Hancock: I could have signed for Witches

GREG Hancock lines up for Oxford at Foxhall Stadium tonight.But the super star could so easily have been in an Ipswich Evening Star race jacket."All it needed was a phone call at the right time," said the 33-year-old American, who turned down an Ipswich approach last month.

By Elvin King

GREG Hancock lines up for Oxford at Foxhall Stadium tonight.

But the super star could so easily have been in an Ipswich Evening Star race jacket.

"All it needed was a phone call at the right time," said the 33-year-old American, who turned down an Ipswich approach last month.

Hancock's circumstances with his Swedish club Rospiggarna are believed to have changed since then, and when the telephone rang two weeks ago it was Oxford promoter Nigel Wagstaff calling at the right time.

"If Ipswich had rang at that moment I would have signed for them," confirmed Hancock yesterday before leaving Sweden to fly to England for tonight's Sky Sports Elite League match (start 7.30pm).

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"I love the Foxhall track and the Witches fans. It is one of my favourite circuits and I would love to do well tomorrow.

"When Magda Louis approached me we did not get as far as talking about money. It was just not appropriate at the time for me to upsticks from Sweden and base myself in England again.

"Now it is different, and when Nigel called I was in a position to say yes."

Oxford pressed for the 1997 world champion to join them before the start of the season, but Coventry asset Hancock could not reach agreement with the Silver Machine outfit over terms and conditions.

"I want to emphasise that I have no grudge with Ipswich," added Hancock. "I still feel I have a chance in this season's Grand Prix series and riding in the Elite League will sharpen me up.

"I will be riding in the world cup for the USA early next month, and there is a lot going on at the moment."

Oxford only have three away meetings left, so Hancock has no major alterations to his plans to fit their fixtures into his diary.

The Silver Machine have Ipswich to ride twice at Foxhall, plus a visit to Wolverhampton. "I enjoy riding on both tracks," added Hancock as he prepared to pack for his flight to England.

Kenneth Bjerre, a Dane who has been in prime form this year, will guest for Oxford in place of Sebastian Ulamek, who will be taking part in the Polish championship semi-finals.

Witches heat leader Jarek Hampel is riding in the same competition, so Belle Vue's Steve Johnston comes in at number one.

The Australian can always be relied upon to give his all, and he was one of the few Ipswich riders to emerge with any credit the last time he guested at Foxhall – the 57-33 humiliation by Peterborough when Johnston scored ten points.

Stories continuing to come out of Poland suggest that Hampel is under pressure from the management of his Wroclaw club to take a rest from British speedway.

But this was refuted by Ipswich promoter John Louis on Monday, who said that Hampel is down to ride at Oxford tomorrow.

Despite suffering a recent reaction to a shoulder injury Hampel was back to form for Wroclaw on Sunday scoring a paid 11 points against Gdansk. Witches skipper Scott Nicholls also scored a paid 11 points in a 58-32 win.

Pole Chris Slabon is scheduled to return to the Ipswich side and ride his first meeting as a heat leader after suffering a virus last week and missing the defeat at Wolverhampton.

A win for Ipswich would keep alive their slim chances of a move out of the bottom two, but they will be up against a strong-looking Oxford side that has former Witch Matej Ferjan at number four.

Oxford won the corresponding home meeting 51-38.

Tonight's line-ups

Ipswich: S Johnston, F Eriksson, C Slabon, D Nermark, S Nicholls, L Lanham, P Hurry. Team manager: Mike Smillie.

Oxford: T Wiltshire, A Smith, K Bjerre, M Ferjan, G Hancock, T McGowan, J Staechmann. Team manager: Nigel Wagstaff.

Referee: Graham Reeve.

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