Former favourite's message to the fans

IPSWICH Witches' hopes of gaining their first Elite League points of the season were dashed when last night's planned meeting with Coventry Bees at Foxhall Stadium was postponed.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Witches' hopes of gaining their first Elite League points of the season were dashed when last night's planned meeting with Coventry Bees at Foxhall Stadium was postponed.

The decision was made at 6pm after persistent rain left the track waterlogged.

The wash-out gave the Witches some breathing space after last week's horrific crash left No. 1 Mark Loram with a broken femur and out for the rest of the season.

Jeremy Doncaster was - like Loram - a big favourite when he led the Witches from the front for a number of years.

The former Copleston School, Ipswich pupil and ex-world No. 3, is now the Ipswich training instructor.

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And he admits that there is plenty of work to be done if the Suffolk side are to enjoy a good season.

But Doncaster sees no reason to be too pessimistic.

He said last night: “The message to Ipswich fans must be not to give up. To keep faith and help the riders with their support.

“I was encouraged by the way the rest of the team responded after Mark was taken to hospital last Thursday, and there is plenty of promise in the side.

“Looking around I think there are a number of sides who are no better than Ipswich, and I can see plenty of well-balanced meetings at Foxhall this season.

“If Mark had stayed fit I think Ipswich would have surprised a lot of people.

“They would have turned out better in practice than they looked on paper.

“Now they must rely on guests, for a while anyway, although this can sometimes work in your favour.

“I used to guest a lot when I was an my peak, and always gave my best.

“Ipswich will be best to try and book the same riders as often as possible as you can then build up a rapport.”

There are worries that Ipswich these days do not have the financial clout to compete on an even keel in the top flight of British speedway.

But Doncaster says the time to look into this is next winter.

“Let us see this season through first,” he said. “It is far too early to write off Ipswich's campaign.

“The Russian League is expected to grow, and in 2008 the Elite League could be weakened considerably because the top riders will be earning enough in Russia, Poland and Sweden to enable them to give the heavy British schedule a miss.”

Like everybody else, Doncaster was sickened by Loram's crash that left the latter with a fractured left arm as well as his serious leg injury.

“It brought home the dangers of the sport,” said Doncaster, now an electrician.

“The crash was horrible and it could have been much worse for Mark.

“Speedway is a family sport and his injury affected a large number of people.

“And there is no doubt it is a huge blow for Ipswich as Mark was raring to go.”

Loram did not miss one meeting in 2006 on his return to Ipswich after 17 years, and he was eager to enjoy a successful 2007.

“I think it was going to be one of Mark's best-ever years,” added Doncaster.

“I have never seen him so sharp, and in the Tuesday night football knock-a-bouts at Whitton Sports Centre he was looking really fit.”

Chris Louis and Scott Nicholls are two other speedway riders, along with mechanics and friends, who take part in the keep-fit football sessions.

Ipswich have a break now until their next meeting, when they ride home and away against Lakeside Hammers on Good Friday.

With every other Elite League track in action, Ipswich are expected to use the rider replacement facility to cover for Loram.

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