TV nasty for Witches

IPSWICH Witches slipped to a heavy defeat in an Elite League meeting run in ideal conditions in front of live Sky Sports television at Foxhall Stadium last night.

Elvin King

IPSWICH Witches slipped to a heavy defeat in an Elite League meeting run in ideal conditions in front of live Sky Sports television at Foxhall Stadium last night.

The evening ended with more despair for Witches supporters when Tobi Kroner crashed full pelt into the fence with such force that it was no surprise that he was rushed to hospital.

The Suffolk side's management have promised changes to the side after a lacklustre first two and a half months of the season and this must surely happen after another inept show.

Whether relevant riders who can improve matters can be found remains to be seen but last night the result was not in any doubt after heat two that second-in-the-table Swindon would win.

Despite losing at home in the cup last week, Ipswich had won their previous six league contests at Foxhall. But Matej Zagar, Travis McGowan and Leigh Adams had too much at the top end while American Ryan Fisher was a trump card in a reserve berth for the Robins.

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The meeting ended on a sad note when Kroner went into the air fence on the first bend with ferocious force after Zagar appeared to impede the home rider. The efficiency of the Foxhall fence has been questioned, with previous accidents seeing riders damaged after hitting solid posts that hold up the airbags.

An ambulance was soon called and Kroner received lengthy treatment on the track although he was conscious and able to move his arms and legs when placed into the ambulance.

Dawid Stachyra blew an engine in the warm-up and he came out for heat two on a Jarek Hampel machine after his fellow countryman had won the first race by some distance from Grand Prix stalwart Leigh Adams.

The Pole led going into the first turn, but the end of the first circuit he was in third place, and with Carl Wilkinson suffering an engine failure on the bend four when last the Witches went behind.

Travis McGowan normally goes well at Foxhall, and he held off a challenge from Daniel King on the first bend to win heat three - with Kroner rushing inside Croatian Jurica Pavlic on the second lap for a drawn race.

Disaster struck in heat four when Wilkinson lasted 20 yards before his machine gave up the ghost. Piotr Swiderski suffered a similar fate when in third place on the next lap leaving the Robins pair to ride round for a 5-0.

Witches fans were even more desolate after the visitors took a comfortable 5-1 heat five to take a 20-9 lead, allowing Ipswich to use Hampel as a tactical rider for double points as early as heat six.

Ipswich badly needed the Pole to take the chequered flag, but after making a rapid break from the tapes, Hampel was passed by Zagar round the first two bends.

The Slovenian was able to hold off Hampel's challenge in a heat where Leigh Lanham took advantage of a brief machine blip suffered by Krzysztof Stojanowski to take third place.

There was some relief for the home side in the next race when Swiderski took the chequered flag, but with Stachyra, with a new engine fitted to his own frame but still suffering from painful ribs after his heavy crash at Coventry last week, trailing at the back.

Wilkinson was ahead in heat eight when the referee called a halt for an unsatisfactory start and in the re-run, the in-form Ryan Fisher made the gate to go round the first bend in the lead and take the chequered flag to maintain the lead despite Simon Stead slowing to a halt not far from the start.

Hampel had to admit second best to McGowan in heat 10 with the Australian making the best start in a fourth consecutive drawn heat.

Heat 11 saw another 3-3 with Adams fast away and another drawn heat followed as Kroner won but Wilkinson came home last.

In heat 13 the highly-impressive Zagar went round the outside of Hampel coming out of the second bend to win, and with Adams third a 4-2 to Swindon broke the sequence of drawn races.

Stachyra was controversially excluded in the penultimate race when Fisher fell heavily on the third bend - referee Dale Entwistle making his decision after watching a TV replay of the incident.

This summed up the Witches night, although Daniel King was in determined mood in the re-run to chalk up his first win despite making contact with the fence on the final circuit.

The crash in the final race saw Sky TV go beyond their 9.30pm scheduled cut-off time, and when the fence was repaired Zagar was allowed back in the re-run to win it to complete a full maximum.