Ipswich Witches 2018... the buzz continues!
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches held their 2018 press launch today. MIKE BACON went along to find out the mood in the camp after an exciting 2017 season
There was a real buzz of excitement at the Ipswich Witches press launch for the 2018 season today at Ipswich Sports Club – albeit few new faces in sight.
Indeed, six of the seven Witches that were at the same press launch 12 months ago were back on parade as promoter Chris Louis and team manager Ritchie Hawkins kept faith with a side that had enjoyed an exciting, if turbulent, 2017.
The Foxhall Heath side reached two cup finals last year, lost them both, but suffered a catalogue of debilitating injuries that saw every rider on the treatment table at some stage during the campaign.
However, the club enjoyed bumper attendances, gained a host of new fans and head into 2018 with hopes high.
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It’s therefore no wonder Louis and Hawkins decided to give the majority of the team another crack this year – most would agree they deserve it.
“Things are very positive,” team boss Hawkins said.
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“We are looking to build on last season where we made big progress on and off the track.
“I think we all needed a break after a long and tiring year. I know I certainly did. But we are back now and as I said, it’s a case of building on last year.”
Certainly, the Witches riders were in lively mood as the cameras clicked and the dictaphones were put into operation.
Aussies Rory Schlein and Cameron Heeps had both spent time back home Down Under.
“The weather in Perth was good, but not as hot as it has been in recent years,” Heeps said.
While Schlein was back in Adelaide for six weeks catching up with family.
Schlein was at the centre of much of the fun on press day. His sense of humour was a key part of keeping the Witches together through a difficult 2017 as injuries hit.
“You look at every rider individually and if you think can you replace them in the team with anyone better?” Hawkins added.
“It is what fans would expect from a club and as a rider you want to be provided with the best team-mates.
“But everyone was so good last year, they bought into what we asked of them from the start, the team spirit was high, we didn’t feel changes were necessary.
“Crowds were up, there was a great buzz around the town getting to two cup finals. We want to make sure we finish the job off this time.”
Nico Covatti and Danyon Hume are both back in 2018 after having their 2017 seasons ended early after bad injuries – both became fathers in the close season.
“I love the Ipswich fans and the club has always been good to me,” Covatti said.
“I have already done some riding again and I’m riding in France this weekend, so I’m getting plenty of practice.”
Hawkins is especially delighted to see Covatti back.
“Nico is loved by the fans,” Hawkins said.
“Everyone gets on with him. As soon as he walked in today, all the boys were so pleased to see him. He’ll race his heart out and he was going well at the start of last year before his injury.
“I really do think he has so much more to come.”
Indeed, the only new face in the Witches line-up is German, Michael Haertel, who replaces Kyle Newman.
“Michael will fit in with us,” Hawkins added.
“But it’s hard when you first come over to another country to race. He needs people around him and he’ll get that. But he will fit into the team, he is very professional and an ultra pro.
“Yes, it could go either way, but we’ve done our research on him and he’s got massive pedigree. But he is new to British speedway and he won’t have seen many of the tracks. But he’s under no pressure.”
Hume, along with Connor Mountain return to the reserve berth, Mountain having been one of the most successful young British riders in the Championship last season, while Hume was averaging over four points a meeting before his season-ending injury at Poole.
On-track too the Witches are enjoying greater interest and sponsorship, with TRU Plant, part of the TRU7 Group the main team sponsor, while West Property Management of Colchester and RN Euston are headline sponsors.
“We are proud to have these companies on board with us and appreciate their support,” promoter Chris Louis said.
“Without their support we would find it very difficult. The beauty is that they are on board, not just commercially, but because they love the sport. They support us every week and that is so important.”
There was no on-track practice today however, with the Foxhall Heath track waterlogged after the recent bad weather.