Rickardsson back in Witches' plans

SPEEDWAY: Ipswich Evening Star Witches do not expect to finalise their 2003 side until the New Year, but a number of decisions have already been made.

By Elvin King


IPSWICH Evening Star Witches do not expect to finalise their 2003 side until the New Year, but a number of decisions have already been made.

1) Top choice for the vacant third heat leader berth, Tomasz Gollob, will not be riding.

2) World champion Tony Rickardsson, a Witches asset, is now being considered as heat leader partner to Scott Nicholls and Jarek Hampel.

3) Hot property Bjarne Pedersen is on the Ipswich shopping list, although the asking price of parent company Newcastle is high.

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4) Young Swede Kim Jansson, who made a big impression in the final weeks of last season, will not feature in the Witches Sky Sports Elite League 2003 side.

5) Danny Bird is to continue as one of the Ipswich reserves, with his floater partner still to be decided.

6) Skipper Chris Louis has confirmed that he is keen to take one of the second string berths.

The Witches management sat around a table for six hours at the weekend and John and Magda Louis and team manager Mike Smillie have drawn up six different permutations.

Some feature a high average third heat leader, and some give added weight to the bottom end. But director Mrs Louis confirmed that there will be no three-point man in the team.

"We don't want an inexperienced reserve," she said. "We have a number of options but it looks as though we will have to go outside our current assets for our third heat leader.

"We are certainly considering Tony Rickardsson, but we know the difficulties that would cause in fitting in a competitive bottom end.

"It looks as though Leigh Adams is going to Poole, and we must wait and see where that leaves Tony in Pirates' plans."

Former world champion Gary Havelock is expected to leave Poole and sign for Peterborough.

Newcastle loaned Dane Pedersen to Poole last season, but the Premier League club say they now want to complete a sale before the new season.

"We have wanted Bjarne for a year or two," added Mrs Louis. "We have made enquiries to Newcastle, but they are asking a lot of money. We would have to sell more than one of our riders to fund any deal."

Pedersen finished with a 7.19 average, but with rolling averages now in operation this comes down to 5.88, making him a bargain on the track for any club.

But at a hefty transfer price, and King's Lynn among others have burnt their fingers over big permanent deals in recent years.

It looks as though clubs have leeway to build teams up to at least 46 points for 2003, and Ipswich plan to make full use of this.

Gollob, with an eight-point average, would have fitted the bill, but he ruled this out today. The 31-year-old said: "I am not as young as I was and do not feel I could do the job Ipswich want.

"I am not as fit as Tony Rickardsson who keeps going in three countries and in the Grand Prix. With my family and outside interests, riding in Poland and Sweden will be enough. But if the call comes from Ipswich to cover for an injured rider, then I would rescue them. I would have to say yes."

Ipswich have made contact with Coventry, who will have to off-load Billy Hamill, Lee Richardson or Andreas Jonsson as their combined average is over 48 points. Hamill looks the most vulnerable, while Coventry asset Greg Hancock may well be back in British racing after a year out.

Hancock, still smarting at being left out last season, is unlikely to want to ride for the Bees again. Either American would surely be a big hit with Ipswich as they ride Foxhall Stadium so well and are great ambassadors for the sport.

"We have spoken to Coventry's Colin Pratt, but he is not in a position to release any of his top riders yet," added Mrs Louis.

"Kim Jansson will feature in our British League Cup side, but he is not in our considerations for an Elite League place at the moment.

"Danny Bird wants to come back to us and he deserves to stay in the top flight. We are pleased to have him back, and he will mix his Ipswich duties with his Premier League fixtures."

Chris Louis today confirmed his plans for 2003. "I want to do as well as I can," he said.

"Apart from my first season I have been a heat leader all my career at Ipswich. This is just a terminology and riding as a second string is no problem to me."

After missing most of last season with a back injury, Louis is set to start next campaign with an average as low as 6.10.

"My plan will be to push this up to eight or eight and a half," he added. "Hopefully I can make the Ipswich team get stronger as the season progresses."

Lee Dixon, who acted as Louis' mechanic for three years until 2000, is now back living in Ipswich and expected to take his place in the Louis corner of the pits.

Arena-Essex are hoping to buy 25-year-old Leigh Lanham from Ipswich. The former British Under-21 champion has been loaned to the Premier League club since 1998, although he also acted as a 'floater' in a reserve berth at Ipswich this year.

"Arena mentioned an interest in Leigh at the annual general meeting, but we have heard nothing official," said Ipswich promoter John Louis today.

Craig Boyce has been granted a testimonial next year. The Australian is a Poole asset and it remains to be seen where he stages his testimonial meeting. He has been on loan with Ipswich for the last two years, but is not expected to be part of the 2003 Witches line-up.

Nicholls has signed up for this Sunday's Brighton Bonanza. The British champion joins Mark Loram and Peter Karlsson in a star-studded field for the event, which takes place at the Brighton Centre.

OXFORD owner Steve Purchase is ready to listen to offers for the club after his application to stage Premier League racing next season was put on hold.

Changes made to the sport at the AGM were still not sufficient for Purchase to retain an Elite League interest.

He said: "I would not stand in anyone's way if they wanted to buy the club and take Oxford forward."

Meanwhile the Ochiltree family are staying at Coventry despite the takeover of Midland Sports Stadiums Ltd.

Martin Ochiltree and his mother Linda are directors and Colin Pratt will remain in charge of speedway matters at Brandon.

Birmingham-based businessman Mr Avtar Sandhu, a self-confessed sports enthusiast, has acquired the company formally trading as Midland Sports Stadiums Ltd and a new company has been formed, Coventry Racing Club Ltd.