Witches come close to causing upset

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches remained on course to qualify for the end-of-season Elite League play-offs when they came close to pulling off an upset at Belle Vue last night.

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches remained on course to qualify for the end-of-season Elite League play-offs when they came close to pulling off an upset at Belle Vue last night.

They took the Aces to a last-heat decider, and became the first club to take the aggregate bonus point off the Manchester-based side.

If Mark Loram had not seized up an engine at the start of his first race Ipswich may well have become the first team to win in Manchester this season.

The visitors gave an encouraging display that saw them comfortably take the crucial extra point after winning 51-42 in the corresponding meeting at Foxhall.

However, world champion-elect Jason Crump was in immaculate form and in the early part of the proceedings Ipswich appeared happy to let him score, and gain their points off his team-mates.

But when the Australian, who heads the Grand Prix following two wins, lined up in heat 11 he started from the dreaded gate two.

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This had produced four last places and five third positions up to this point with Crump being reduced to third place behind Chris Louis and Kim Jansson going down the back straight. Louis held on for a significant win although Jansson was passed on the second lap.

This levelled the scores and the Witches looked on course for an upset although much depended on 19-year-old reserve Daniel King, who was set to ride in two of the final four heats.

King came in for Jan Jaros, who for the second meeting running failed to score, but he slipped off on the first turn as the Aces put their noses in front again.

Simon Stead became the only rider to win from gate two - a feat he repeated in the final race.

The home side stretched their lead in heat 13 with Louis struggling from the unyielding gate two before Ipswich pulled two points back in the penultimate race when they were hoping to draw level again.

Piotr Protasiewicz won convincingly enough, but King went a little too wide on the second bend and had to admit second best to former Witch Tom P Madsen, who scored a vital paid nine points at reserve for the home team.

Protasiewicz made a flying start in the last race, but he was rolling at the tapes and the referee called all four riders back, with the Aces this time getting away first despite Ipswich winning the toss and choosing favoured gates one and three.

Belle Vue used the rider replacement facility for Kenneth Bjerre, who suffered a swollen hand injury in the Swedish League on Tuesday.

They were able to use all of their riders including Crump for an extra heat and although the Australian won heat six, when he came in the facility only accrued four points.

The Aces eventually maintained their 100 per cent home record, but Ipswich began well with Louis winning the first race although their two reserves both missed the start in the next heat with Jaros, who rode eight meetings for Belle Vue in 2004, struggling to handle the small circuit.

Heat three saw Protasiewicz and the impressive Robert Miskowiak gate to a 5-1 with Stead looking all at sea for the second time on the night.

The wild card for the British Grand Prix in Cardiff got his machinery in order and in winning his following four races he was a thorn in the side of the visiting team.

After Loram's misfortune Jansson did well to get better of James Wright for third place in heat five, but there was still no passes on a track that was now drying out as Crump won heat six.

A totally predictable result came in heat seven with the Ipswich pair of Poles filling the minor places behind Crump before there was some entertainment at last with Jansson flying bravely round the outside of Joe Screen down the back straight of the first lap to win heat eight.

Loram went around the outside of Wright on the fourth bend in a heat nine, which was won by Stead

However, the Witches gained a heat advantage in heat ten with Miskowiak again catching the eye by overtaking Screen on the second turn and the slick conditions ensuring Protasiewicz was unable to make up any ground on Screen.

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