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Panthers hand out mauling to Witches

PUBLISHED: 20:00 19 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:45 03 March 2010

CHRIS Louis took his first move into speedway management when he stepped into his father's shoes yesterday.

While John Louis was being kept under observation at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge with a fractured skull and damaged wrist and shoulder, son Chris kept his eye on track preparation and team affairs at Foxhall Stadium yesterday afternoon.

CHRIS Louis took his first move into speedway management when he stepped into his father's shoes yesterday.

While John Louis was being kept under observation at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge with a fractured skull and damaged wrist and shoulder, son Chris kept his eye on track preparation and team affairs at Foxhall Stadium yesterday afternoon.

It was not a great day on which to start, although this home defeat was nothing like as damaging as the huge loss at Peterborough in the second leg of this Sky Sports Elite League Good Friday double.

Young Louis journeyed to the East of England Showground as well on a day when Peterborough refused to let league points slip away as easily as they let rising star Daniel King join the Evening Star Witches set-up during the week.

It was only the second time Louis senior has missed a home Foxhall match since he arrived as promoter in 1989. The first was also against Peterborough when he was with Chris as England team manager for a Grand Prix. That meeting was rained off after one heat.

Newcomers to speedway in a large Bank Holiday crowd will have enjoyed the racing and a meeting which went to a last heat decider, but regular Witches supporters will not have enjoyed this defeat on a black day for the club.

On a patchy track it looked as though Ipswich would romp home at one stage, but the Panthers hit back to take the lead in heat 11 and hold on without too much discomfort.

The rider replacement facility for Jarek Hampel accrued seven points, while Paul Hurry made a fight of it despite being in discomfort from a brace needed to support a back still affected by a kidney complaint.

Chris Harris excelled for the visitors, while Piotr Protasiewicz made a mockery of his usual Foxhall form with a paid nine points.

Ryan Sullivan, troubled by a painful leg, slowed in heat one but still managed to stay ahead of Hurry, before Ipswich's reserves made the best gates to win heat two.

The Witches' starting after that left a lot to be desired. Nicholls suffered a coil problem after winning heat four and suffered a similar problem when second behind Danny Bird on the last turn of heat seven.

Chris Slabon looked good until heat eight then faded away, while Bird suffered bike problems after being unbeaten in his opening two heats. He used Tom P Madsen's bike in heat 12 when the visitors grabbed their second 5-1 from the gate in three heats to take a firm grip on the match.

Both Hurry and Nicholls got beyond Sullivan in heat 13 and when the plucky Hurry expertly passed Hans Andersen on the line in heat 14, Ipswich still had the chance of a draw.

Peterborough again made the start in the final race, with Nicholls and Hurry getting beyond Gary Havelock but unable to disturb Sullivan.

The Witches were totally outclassed by the Panthers at Peterborough, who ripped into their meagre challenge.

Only skipper Scott Nicholls offered any resistance for a team who badly missed injured heat leader Jarek Hampel.

Such is the make-up of the Witches team this year it is hard to cover for an injured rider with rider-replacement.

Daniel Nermark offered Nicholls limited support but these two aside the rest were poor.

Conditions were slick on a perishing evening, but this was no problem for the home side who seemed to be able to pass at will on the few occasions when they were outgated.

Paul Hurry was passed by Shane Parker as the Panthers got off to the best start in heat one.

They were at it again with another in the next despite the efforts of Danny Bird to get amongst the Panthers pairing.

In heat three Chris Slabon threatened to break the Panthers 5-1 sequence for a couple of laps as he briefly held second spot, but Gary Havelock rode round to join Hans Andersen for the home side's third maximum on the trot.

Chris Harris brought the house down when he held off Nicholls to win the fourth. The tapes actually stuck down on the inside at the start of the heat but referee Will Hunter let the race continue.

Witches team manager Mike Smillie was amazed when he spoke to the referee and was told he had let the race run its course because no one had been disadvantaged.

Normal service was resumed in the next with the Panthers' fifth 5-1 in four races.

Nicholls briefly led heat six but he was easily passed by Ryan Sullivan down the back straight of the first lap as the Panthers went 20 points up.

In heat seven Piotr Protasiewicz suffered a puncture before the start and just made the tapes after a quick dash back to to replace it.

He raced off to win from Nermark, with Hurry forcing his way past Nigel Sadler in a share of the spoils.

Nicholls was out as a tactical in a fiercely-fought heat eight.

He finally became the first Witch to take the chequered flag after winning a two-lap battle with Panthers lively reserve Harris.

The Panthers extended their lead in the ninth with yet another maximum advantage before Nermark briefly led heat ten although he was soon passed by Sullivan.

The Witches pairing looked like holding the minor places in the 11th but Sadler had other ideas, picking off first Hurry then Slabon to put the Panthers 30 up.

Bird led heat 12 for a lap before being rounded by Havelock and then Harris made a last bend challenge to leave the Witch pointless as the Panthers marched on.

Nicholls reeled in Sullivan in a thrilling heat to take the 13th. Home rider Andersen almost fell while second in heat 14, doing remarkably well to stay on board coming out of the fourth bend, although he was passed by Nermark.

Nicholls, who was now on a roll, defeated Havelock in the final heat. The former world champion was first away, from Nicholls and Nermark, and at the end of the first lap Andersen went round Nermark but was repassed by the Swede going into the first bend on the second lap.

With two gone Nicholls then went round Havelock before Andersen found speed on the final bend to again go past Nermark on the run in to the chequered flag.

Witches team manager Smillie was disappointed after the Witches performance. He said: "We knew it was going to be difficult and when the home reserves made the opposition heat leaders look second best you are in trouble."


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