Witches hit by GP-itis

A SEVERE case of Grand Prix-itis played a part in undoing much of the good work Ipswich Evening Star Witches have achieved this season.Although on paper a depleted home side did well to take Oxford Silver Machine to a last heat decider, in the cold light of day it only needed a reasonable return from Ipswich's top two riders for them to have won the match.

By Elvin King

A SEVERE case of Grand Prix-itis played a part in undoing much of the good work Ipswich Evening Star Witches have achieved this season.

Although on paper a depleted home side did well to take Oxford Silver Machine to a last heat decider, in the cold light of day it only needed a reasonable return from Ipswich's top two riders for them to have won the match.

Now four fine away Sky Bet Elite League victories have been negated by two losses at Foxhall Stadium.

And Ipswich are back in the pack when it comes to competing for a top two place which is imperative if the Suffolk side have serious thoughts about winning the championship through the play-offs.

The fearless Greg Hancock was in immaculate form, scorching to a 15-point maximum and showing no signs of holding back with speedway's showpiece meeting at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff less than 48 hours away.

Most Read

But the rest of the visiting side, including Niels-Kristen Iversen who is a wild card for the Danish GP on June 26, were there for the taking by the home top men.

It is not new for riders' club form to suffer before world individual meetings, and this certainly appeared to be the case for Witches' skipper Scott Nicholls and current number one Hans Andersen.

Witches fans, who turned up in large numbers again, are entitled to ask when these two most reliable of riders will next score just ten points between them?

Both were trying their hardest, but the pressure of the biggest meeting in the speedway calendar may well have had an influence on their form.

Nicholls did blow an engine in his first outing, and Andersen was understandably wary after suffering an injury riding for Peterborough at Foxhall two days before Cardiff last year. In fact, the Dane did ask if he could take a rest for this match.

“It was a big disappointment,” said Ipswich promoter John Louis. “And you only have to analyse the score chart to see where it went wrong.

“Greg Hancock was the only GP rider on the night who looked fully on top of his game, although Chris Louis and, at times, Jesper B Jensen were not far behind.

“And we had a lot to be grateful for to Danny Bird as he dropped just two points from the number two berth.

“With just five riders for over half the match we put on a fighting show, and perhaps on hindsight Danny should have been included in heat 15.

“Team manager Mike Smillie went for experience, and on this occasion it did not pay off.”

In five of the last nine heats Ipswich could only name one member of their team. This was after reserves Kim Jansson and Daniel King were injured in the opening seven heats.

King, 17, made a painful trip to Ipswich Hospital when the controversial Airtek fence failed to live up to expectations again in heat seven.

In heat two Jansson could not avoid opponent Ryan Fisher when he spun off in front of him on the final lap. Jansson stopped abruptly on contact with Fisher's grounded machine and went over his handlebars to land heavily on the track.

The Swede could take no further part in the match, suffering from a painful shoulder injury and concussion.

This put a lot of pressure on King as Ipswich looked to get back to winning ways after two heavy away defeats. But their cause suffered a severe blow when King was pushed wide at the start of heat seven and careered into the fence on the first turn.

He received lengthy attention as he lay under the fence before slowly hobbling back to the pits to be seen by the track doctor in the medical room.

The doctor feared that King may have damaged his spleen and he was sent to hospital for tests.

A 4-2 in the final race put Oxford in the lead for the first time as Ipswich fought valiantly despite their depleted numbers. But in the end they had to admit defeat - their second at home this year.

Smillie opted for Louis and Jensen in the final nominated race but Hancock confirmed his liking for the Foxhall circuit with another fantastic start to complete a memorable maximum.

Andersen and Bird, with the latter coming back into the side and making a big impression, gated to a 5-1 in heat six to put Ipswich ahead after five consecutive drawn races.

But it all turned sour when King was injured in the next heat, and with Nicholls coming third in the re-run the Ipswich task was made that much harder.

Andersen surprisingly finished last in heat ten after an error when third on the fourth bend, before Hancock beat Nicholls in the next race to level the scores.

Jensen kept Ipswich's hopes alive with a fine win in heat 12 and after another Hancock success in the next race it was a gutsy ride by Louis in the penultimate heat that ensured that the scores were level going into the final race.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter