Pepe races to 12-point maximum

PIOTR Protasiewicz raced to a 12-point maximum as the Ipswich Evening Star Witches roared back into action with a 14-point Suffolk Cup victory over Mildenhall Fen Tigers at Foxhall Stadium last night.

By Mike Bacon

PIOTR Protasiewicz raced to a 12-point maximum as the Ipswich Evening Star Witches roared back into action with a 14-point Suffolk Cup victory over Mildenhall Fen Tigers at Foxhall Stadium last night.

On a night more akin to the recent Winter Olympics in Italy than the summer sport of speedway, the Grand Prix star settled his side down against a battling Premier League Fen Tigers unit who provided sterling opposition for their more illustrious Elite League opponents.

Indeed this was an excellent workout for the Witches who found Mildenhall, already with a couple of meetings under their belt, stirring opposition. And certainly the re-match back at West Row on Sunday should be more than interesting.

But last night Ipswich's quality came through and Protasiewicz found plenty of support from his team-mates as the meeting wore on as the Witches built up a decent lead.

Not too much can be learned from this result for the home side, who face the sterner test of Oxford home and away in the Elite League next week, but they will be buoyed by the performances of skipper Chris Louis, Mark Loram and reserve Jan Jaros, as well as the efforts of Danny King, who rode for Mildenhall last night, but doubles up for the Witches in the Elite League.

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The result was never in doubt, but it took the Witches a long while to shrug their game opponents off and it wasn't until the second half of the meeting they pulled away.

Only Robert Miskowiak barely troubled the scorers for the home side, but he, along with Protasiewicz, was out practising after the meeting - practice the Witches had been denied by the weather last week.

It was a bitterly cold night and snow began to fall as the tapes went up for the start of heat one.

Mildenhall's former Belle Vue Ace Jason Lyons popped out from the inside gate to hold off all Louis'

challenges to win, as Kim Jansson passed Jason King on lap three in a drawn first race.

It was another shared heat in the next, but both Mildenhall and Ipswich fans were happy to see Danny King pick up the three points.

Protasiewicz made his way across from the outside gate to provide the Witches' first heat winner of the new campaign in heat three, but Mildenhall had started brightly, although after having won the first two heats, no Fen Tigers man was set to take the chequered flag again on the night.

Heat four warmed the fans up as Carl Wilkinson led Chris Neath with Loram tracking both men. However, on a track with little grip, Loram's efforts were in vain as Neath almost caught Wilkinson on the line in an exciting finish.

The Witches were just two points ahead and it remained that way as Protasiewicz put in a hard first turn to beat the Mildenhall pairing, and Louis and Jansson doubled the Witches lead in heat six with a

4-2.

Jaros tried to muscle his way past Stuart Robson going into the third turn in heat seven, and fell. He got to his feet, but it was another drawn race, the fifth one in the first seven races.

Wilkinson was looking sharp in the early stages and he gated to the front in heat eight with Jansson coming around the outside to join him, as Ipswich at last put a bit of daylight between themselves and their visitors from west Suffolk.

It was Protasiewicz who was

showing no signs of rustiness and the Grand Prix star made it three wins out of three in heat nine, although for his fellow Pole, Miskowiak, it was a third successive last place.

The Witches were all set for a 5-1 in heat ten as Louis dived in between Shaun Tacey and Robson going in to the third turn. But the Witches skipper suffered machine problems and had to retire, although the Witches remained eight points ahead at 34-26.

Jaros was showing up well, shooting from the outside to join Loram for a second Witches maximum in heat 11 and Danny King picked up four points with a tactical ride for Mildenhall in the next.

However, Protasiewicz was proving different class in this field as he

completed a 12-point maximum in the same heat 12.

The emergence of Louis and Loram together on the track in Witches colours for the first time in 17 years in heat 13 was a pleasing sight for the home fans. However, Lyons

threatened to spoil the party, as he led

coming out of turn two before first Loram and then Louis passed the Australian to complete another

maximum for the home side with the pair's lap of honour drawing the biggest cheer of the night.

Miskowiak scored his first point of the evening in the penultimate heat 14, but again it was Jaros who impressed with a fine start, this time from gate two, as he took his personal tally to a very satisfactory paid eight points.

Louis pulled a wonderful manoeuvre on Danny King in the final heat after a great start by the teenager, but King had ridden well for Mildenhall and he was their best rider on show.

Despite the weather there was a decent crowd and there is much

positivity about this Witches side in 2006. However, Mildenhall too will have gained much from his encounter and they will be looking to spring a surprise or two at West Row on Sunday afternoon.

Ipswich Witches Supporters' Club are running a coach to Oxford for their first Elite League meeting of the season next Wednesday. This costs £13 for members (£16 non-members) and £8 for junior members (£10 junior non-members).

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