Louis struggling to strengthen team

SPEEDWAY: Ipswich Witches promoter John Louis has been left scratching his head after Shaun Tacey's apparent U-turn that led him to sign for Premier League Arena-Essex.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Witches promoter John Louis has been left scratching his head after Shaun Tacey's apparent U-turn that led him to sign for Premier League Arena-Essex.

The Suffolk Elite League club was led to believe that Tacey would be joining them as Leigh Lanham's reserve partner with a 3.66 average.

But at the 11th hour Ipswich-based Tacey agreed to accept a lucrative offer from an Essex club that now has influential former Hackney promoter Terry Russell involved again.

With Tacey in the side, plus young Pole Robert Kosciecha, Ipswich would surely have solved the bottom end problem that bugged them in 2001. They would have been one of the favourites to win the title this year.

Now it is looking more and more that Ipswich's hopes of doing well will be considerably diminished as Louis struggles to complete his team.

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Louis might turn to eager locally-based 37-year-old Carl Baldwin, who had not ridden for 14 years before making a comeback last year and filling in for the Witches on three occasions - not looking off the pace.

Baldwin is certainly keen enough and wants to ride again at the top level. He was signed by Ipswich last August.

As soon as he got back from a fortnight's break in snow-bound Poland, Louis got straight into a search to complete his side. But so far he has got nowhere.

"We had all the paperwork done and were set to complete a deal with Shaun two days before we left before Christmas," said Louis today.

"We were left devastated and it was not what we wanted as we departed for a winter break. If Shaun had signed we had Robert Kosciecha lined up to complete our side and ride at number two.

"It is turning into a nightmare to find a rider with a similar average to Tacey. I have been on the telephone for the last couple of days, but have been confronted with some outrageous demands."

Riders like Steve Masters, who rode for Newport last season, and Davey Watt, likely to leave the Isle of Wight but contracted to a Swedish Thursday night track, have been mentioned but will not be coming.

One thing is certain. Ipswich will not be falling back on asset Savalas Clouting. Louis said: "It is in the best interests of Sal and ourselves that he picks up his career somewhere else. I will keep searching until I find a suitable pair to complete our team."

Ipswich have just over eight points to play with for their final two riders to keep within the 45 point combined average limit.

Other Elite teams are building, with 1993 world champion Sam Ermolenko turning down Peterborough to join Jason Crump at Belle Vue, while Wolverhampton have re-signed Daniel Nermark (5.32ave) and Oxford have retained Andrew Appleton (3.00).

The Nermark decision releases Pole Adam Skornicki from Wolves but his 5.32 average rules him out of an Ipswich place.

Lanham, who is likely to share his reserve duties with the Isle of Wight's Danny Bird, finished fourth in Newport's New Year Classic meeting at the weekend.

Lanham scored 11.points in the heats to reach the final which Michael Coles won, edging out home favourite Frank Smart, with Brent Werner third after Lanham crashed when in second place.

n Ipswich Witches Supporters club is running a coach to the ice speedway meeting in Telford on Sunday February 17. This costs £16 for members and £19 for non-members which does not include admission to the racing. The coach leaves Crown Street, Ipswich at 9.30am and bookings can be made by telephoning Mark Styles on Ipswich 718477 or Chris Ellis on (01384) 211602.

The Supporters Club has a limited number of tickets, priced £24, for the 2002 British Grand Prix at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on June 8. They are situated on the third and fourth bends and can be purchased by sending a cheque made payable to Ipswich Speedway Promotions to 7, Penshurst Road, Ipswich IP3 8QZ. More information can be obtained by phoning Ipswich 718477.

Witches' Foxhall Stadium season tickets for this year can now be purchased by sending a cheque (made payable to Ipswich Speedway Promotions), passport style photo and stamped addressed envelope to 7 Penshurst Road, Ipswich IP3 8QZ. The cost is £250 for adults, £160 for concessions and £15 for a reserved seat.

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