Loram proves he's up for the challenge

MARK Loram got Ipswich Evening Star Witches off to a flying start as the 2007 speedway season opened with a challenge match victory over Lakeside Ham-mers at Foxhall Stadium last night.

By Elvin King

MARK Loram got Ipswich Evening Star Witches off to a flying start as the 2007 speedway season opened with a challenge match victory over Lakeside Ham-mers at Foxhall Stadium last night.

The 2000 world champion took most of last season to chalk up a paid 15 points, but he wasted no time in making his mark this year.

It is early days of course, with engines being tested and cobwebs being blown away.

However, it could have been a much worse start for an Ipswich team that has been given little chance of making a success of the campaign.

They are breaking in two riders new to British speedway in Marcin Rempala and Zibi Suchecki, and all concerned will take heart from this showing.

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Loram has the character to rise to the occasion and if he continues like this it will bode well for the Witches.

The visitors have been rejuvenated off the track during the winter with a new promotion and the arrival of livewire former Eastbourne official, Jon Cook, as team manager.

The Hammers are confident they can make it a successful year after finishing bottom of the table in 2006 and struggling to make any sort of impact.

They had three Foxhall track specialists in their side in Pole Krzysztof Kasprzak, Australian Adam Shields and Finland international Joonas Kylmakorpi.

It was a big night for Witches skipper and rider/ manager Chris Louis, who was starting his 20th consecutive season riding for Ipswich.

His workload off the track is considerable these days, yet his biggest contribution still needs to be found on the circuit.

The 37-year-old showed no signs of the collarbone injury he suffered at the end of last season that saw him effectively miss the end of the campaign.

Along with Loram, Louis will have to try to make an impact on the opposition team's big boys, which may not be too much of a problem at home but may be troublesome away from Foxhall.

The Witches got off to a spell-binding start with consecutive maximum heat wins.

Loram got things going with a flying start in heat one and he was followed home by Swede Kim Jansson, who looked in good fettle despite suffering from a cold.

Jansson and Robert Miskowiak have been told that they must up their act this year after both failed to make the progress anticipated in 2006.

Heat two saw Tobi Kroner show his liking for Foxhall with a comfortable win from the tapes and it was an encouraging first couple of points for Suchecki, who showed himself to be a quick learner after only seeing the track for the first time on Tuesday.

Lakeside's spearhead, Kasprzak, won heat three from the gate and race four was also drawn with Shields, who has moved with Cook from Eastbourne, gating quickest and leaving Kroner and Miskowiak in his wake.

Ipswich stretched their lead to ten points in the next heat when Loram did well to hold off Shields on the opening lap, but this backfired somewhat when Kasprzak was used as tactical rider in heat seven and rode for double points.

Suchecki received a huge cheer at the end of a thrilling race from an enthusiastic crowd as he held off his experienced fellow countryman until the final few yards when the visiting rider burst through on the outside.

This 7-2 to Lakeside brought them to within five points and they moved closer to the home side when Henning Bager hit form and Kroner trailed in last.

Shields beat Louis from the gate in heat nine, before Loram showed his class in the following race when he passed Kasprzak on the third lap down the back straight to take the chequered flag.

Chris Neath, the Lakeside number eight and replacement for the ill Paul Hurry, beat Jansson for third place.

Miskowiak found his form in heat 11 with an impressive victory and Louis kept the three-point lead intact by passing Kasprzak coming out of the second bend to win heat 12.

Heat 13 is one where Ipswich's lack of top end strength might be found out, but Miskowiak roared from the outside berth to muscle himself into the lead and he was followed home by Loram thanks to a fine first two bends by the superb rider.

Ipswich's newcomers both beat Bager for a drawn penultimate race won by Neath.

Loram completed his paid full house with a back straight pass on Kasprzak and it put a nice gloss finish on a satisfactory 2007 opening for Ipswich speedway.

n These two teams meet in the second leg of this challenge at Purfleet tonight with an 8pm start. Ipswich expect to be unchanged and there is a chance that Paul Hurry might return for the Hammers.