Scott gets GP bid back on track

IPSWICH Town football followers may have missed out on the Nationwide First Division play-off final, but Ipswich Evening Star Witches speedway supporters enjoyed their gala night out at the splendid Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

IPSWICH Town football followers may have missed out on the Nationwide First Division play-off final, but Ipswich Evening Star Witches speedway supporters enjoyed their gala night out at the splendid Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

A magnificent seven Ipswich riders took part in the Fiat Vans 2004 British Grand Prix and contributed to a memorable night.

American Greg Hancock carried on his good work after a 15-point maximum for Oxford at Foxhall Stadium on Thursday to go right through the meeting from heat one – and win the final by half a wheel from Leigh Adams.

More a case of Hancock's three hours than Hancock's Half Hour, but there was plenty to amuse the large Ipswich contingent in the 40,000-plus crowd.

Skipper Scott Nicholls got his GP season back on track with a semi-final place and there is every hope that this confidence-building return will signal a lift-off for the 26-year-old's campaign.

He is still not 100 per cent fit after his recent painful injury, but is getting very close, which bodes well as Ipswich look to step up their Sky Bet Elite League championship push.

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Rider manager Chris Louis did himself proud as he rejoined the international scene after recovering bravely from two severe injuries.

He was warmly received by the flag-waving, air horn-blowing fans, and at times during his long convalescence he must have thought that occasions like this were behind him.

Louis went out in his third ride. He recovered from a last place in heat one – behind Hancock and fellow Witches riders Nicholls and Hans Andersen – to finish second ahead of Lukas Dryml and disappointing Ipswich rider Jesper B Jensen in heat six.

In race 11 Louis had a dilemma after being pushed wide by Ipswich asset Tomasz Gollob and being left in third place behind Stowmarket-based Mark Loram.

GP points were more important to long-standing friend Loram than to wild-card Louis and the 34-year-old dropped out of the meeting with four points.

Tony Rickardsson finished behind Nicki Pedersen and Nicholls to go out in heat 21, while another Ipswich asset –- Jarek Hampel – waved goodbye after his first visit to Cardiff with a third place behind David Norris and Rickardsson in heat 18.

Norris, like Louis a wild card, was a livewire and showed what he could have achieved earlier in his career with a bit more dedication.

He is far fitter now and had the crowd on their feet in most of his races. But the man who really got the stadium buzzing – after Tony Hadley had got everybody stamping with a brilliant warm-up centre green cabaret – was Peterborough's Lee Richardson.

The fifth Brit on show reached the final in front of one of the biggest sporting crowds for a British event this month.

The racing was good although only five riders finished out of the top two places – apart from the cosmetic heats nine and ten – when starting from gate one.

One of these was Nicholls in his semi-final when he missed the break fractionally and came out of the second bend in last place. He did a lap after the race to acknowledge fans who had offered so much encouragement.

Heat 21 proved Nicholls to be back at his most competitive. Nicki Pedersen pushed him wide on the first turn, and Rickardsson ended in the fence.

An excellent Polish referee was spot on with his decisions all night, and allowed all four riders back in the re-run.

This time Nicholls made an expert first two turns to follow home Pedersen. Heat eight was an all-English affair with Richardson and Norris finishing off Nicholls and Loram.

Nicholls was able to continue after finishing second to Rune Holta in a two-rider second re-run in heat 12.

Holta, Bo Brhel and Andersen combined to send Brhel into the fence as Nicholls sped off into the lead.

In the first re-run, Nicholls was comfortably ahead again, with Holta and Andersen having a ding-dong battle for second place. Holta almost pushed the Ipswich man into the fence on the home straight before Andersen tried one last time to pass on the final lap.

He was upset with the referee's decision, but it looked a fair one when the Dane was excluded for taking Holta's leg away forcing the Norwegian into the fence.

Brhel was timed out of the next re-run after Holta eventually recovered, apparently because he thought the race had been awarded as the riders were on the last lap.

Hancock was the master however and with Adams and Crump both reaching the final there is everything to ride for the top boys.

Cardiff scorechart

Fiat Vans British Grand Prix results: G Hancock 25pts, L Adams 20, L Richardson 18, J Crump 16, A Jonsson and N Pedersen both 13, T Gollob and S Nicholls both 11, T Rickardsson and D Norris both 8, M Loram and P Protasiewicz both 7, J Hampel and B Pedersen both 6, R Holta and R Sullivan both 5, B Brhel and C Louis both 4, H Andersen and A Dryml both 3, L Dryml and M Max both 2, JB Jensen and K Laukkanen both 1.

Overall standings: J Crump and L Adams both 69 pts, T Rickardsson 62, G Hancock 57, J Hampel 49, N Pedersen and T Gollob both 47, L Richardson 45, B Pedersen 43, R Sullivan 39, A Jonsson 32, P Protasiewicz 26, B Brhel 23, S Nicholls and R Holta both 20, JB Jensen 19, M Max 17, H Andersen 16, L Dryml 13 and G Walasek both 13, A Dryml and D Norris both 8, K Laukkanen 6, R Dobrucki 5, C Louis 4.