Witches are dealt a shattering blow

IPSWICH Witches were dealt a shattering blow when star rider Mark Loram sustained a broken left leg at Foxhall Stadium last night.The 36-year-old mainstay of the Witches' Sky Sports Elite League speedway team is likely to be out for a year.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Witches were dealt a shattering blow when star rider Mark Loram sustained a broken left leg at Foxhall Stadium last night.

The 36-year-old mainstay of the Witches' Sky Sports Elite League speedway team is likely to be out for a year.

He has suffered a similar injury to the one that kept Swede Mikael Max off the track for more than 12 months and the Witches' promoters are left with little option than to initially book guests to take the place of the 2000 world champion.

Promoter John Louis spent four months looking for a top-class rider over the winter - and found there was no one of the right calibre who wanted to ride in England.

Therefore, he does not expect to have better luck this time - although he will have to come up with someone as the guest facility will only run for a certain time.

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Ipswich were already considered rank outsiders to do well this season and without Loram their chances of any success have been dealt a severe blow.

They could not have lost a more important or popular rider - and it looks as though the Witches may be in line for a long struggle.

Loram started from the outside gate in heat one with world number two Greg Hancock making the best run to the first bend.

As Loram picked up speed coming out of the second bend he looked set to fly beyond Zdenek Simota down the outside.

However, the young Czech Republic rider, not noted for doing anything untoward on the track, moved across and gave Loram nowhere to go.

The Ipswich rider hit the fence at full speed and was stopped abruptly by one of the static posts.

While his machine went hurtling ten yards on to the stock car track, Loram was left on the ground and in obvious discomfort - rubbing his left leg.

Simota ended 20 yards further on than Loram - and between them and their machines they demolished 11 fence panels down the back straight.

An ambulance was immediately called for Loram, while another followed a few minutes later for the Reading rider.

A team of paramedics attended both riders with Loram on the ground for more than 20 minutes before being taken to hospital.

Simota had a ride back to the pits in an ambulance with a damaged knee and cuts and bruises.

He went to hospital under his own steam to have a precautionary X-ray and pulled out of the meeting.

There was a further 40-minute delay to wait for full medical numbers to be made up after Loram was accompanied to Ipswich Hospital by medical staff.

It was 8.50pm before the first race was completed in this meeting, sponsored by Anglian Willhire.

There was more anguish for Witches' fans when Zibi Suchecki - riding in place of Loram - took another spectacular crash down the back straight in heat six.

Thankfully, the young Pole was soon back on his feet, but by this time it looked as though the heart had gone out of the meeting as far as Ipswich - and their fans - were concerned.

The Bulldogs were already eight points ahead and looking on course for a comfortable win.

They grabbed a 5-1 in the re-run, before Ipswich started to hit back with their first heat advantage thanks to Robert Miskowiak and Suchecki, who had switched bikes.

Ipswich's fightback continued in heat eight with a gritty maximum from Kim Jansson and Tobi Kroner with the latter grabbing his first points of the night.

Former Witch Piotr Protasiewicz was in the pits as his current club Oxford were without a meeting and he was impressed by the determination of his former team-mates as they reduced the deficit to two points, thanks to a Chris Louis win and a Marcin Rempala third place in heat nine.

Polish rider Janusz Kolodziej is based in Ipswich with his Polish mechanic when riding in this country, but he enjoyed little success last night and came trailing in last in race ten as Ipswich kept in touch, despite having to use their reserves to cover for Loram's absence.

Mark Lemon squeezed his way into the lead on the first bend of heat 11 as Reading increased their lead, although Louis kept the Witches in touch with a fine win in heat 13.

Hancock was in his usual good Foxhall form, although the 37-year-old went tumbling when he tangled with Suchecki as the riders came out of the tapes.

The American needed treatment on the track before he could take part in the re-run as the clock ticked on to the stadium curfew time.

Miskowiak and Suchecki both beat the Grand Prix rider as Ipswich continued to battle.

The PA system had been turned off by the start of heat 14 to protect the stadium's licence conditions - with a blue light shining to notify spectators that Suchecki had been excluded when he came off on the third bend of heat 14.

In the re-run, Lemon suffered machine problems when leading on the final bend and Rempala's win set up an unlikely last heat decider.

Lemon had to push his bike the last 50 yards over the line for one point.

With the stadium silent apart from the roar of the bikes, Hancock made the best start in the final heat of an eventful night - and with Zagar in third place the Witches were denied what would have been a memorable victory.