Louis: You've not seen the last of me

THERE is a missing link with Ipswich Witches this season. For the first time since 1988, local hero Chris Louis is not in the side.The 33-year-old has had to give up plans to return to the track because of on-going problems with the back injury he sustained in April last year.

By Elvin King

THERE is a missing link with Ipswich Witches this season. For the first time since 1988, local hero Chris Louis is not in the side.

The 33-year-old has had to give up plans to return to the track because of on-going problems with the back injury he sustained in April last year.

Racing for Ornarna against Smederna in Mariestad Louis crushed a vertebra. This came on top of the life threatening head injury he suffered in June 2001 riding in Poland.

It is strange not to have Louis at the head of the team as he has served the Witches so well over 14 seasons. He plans to get back on track some time this season, but it remains to be seen when.

"Don't write me off. Ipswich fans have not seen the last of me," is the message from the former Team Great Britain skipper who finished third in the world in Pocking, Germany in 1993.

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Louis will be included in the British League Cup squad with his place in the Elite League side taken by Swede Daniel Nermark, who impressed during his time at Wolverhampton last season where his stay was cut short by a broken thigh sustained in June at Oxford.

Paul Hurry, who will be 27 in April, is the eldest rider in the team, and he summed up the feeling in the camp. "We all have experience, yet we all have room for improvement," he said.

Scott Nicholls has reached the top and this could be his year to make it really big on the international scene.

Nicholls will be looking for better support than he received at times last season when injuries to Louis and Craig Boyce weakened the Ipswich top end.

Jarek Hampel is rated as the next 'Tomasz Gollob' in Poland and this could be his season to come of age. He broke the Foxhall track record last year and has the natural talent to make up for the loss of a Louis at his best.

Hurry has made a habit of winning trophies and his experience on away tracks – and his good record at Foxhall – can give the Witches enough top end strength to make an impact.

Chris Slabon is now over the age of Under-21 events and will spend more time with the Witches, being based near Bungay with Hampel. The Canadian Pole is a potential match-winner from his second string berth.

Nermark comes with bags of potential, while Tom P Madsen is a rider who should make headlines at reserve and then force his way into the team having moved from neighbours King's Lynn.

Danny Bird is likely to get the majority of rides as Madsen's partner, and the Isle of Wight 'floater' did well in 2002 in his first season of top flight racing.

Ipswich-based Leigh Lanham will take over when Bird in unavailable.

William Hill have made the Witches rank outsiders to win the title. This gives the management team of John and Magda Louis and Mike Smillie every incentive to prove the doubters wrong.

* Chris Louis has the second highest number of appearances for Ipswich (523) behind Jeremy Doncaster (583).

* Louis has appeared in more official races than any other Witch (2,730) – next highest is Jeremy Doncaster (2,668).

* He is the all-time leading points scorer for the club in official

fixtures with 5,857 points plus 353 bonus points giving a total of 6,210 points. Nearest challenger is Jeremy Doncaster again who has scored 4,748 plus 464, giving a total of 5,212.

* Louis has scored 66 maximums in his Witches career, but is still 56 short of the leader in the maximum stakes – father John Louis recorded a stunning 122 unbeaten scores in his 11 seasons at the club.

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