Who’s going to win the speedway Championship? I’ll call it.... Then you can vote otherwise!!!
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches get their 2018 season underway against Lakeside on Good Friday. MIKE BACON takes a look at them and their Championship opponents.
The speedway Championship, the sport’s second tier of racing, is set for a fast and furious 2018.
But who is going to finish on top of the pile? Who will make the top four play-offs? It’s a tough question to answer, the likes of champions Sheffield and runners-up Ipswich, again look strong. But so do many other clubs.
So, here you go. I’ll call it...
BERWICK BANDITS: Aaron Summers 7.98, Nikolaj B Jakobsen 6.50, Kevin Doolan 6.36, David Howe 6.18, John Lindman 5.20, Dany Gappmaier 5.11, Jye Etheridge 5.06.
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MIKE’S THOUGHTS: It could be a long, or more likely short, year for Bandits fans. They pulled few trees up on their travels in 2017 and I can’t see them doing much away from Shielfield Park this campaign. They’ll be okay at home, but the top teams will look to win there.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen
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EDINBURGH MONARCHS: Ricky Wells 8.85, Erik Riss 8.05, Mark Riss 5.68, Joel Andersson 5.20, Max Ruml 5.20, Matt Williamson 4.85, Josh Pickering 4.62.
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: This could be the season Edinburgh miss out on the play-offs. Losing Sam Masters is a big blow, he was the catalyst for much of their good form in 2018. It will be tough for Max Ruml, making his debut in British Speedway, but Josh Pickering is one to watch.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Mark Riss
GLASGOW TIGERS: Richie Worrall 8.52, Chris Harris 8.44, Claus Vissing 6.80, Lewis Kerr 6.78, Paul Starke 6.63, James Sarjeant 3.25, Jack Thomas 2.00.
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: It all went a bit ‘Pete Tong’ for the Tigers at the end of 2017 after a solid season. But that hasn’t dampened their management’s enthusiasm and again they look an impressive line-up. If Lewis Kerr and Paul Starke up their averages, easy play-off material.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Claus Vissing
IPSWICH WITCHES: Danny King 8.87, Rory Schlein 8.58, Nico Covatti 7.49, Cameron Heeps 6.93, Michael Haertel 5.20, Connor Mountain 3.33, Danyon Hume 2.00.
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: Injury robbed the Witches of silverware last season. I predicted them to win the league in 2017 and wasn’t far off! Too often the bridesmaids in recent years, the Witches again look strong and with my rose-tinted specs on (and off), I expect them to be competing for honours again.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Cameron Heeps
LAKESIDE HAMMERS: Nick Morris 8.72, Richard Lawson 8.65, Adam Ellis 7.23, Kyle Newman 6.10, Ben Morley 4.28, Zach Wajtknecht 4.17, Alfie Bowtell 2.19.
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: Back in the Championship, Lakeside’s tricky Purfleet track will give them a big home advantage. It’s a team set up to win at home, where the likes of Ellis and Morley are sure to shine. But will they be strong enough on their travels? I don’t think so.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Richard Lawson
NEWCASTLE DIAMONDS: Ludvig Lindgren 7.21, Stuart Robson 7.02, Lewis Rose 6.49, Matthew Wethers 5.65, Tero Aarnio 5.02, Carl Wilkinson 4.97, Ashley Morris 4.88.
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: A solid-enough septet that will do well enough at Brough Park. But no big hitters in this team and that is likely to be their downfall. Reserves Wilkinson and Morris are probably, on paper, the strongest in the league. But the Diamonds will need much more than that to sparkle.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Stuart Robson
PETERBOROUGH PANTHERS: Scott Nicholls 9.72, Ulrich Ostergaard 7.12, Michael Palm Toft 6.77, Nike Lunna 5.90, Emil Grondal 5.04, Simon Lambert 4.56, Tom Bacon 2.67
MIKE THOUGHTS: Spent most of the winter waiting on a green light for Nicholls to ride (who wouldn’t?). I think the Panthers could be a slow burner this season and pick up. But are they good enough for the top four? I’m a bit of Panthers fan at heart as I love the track. But I can’t see it this season.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Nike Lunna
REDCAR BEARS: Ben Barker 8.15, Matej Kus 7.64 Jonas B Andersen 6.48, Mikkel B Andersen 5.20, Jordan Stewart 5.20, Tobias Busch 4.66, Theo Pijper 4.23.
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: After putting together an all-action team for 2017, Redcar’s team of 2018 doesn’t look quite as thrilling. In saying that, Barker is always good value, but much will depend on the Andersen brothers. Could be battling with the Bandits for bottom spot, I’m afraid.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Jonas Andersen
SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS: Steve Worrall 9.13, Jason Garrity 7.32, Josh Auty 6.90, Jake Allen 6.08, Stefan Nielsen 5.53, Gino Manzares 5.43, Danny Phillips 2.00.
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: The Scorpions, rarely challenging the play-offs in recent years, have a real chance of success in 2018. Proven big hitters at the top, it comes down to two things for me... Will Garrity stay fit all season? Will Manzares show his true potential and rack up the points? If so, good year ahead for Scunny.
SHEFFIELD TIGERS: Kyle Howarth 8.62, Lasse Bjerre 8.32, Charles Wright 7.47, Josh Bates 6.54, Todd Kurtz 5.23, James Shanes 3.74, Jack Smith 2.51.
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: The Champions know how to win as they proved last year. And they are sure to be up there again. Perhaps not so dominant, but Owlerton is likely to remain a fortress. The only fly in the ointment is the fitness of Bates at the moment. But the Tigers are capable of the play-offs again.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Charles Wright.
WORKINGTON COMETS: Rene Bach 7.53, Nicolai Klindt 7.51, Ty Proctor 7.15, Rasmus Jensen 6.14, Dan Bewley 5.80, Mason Campton 5.73, Kyle Bickley 2.00
MIKE’S THOUGHTS: The Cumbrian weather has played havoc with Workington’s fixtures in recent summers and if it does so again, the Comets season will peater out. Solid line-up and Campton is a great reserve. But again it’s on their travels they struggle so. Can’t see it changing much.
CRUCIAL TO TEAM SUCCESS: Dan Bewley.
MIKE’S PREDICTED TABLE
1. IPSWICH Witches
2. GLASGOW Tigers
3. SHEFFIELD Tigers
4. SCUNTHORPE Scorpions
5. LAKESIDE Hammers
6. EDINBURGH Monarchs
7. WORKINGTON Comets
8. PETERBOROUGH Panthers#
9. NEWCASTLE Diamonds
10. REDCAR Bears
11. BERWICK Bandits
* Footnote: I did get three of the four play-off teams right last season.... Sheffield, Ipswich and Edinburgh. I went for Peterborough over eventual- play-off team, Glasgow. Not that my previous form means anything you understand!