Great Scott!

Speedway: WITCHES star Scott Nicholls added his name to an illustrious roll of honour when he was crowned British Champion at Coventry on Saturday night. The Ipswich No.

WITCHES star Scott Nicholls added his name to an illustrious roll of honour when he was crowned British Champion at Coventry on Saturday night.

The Ipswich No. 1, long considered the great white hope of domestic speedway, saw off Lee Richardson and David Howe to win the re-run of the final after defending champion Mark Loram had crashed out in chilling and controversial fashion.

They say that luck evens itself out and after so many years of misfortune at big events the 24-year-old had the run of the ball on Saturday.

He was in third place in the final when Loram, bidding for a fourth title in six years, crashed.

Stowmarket-based Loram led chardson in the winner-takes-all final when the Coventry man dived under him on turn three on lap one.

Loram was forced wide, clipped the air-fence exiting turn four and was catapulted back into mid-track where he landed heavily on his back, bouncing like a rag doll before coming to a halt.

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While he was taken off to hospital for X-rays, which revealed no broken bones, Nicholls kept it wound on around the outside of Richardson on the first two turns of the re-run to establish control.

Nicholls had earlier finished level with Richardson on 13 points after the qualifying rides, with Witches part-timer Leigh Lanham only missing out on the final when he ran a last in his final outing after being passed by Chris Harris, having secured 10 points from his first four rides with some rocket-gating.

Nicholls could well be in the Grand Prix championship challenge next year. Although he just missed out on the top five, Nicholls, Loram and Richardson are likely to pull out if involved in the 2003 GP proper.

"Becoming British Champion is the target and a goal of all British riders," said Nicholls, "though it has taken me longer to do it than I had hoped.

"I knew I could win it, but it was hard work and I was a bit fortunate with the restart in the final. But I made the most of it second time around. Had it gone on the old format, I would have had a run-off with Lee and the re-run felt a bit like a run-off.

"I didn't make a particularly good start but I managed to do enough on the first turn to get my nose in front. From there, I didn't look back and held on for the win. The first turn was tight, and I knew I had to get across Lee as he is fast and a good gater.

"The Grand Prix series was a big of a nightmare for me at the start of the season, but after my broken ankle things picked up a little. It hasn't been my best season but my form has been all right and at least I have now something to show for it.

"The British final might not have the charisma about it that it used to have, but it is still a tough meeting with some good riders in it and it is nice to be the best of British on the night."

Qualifying scores: Scott Nicholls (Ipswich) 13, Lee Richardson (Coventry) 13, David Howe (Wolverhampton) 12, Mark Loram (Eastbourne) 12, Garry Stead (Hull) 11, Leigh Lanham (Arena-Essex) 10, Joe Screen (Eastbourne) 10, Dean Barker (Eastbourne) 9, Paul Hurry (Wolverhampton) 7, Phil Morris (Reading) 6, Simon Stead (Sheffield) 5, Oliver Allen (Swindon) 4, Andy Smith (unattached) 3, Danny Bird (Isle of Wight) 2, Chris Harris (Trelawny) 2, Michael Coles (Exeter) 1

Heat details

1: Howe 60.9, Morris, Hurry, Allen

2: Lanham 61.9, Screen, S. Stead, Coles (ret.)

3: Nicholls 60.8, Loram, Smith, Harris

4: Richardson 60.4, Barker, G. Stead, Bird

5: Nicholls 60.5, Richardson, Allen, Coles (ret.)

6: Lanham 61.5, G. Stead, Smith, Morris

7: Howe 60.5, Loram, Barker, S. Stead

8: Screen 61.8, Hurry, Harris, Bird

9: Loram 59.7, Lanham, Allen, Bird (f, exc.)

10: Barker 61.2, Morris, Coles, Harris (exc.)

11: G. Stead 60.1, Screen, Nicholls, Howe (exc. tapes)

12: Richardson 60.1, Hurry, S. Stead, Smith (f, rem)

13: G. Stead 59.6, S. Stead, Allen, Harris (exc.)

14: Richardson 59.7, Loram, Screen, Morris

15: Howe 60.6, Bird, Smith, Coles (f, exc.)

16: Nicholls 60.8, Lanham, Hurry, Barker (fell)

17: Barker 60.6, Screen, Allen, Smith

18: Nicholls 61.0, Morris, S. Stead, Bird

19: Howe 60.5, Richardson, Harris, Lanham

20: Loram 60.8, G. Stead, Hurry, Coles (ret)

Final: Nicholls 60.6, Richardson, Howe, Loram (f, exc.)

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