Hampel holds his nerve for Witches

JAREK Hampel held his nerve, as Foxhall Stadium held its breath, and Ipswich Witches chalked up their first victory of the season in a dramatic last-heat decider yesterday afternoon.

Mike Bacon

By Mike Bacon

JAREK Hampel held his nerve, as Foxhall Stadium held its breath, and Ipswich Witches chalked up their first victory of the season in a dramatic last-heat decider yesterday afternoon.

The Witches No.1 Polish star rattled off a 15-point maximum, including that nail-biting heat 15 victory, to guide his side to a narrow two-point win over Lakeside, in the sunshine at Foxhall Heath.


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With a crowd of more than 3,000 on tenterhooks and the Witches yet to taste victory in any meeting this season, this result was everything.

As so typical of warm Bank Holiday afternoon clashes, the racing was not of a high standard, with a smooth, but drying track unable to retain moisture.

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But who cared?

Certainly not the masses of Witches fans who returned home happy, or made their way down the A12 to Essex for the return leg last night.

And make no bones about it, this was a decent victory for Ipswich against a strong Lakeside side.

In Adam Shields and Lee Richardson the Hammers have a strong top two. Throw into the mix Jonas Davidsson, who always seems to enjoy his Foxhall visits, as well as another all-action effort from Stuart Robson, and Ipswich did well to win.

Yet for much of the meeting victory never looked likely.

After an even start to the meeting with a succession of drawn heats, the Witches went behind.

Tobi Kroner was testing the patience of the home fans when he packed up coming out of turn one in heat five, to make that one point from two starts and gifting a 5-1 maximum to the visitors into the bargain.

Fortunately Morten Risager and Hampel returned the compliment a heat later, so no great drama was done. But when Piotr Swiderski was caught napping by Richardson in the next, the Witches were behind once more.

Dawid Stachyra, after a successful heat two victory, was another who was leaving home fans shaking their heads, when he slid off on his own in the same race, and although Kroner past Robert Mear (a Premier League reserve), in heat nine, there was nothing to suggest Ipswich were going to suddenly up the ante.

But up the ante they did, and it was Kroner who led the way.

Coming out of gate two, in heat 12, his performance so far in the meeting suggested he was second, even third favourite for victory.

However the tall German produced the sweetest of starts to lead Richardson home, and to put the icing on the cake, Stachyra stayed on for four laps to pick up the odd point, as Ipswich drew level with three heats to go.

Hampel and Swiderski put the Witches ahead for the first time in heat 13 and with Danny King and the battling Stachyra shutting out Robson in the penultimate heat, it was all down to Hampel to complete his maximum in the last race, and Ipswich to complete their victory.

Hampel did that, despite a good chase from Richardson, as the large crowd rose to their feet.

The meeting was no classic from a racing point of view, but quite frankly Witches' fans couldn't have cared less.

Their team's season is up and running.

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