Ipswich Witches are back, as fans gear up for Premiership racing
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Today saw the Ipswich Witches press and practice day with the new season at Foxhall just over a week away. MIKE BACON went to see what was happening.
You rarely see a glum face at a speedway press and practice day.
And why would you?
The return of the speedway season invariably means that although winter hasn’t completely left the building...It’s not far from doing so.
So, the smiling faces at yesterday’s Ipswich Witches press and practice day were hardly a surprise.
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Almost six months of no speedway ensures the Foxhall faithful are champing at the bit to see their heroes back on their bikes.
And after the formalities of press, TV and radio, the Witches of 2019 were indeed back on track, as their rusty winter cobwebs began to be brushed away.
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MEET THE WITCHES 2019
The Witches team of 2019 includes three Englishmen, two Aussies, one Pole and one Frenchman.
All seven are seasoned campaigners who know the Premiership well.
Born: November 28, 1982, Truro, Cornwall, England. Av. 7.78
The three-time British champion is one of the country’s most exciting riders and Ipswich fans will love having ‘Bomber’ at Foxhall. An experienced racer, with more than 100 Grand Prix to his name. New Witches No.1
Born: February 14, 1986, Whitehaven, Cumbria, England. Av. 6.72
After a successful junior career in motocross, Lawson took up speedway in June 2008, aged 22. A rider who has ridden at Foxhall plenty of times, Lawson has warmed to the newly-shaped Suffolk circuit in recent years.
Born: August 14, 1986, Maidstone, Kent, Engand. Ave. 6.52
A former British Champion, King has been a rock in the Witches side since he returned to the club four seasons ago. A nasty arm injury curtailed his 2018 and it’s a big season ahead for the Witches skipper who has the ability to make Foxhall his fortress.
Born September 23, 1995, Gdansk, Poland. Ave. 6.50
The Polish rider had his first taste of British action with Leicester Lions last season and did well. The 23-year-old was part of the Polish World Cup squad that lifted the title in 2016.
Born: May 15, 1993, Marmande, France. Ave. 6.11
A big-track racer and a man who knows what it takes to win League titles having won the old Premier League with Glasgow in 2011 and the Premiership with Swindon in 2017. He rode for the Robins again last year.
Born: October 27, 1995, Perth, Australia. Ave. 4.72
The popular Aussie has a plethora of Western Australia State titles to his name and has shown signs of real quality at times in a Witches racejacket. Has never ridden in the top-flight for Ipswich. This is a great opportunity for him.
Born: August 11, 1995, Brisbane, Australia. Ave. 4.56
Along with Heeps forms a young and exciting reserve pairing for the Witches. Plenty of clubs were after Allen’s signature, but he has chosen the Witches.
Let’s not get overly carried away yet with the Witches of 2019.
Their move up to the Premiership now sees them go up against the cream of riders racing in Britain and there will be no easy fixtures at home – and certainly not away.
Many pundits will tip the Witches to finish nearer the bottom of the seven-strong league, rather than the top.
However in recent seasons the Witches have always been tipped to either win or certainly reach the play-offs in the Championship – but sadly although play-offs were reached, no league title has been won by the Suffolk side since 1998.
This is a big leap by the Witches to head back into the top tier of the sport in Britain – they have the riders to do well – let’s hope it proves successful.
Chris Louis sold the club to Buster Chapman in the winter, but remains the man in charge at Foxhall as promoter.
Louis bleeds the Witches and so to does team boss Ritchie Hawkins, who has grown into his job on the Heath and is a popular man, not just with the riders, but with the fans t’boot.
They will be busting a gut to make sure they extract the maximum out of their side.
Ipswich Witches remain one of the best-supported speedway clubs in Britain and they will need that continued support in what will certainly be a tough 2019 campaign.
However, there is plenty of talent in the Witches squad and there is capability for all riders to improve their averages.
Should they do so and this Ipswich team could well shock many of the more established Premiership sides.
‘I USED TO GO TO SPEEDWAY’
If I was handed a quid everytime someone said that to me, I would be sitting in the Maldives right now, with a small Cuban and large G&T, making 20%!
There is little doubt many people have at some time been to ‘the speedway’ and the Witches could do with some of that support this year from those who might wish to give it a look once more.
Many suggest speedway is a ‘hidden gem’ among summer sports, it’s accesability to the riders, before and after meetings, and thrilling racing meaning loyal fans can’t get enough of it.
Sadly, it’s been ‘hidden’ for too long and many clubs are struggling to make ends meet in a world with so many other sporting options.
However, at it’s best it can be an beaut of a night out...
See you at Foxhall!
Being back in the ‘big time’ means the Witches will be coming to a TV screen near you at least twice this summer.
BT Sport cover the Premiership and all clubs in the seven-strong league get to appear home and away at least once. Great exposure for the club.
MY PREDICTED TABLE
Premiership – top 4 into play-offs
5 Belle Vue
7 King’s Lynn