Potential to be the best

TONY Rickardsson is riding better than at any time in his illustrious career.Who says so? None other than the four-time world champion.After scoring 14 points to help Poole Pirates to a drawn Sky Sports Elite League meeting at Foxhall Stadium last night, the popular Swede expressed his delight at the way he is performing.

By Elvin King

TONY Rickardsson is riding better than at any time in his illustrious career.

Who says so? None other than the four-time world champion.

After scoring 14 points to help Poole Pirates to a drawn Sky Sports Elite League meeting at Foxhall Stadium last night, the popular Swede expressed his delight at the way he is performing.

Favourite to win his fifth world title this year and winner of the Norwegian Grand Prix last Saturday, Ipswich asset Rickardsson said: "This is the best I have ridden. Sitting on a bike I feel perfectly at home and going into corners seems so natural.

"This is not to say that I am confident of retaining my world crown.

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"Once confidence starts to creep in you can so easily relax – and that would be fatal.

"I still get a big kick out of racing speedway, but to be honest riding league matches is like a day at work for me now.

"The GPs give me an extra buzz and that is when the adrenalin really pumps.

"I still want to be best at all times and there is nothing that gets me going more than to lose out to another rider.

"Scott Nicholls did well to beat me in heat four and good luck to him, but this wound me up and after that I was determined not to be beaten again."

Rickardsson had some encouraging words for Nicholls, who helped celebrate his 24th birthday with that vastly exciting race win over the Swede, who was his Witches team-mate when Ipswich won the treble in 1998.

"Scott will emerge as the top English rider this year now that he has reached the GP," added Rickardsson. "He has not quite reached his full potential yet – but it will come quickly now.

"Scott is suffering from GP stress right now. This is something we have all gone through and you do not get over it until you have everything sorted just right – from packing the van right to tackling the races in the right frame of mind."

The Nicholls/Rickardsson battle in heat four was the race of the night with no

quarter asked or given.

Nicholls burst inside both Poole riders down the back straight only for the Swede to regain the lead coming out of the third bend.

But Nicholls was having none of that and he went into the lead again at the next corner.

The next circuit was fought shoulder to shoulder before Nicholls emerged in front to take the chequered flag.

Ipswich looked on course for their third consecutive home win until Bjarne Pedersen and Mariusz Staszewski gated to a 5-1 in the penultimate race.

This levelled the scores and with Rickardsson winning the final race, Nicholls and Craig Boyce had to keep the impressive Hans Andersen at the back to earn a share of the spoils.

Poole, who were never in front but never more than four points behind, took the aggregate bonus point after their 51-39 victory at Wimborne Road the previous night.

Poole's reserves were paid for 12 points on their first visit to Foxhall with Staszewski looking particularly talented.

In contrast, the home reserves could find no consistency and were paid for nine points.

Both Chris Slabon and Danny Bird had their moments on a night when an engine failure to guest Jason Lyons in heat ten proved crucial.

He was making a serious assault on the lead when his primary drive belt broke, with Poole grabbing a 5-1 to get right back into the match.

Bird combined superbly with Nicholls in the next race to restore the Witches four-point advantage, and this was held until heat 14 when the Pirates hit back again.

Ipswich could have been 10-2 ahead after just two heats with Jeremy Doncaster being passed by Gary Havelock on the second lap of heat one and Bird being overtaken by Staszewski on the third lap of heat two.

Neither heat saw Ipswich team riding with any authority, and these slip-ups proved vital to the outcome of the match although it would probably have given Poole a chance to use tactical substitutes.

Andersen rode well to win heat three before Nicholls and Rickardsson had their memorable battle.

Joonas Kylmakorpi fought as hard as he could to get something out of heat 14, but in race five he was unable to trouble the visiting riders in the third of what turned out to be seven consecutive drawn heats.

The next three races were won from the start with Ipswich disappointed not to gain an advantage from heat eight when Staszewski popped out to win.

Boyce did well to push Staszewski wide on the second bend of heat nine to allow Kylmakorpi to come through and gain third place.

Then came Lyons' misfortunes after a first turn when it all happened with the lead changing hands every few yards before Andersen burst through from nowhere to take the lead.

On the following circuit, Lyons was then making his move on the lead when he slowed.

Ipswich ride at Eastbourne tomorrow and will be hard pushed without Chris Louis, Slabon and Kylmakorpi.

Sam Ermolenko guests for Louis with Jason Bunyan taking Slabon's place. Ipswich will use the rider replacement facility for Kylmakorpi.

Many speedway personalities will be at Gainsborough Labour Club, Landseer Road, Ipswich, tonight when a family disco is being held for injured speedway rider Lawrence Hare. Entry for children is free and there will be a raffle to help raise cash for the Ipswich-based rider who will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

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