Louis target is a top-three finish

PROMOTER John Louis, who is commencing his 14th consecutive season running speedway in Ipswich, has his sights firmly set on regaining a top three place in the Sky Sports Elite League.

By Elvin King

PROMOTER John Louis, who is commencing his 14th consecutive season running speedway in Ipswich, has his sights firmly set on regaining a top three place in the Sky Sports Elite League.

The Evening Star Witches finished third in 2000, but slipped down to fourth last year.

Louis starred on the track for the Witches in a sparkling riding career, before taking up the managerial reins in 1989 when he moved back to Ipswich from Hackney - along with Dave Pavitt and Mike Western.

Since 1999 he has been running the club on his own, with the help of his wife Magda.

Looking ahead to the season today as he took charge of Press Day at Foxhall Stadium, Louis said: "I'm aiming for a top-three place at the least. We are capable of that and have the side to do it.

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"I'm quite happy with the team. Our aim was to improve the reserve positions. We've brought in Leigh Lanham and Danny Bird, and in Carl Baldwin we have a real enthusiastic guy who will give nothing less than 100%.

"Last season our reserves struggled and it was so obvious that we had to make changes for the sake of our fans.

"Carl is 37 and will get every chance. He proved last season when he guested for us that he remains competitive, and he is certainly keen enough, with good engines and plenty of experience.

"The top four from last year were superb and I was more than happy to re-sign all of them. And Joonas Kylmakorpi is highly-rated by Eastbourne but they couldn't fit him into their side. We are glad to have signed him.

"I top five place will put us in the title play-offs, but we are seeking a higher better finish than that."

Going through his 2002 team, Louis mapped out how he expects the year to go.

"Chris Louis showed great courage in coming back last September after suffering a life threatening injury in June. He must forget his accident and get back to doing what he does so well – leading the Witches from the front.

"He starts on the same level as everybody else this week and we all have every confidence that he will get back to his best form. If so it will be a big bonus for the club.

"Scott Nicholls matured into an international class rider last season. I don't think his involvement in the Grand Prix will affect his performances for Ipswich. He can get even better and can beat any rider anywhere. He was remarkably consistent in 2001.

"Craig Boyce has enjoyed riding for Ipswich since day one. He makes an impact on the track and in the pits and it was not the most difficult decision I have ever made to have him back again. His average went up last season and if he can do that again he will have had a terrific year.

"Jeremy Doncaster still has a big part to play. Age is no barrier to him and he is now riding with less pressure than at any time in his distinguished career.

"He rides well with Craig, and time and again they came up trumps for us when it really mattered in 2001.

"Joonas Kylmakorpi has a difficult job to fill Jarek Hampel's boots, but he is more than capable of doing that. Eastbourne were happy with his performances and Joonas has already said that he thinks he will benefit from a grippy Foxhall circuit.

"Leigh Lanham has been on our shopping list for a while and the winter changes have made it possible for us to now use him. Leigh has a huge talent and now is the time for him to make an impact at the highest level.

"I am sure he will, and also comfortably handle his duel role with us and Arena-Essex. He will be a vital man.

"Danny Bird will share the number six race jacket with Leigh and both are of equal talent. Danny did very well with the Isle of Wight last year and has the ability to make an impact in the Elite League.

"Carl Baldwin has been pressing for a team place all winter and we feel he can do a better job than a six-point youngster from the Premier League who would need at least one season to find his feet at the next level. Carl could well be our trump card."

Wife Magda has been struggling with a bad back for the last six weeks and is not expected at Foxhall Stadium for some while.

"I have been unable to work since January and have not been able to help John as the season has kicked-in," she said. "The pain is no better and I am waiting for a hospital appointment.

"I would love to be at Foxhall this week, and for Saturday's opening Billy Sanders Memorial meeting. But it doesn't look as though it will happen.

"We are pleased with the side we have put together although we will miss Jarek Hampel. He loved riding for us and I would like to assure all Witches fans that he will be back with us one day."

All the Witches riders have been invited to the Supporters' Club pre-season disco tomorrow. This takes place at St Clements Hospital social club, Foxhall Road, Ipswich at 7.30pm with admission £5 on the door.

SPEEDWAY supporters without transport can catch a coach to all meetings at Foxhall Stadium. This leaves Felixstowe Bus Station at 6.30pm calling at all stops through Felixstowe, Walton and Trimley. It departs Ipswich Old Cattle Market Bus Station at 7.0pm calling at all stops in town, Grove Lane and Foxhall Road. Full details from Gilpatricks Coaches on 01394 277556.