Flying Witches in pole position

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches put themselves in pole position to win the Craven Shield with an impressive showing at Foxhall Stadium.They made full use of home advantage last night to storm into a three point overall lead over Poole.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches put themselves in pole position to win the Craven Shield with an impressive showing at Foxhall Stadium.

They made full use of home advantage last night to storm into a three point overall lead over Poole.

The Pirates led after Wednesday's first leg by 12 points, but Coventry are likely to now be the main danger.

The Bees stage their home leg tomorrow night and will feel confident of making up a 12-point deficit on Ipswich. It could well go down to the wire and Ipswich are in the mood to repel all-comers.

The Witches only suffered two last places in a fine all-round display that left team manager Mike Smillie with no cause to bring in reserve Kim Jansson.

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Surprise British champion Scott Nicholls, currently in the air on his way to next Saturday's Australian Grand Prix, suffered a surprise 5-1 reverse with partner Joonas Kylmakorpi in heat four.

But they made up for this with Nicholls not dropping another point and Kylmakorpi rounding off a mixed Witches 2002 Foxhall season in style.

The rider with a duel Finland and Swedish nationality somehow squeezed through a gap on the inside of the second bend to pass both Poole riders and follow home Nicholls for a significant 5-1 in the final heat.

This had the Witches' fans on their feet and sets up the Suffolk side for the final leg.

In total, Ipswich scored four 5-1s, and the early 5-1 Nicholls/Kylmakorpi upset was their only reverse of the night.

The two Poles, Jarek Hampel and Chris Slabon, proved to be a potent combination with the latter again in commanding form and doing his chances of a place in the Ipswich 2003 side no harm at all.

Hampel made a mess of the first bend in heat six after making the start alongside Slabon. He came in last but otherwise did not drop a point to the opposition.

Craig Boyce, in probably his last Foxhall meeting in a Witches race jacket, failed to win a race but he

battled well and was passed by Billy Hamill on the third lap of heat 16 after making a turbo-charged start.

And Danny Bird, in his final Ipswich meeting of a hectic but successful campaign, boasted a heat win over Lee Richardson in a collection of four lucrative rides.

Ipswich achieved what they set out to do – finish some way ahead of Coventry on aggregate and catch up with Poole.

Henka Gustafsson's knee injury ruled him out and Andre Compton moved into the Poole team proper, with Davey Watt coming in at reserve.

Slabon and Hampel got the Witches off to a perfect start on a chilly but fine autumn evening.

Peter Karlsson went around the outside of Boyce to win heat three, with Bird collecting the minor place. Ipswich's hopes then took a knock with a surprise 5-1 to Stuart Robson and Joe Screen, but thanks to Slabon they pocketed three more points in heat six.

Nicholls and Kylmakorpi got their act together to gate to a 5-1 heat seven victory, and it looked like another heat advantage in heat nine.

But Bird was passed by Bjarne Pedersen on the last lap in a drawn race.

Hampel and Slabon started the second half of the match like they did the first, beating Screen and Robson from the tapes, with Nicholls going inside Hans Andersen on the second turn to win heat 12.

Ipswich now began building up a lead, and Bird won heat 13 – it could have been better with Boyce making a good start but being passed by Richardson on the first lap.

Hampel went round Andersen to win heat 15, and with Slabon third, Ipswich pulled further ahead. Boyce led the following race for three laps until Ryan Fisher lifted and both man and machine went hurtling into the fence.

The fence suffered more damage than the lively American, with some lengthy carpentry work needed before Hamill won the re-run after passing Boyce.

Then came the timely last heat 5-1 as Ipswich set themselves up for a genuine assault on the Craven Shield tomorrow night.

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