Witches produce best against worst
IT took the two worst teams in the Sky Sports Elite League to produce the best speedway meeting at Foxhall Stadium this season.Ipswich Evening Star Witches came out on top to move four points ahead of bottom-placed Belle Vue – with the Aces still waiting to pick up their first league points of the year.
By Elvin King
IT took the two worst teams in the Sky Sports Elite League to produce the best speedway meeting at Foxhall Stadium this season.
Ipswich Evening Star Witches came out on top to move four points ahead of bottom-placed Belle Vue – with the Aces still waiting to pick up their first league points of the year.
Racing was of the highest order in a match that fluctuated one way and then the other.
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Defeat would have been uncomfortable for Ipswich to take and going into heat six and then heat 13 it looked a distinct possibility.
But the Witches found a will to win from somewhere to first hit back from four points down to grab an eight-point lead after race ten.
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A sensible use of tactical substitutes saw Belle Vue roar right back into the match, with the result hanging on a knife edge when the riders lined up for heat 13.
Jason Crump, who had his three and half year-old daughter Mia in the pits with him, had looked unbeatable and the best even the most optimistic Ipswich fan could hope for was a drawn heat.
However, Scott Nicholls and Jarek Hampel exploded from the starting gate to leave a startled Crump in third place – and calm a host of fraught nerves in the Ipswich camp.
Better was to follow when Daniel Nermark showed what an asset he can be for a club whose management still harbour hopes of a rise up the table.
The Swede, who had already won heat nine, chased ex-Grand Prix rider Carl Stonehewer for over three laps before making a determined move on the final circuit and beating the visiting rider in a race for the tapes.
With Leigh Lanham passing a disappointing Ales Dryml on the second lap, Ipswich were home and dry.
And it was just as well. With the adrenalin rush now subsided, Nicholls and Hampel were out-gated by Crump and Steve Johnston in the final heat to make the Aces favourites to pick up the aggregate bonus point.
This, the first Thursday home meeting since April 10, escaped the weather – but only just with rain arriving during heat nine.
Thankfully it did not last and two races later it was dry again and the track still in good order.
Heat nine was a turning point when Jason Lyons lost control on the first turn and drifted wide from an inside gate.
He smashed his head against a fence panel – and also pushed Paul Hurry into the wooden barrier.
Lyons, a danger man at a track where he has been known to go through the card, took no further part – leaving just too much work for Crump, Johnston and Stonehewer to handle.
Tom P Madsen showed his team- mates the way by passing Stonehewer round the outside of the fourth bend to win heat two.
Hurry slid off when chasing Johnston on the final corner of heat three, and then Nicholls roared past the busy Stonehewer on the fourth turn of the following race.
The Aces were in a 5-1 position when Hurry lost control and hurtled into the fourth bend fence in heat five. It was proving a painful night for Hurry, but his injuries could have been worse if he come up against a solid fence.
Belle Vue held on to their four point lead when Lyons knew too much for Chris Slabon with a last-ditch pass in heat six and then Lanham went round Dryml on the first corner to help Nicholls reduce the deficit to two points.
The scores were level next time out when Slabon made a flying start and Madsen beat a disappointing Chris Manchester for third place.
Then came Lyons' crash and a 5-1 to Ipswich in the re-run. The two Poles stretched the Witches lead to eight points from the gate in heat ten, before Crump got the better of Nicholls in race 11.
Tactical substitute Crump combined with Johnston to bring the visitors to within two points and set nerves jangling in the Ipswich side of the pits.
It all came right in the end – and good performances at Eastbourne tomorrow and at Coventry on Monday would help to put Ipswich back in the groove.