to favour staying in the forefront of the sport.

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Now 34 the younger Louis rode for Hackney in 1988 before joining his home town club the following year. He won the world under-21 title in 1990 and was third in the world senior title in 1993.

He was captain of the Witches and Team Great Britain when he damaged his back in April last year in Sweden. Nine months earlier he suffered serious head injuries.

Louis, who is still to officially announce his retirement from racing, has his own ideas on how the sport can be improved and is one of the most articulate men in speedway. His father, an ex-world number three himself, has been sole promoter at Foxhall Stadium for a number of years and an extra input will lessen his work load.

Both Louis' attended a British Speedway Promoters' Association meeting in Rugby today, when the structure of the sport for next year in Britain was due to be discussed.

Neither were prepared to confirm or deny Chris Louis' switch in roles until after the meeting.

Whether a move up to promoting will limit Louis junior's successful TV work remains to be seen, but he will be keen to carry on after making a big impression as a pundit over the last two years.

Meanwhile, world under-21 champion Jarek Hampel will not be riding for the Witches in 2004. Reports coming out of Poland suggest that he will be concentrating on riding in his home country and Sweden.

He also hopes to be one of the seeded riders in the Grand Prix series next year.

Hampel said: "I am to take a break for one year. If I do ride in England it will be for Ipswich. I have spoken with the Ipswich promoters and they know about my decision."

Magda Louis confirmed today: "Jarek has had a busy year with heavy commitments in Poland, Sweden and England.

"He has also had his under-21 commitments. He is looking to ease his schedule in 2004, although I am sure we have not seen the last of him at Foxhall."

The 21-year-old, tipped to take over from Tomasz Gollob as the top Polish rider, failed to make a number of Witches matches this season as his workload took a toll.

This Thursday, Ipswich stage their annual 16-Lap Classic with Scott Nichols favourite to win the £1,000 first prize.

Kim Jansson, Leigh Lanham and Daniel King are other Ipswich assets in the 12-strong event.

Joe Screen, Steve Johnston and Chris Harris, David Howe, Brett Woodfield, Shane Parker, Carl Stonehewer and Adam Skornicki make up the field for this marathon event that has been part of the Witches scene for 20 years.

Tolway Fixtures are part sponsors and there will be a special firework display in what should be a bumper night of speedway at Foxhall.

The following night the Witches Supporters Club stage their annual dinner/dance at the Holiday Inn hotel, Ipswich, when the riders' of the season will be announced.

The Supporters Club does a wonderful job for the Witches and has part-sponsored the 16-Lap meeting.

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