Poor start proves costly for Witches

IPSWICH Witches fought hard but came out second-best at high-flying Peterborough last night.The home side were victorious by 50 points to 40 with that 10-point margin already gained as early as heat six.

By Mike Bacon

IPSWICH Witches fought hard but came out second-best at high-flying Peterborough last night.

The home side were victorious by 50 points to 40 with that 10-point margin already gained as early as heat six.

The fact they never went on to increase that advantage was more down to the track improving from the opening stages, with the majority of the riders, especially on the visiting side, all at sea.

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Quite simply, the track was in a dreadful state from the word go and the first part of the meeting saw more action from tractors and graders than it did speedway bikes as the Peterborough management worked hard to get the track in some sort of order.

When it did settle down, halfway through the meeting, the Witches took advantage and gained confidence to reel off a succession of heat victories and at one stage, they got to within six points of the home side, but never any closer.

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Peterborough were well led by former Witch Hans Andersen, who was only beaten by Chris Louis, while Danny King impressed for the visitors with two heat victories as he top-scored for the Witches for the first time this season.

The Panthers are certainly a strong side and to lose by just 10 points was no real disgrace for the Witches and, indeed, if the track had been as good early on as it was late on, they might just have caused an upset.

Ales Dryml was guesting for the Witches in place of Piotr 'Pepe' Protasiewicz, who was riding in the Polish Championships.

He was caught out on the heavy track, getting into all sorts of problems as Ulrich Ostergaard passed him and the home side got off to the perfect 5-1 start.

After a lengthy delay because a spectator was taken ill, Danny King gained Ipswich's first race win of the night, gating from the start in heat two. Robert Miskowiak split the strong Panthers' pairing of Neils Kristian Iversen and Ryan Sullivan, but with Chris Louis adrift at the back the home side extended their lead.

Andersen was a comfortable victor in the next and Iversen and Kim Jansson had a terrific first-lap battle before the home man won out as Peterborough extended their lead to eight points at 19-11.

The track was still impossible for good fast racing and the Witches were soon 10 points down, despite Mark Loram's efforts in passing Ostergaard on lap two in heat six.

Miskowiak gave Ipswich their second heat win of the night as he held off Ostergaard and the Witches were now set for a spurt of heat victories, as the track levelled out and the proper racing began.

Indeed, heat eight was the best race of the night so far with that man Ostergaard again in the thick of the action passing the fast-starting King down the back straight before King swooped back underneath him on the third bend of the second lap.

It was a Witches 4-2 with the visitors just eight points behind at 28-20. Loram lowered Iverson's colours in heat nine before Louis at last came to the party, shooting from the inside gate to hold off Andersen, who had worked his way through the field and made a last-gasp effort on the final bend.

The two riders went over the finish line together but it was Louis who got the nod as Ipswich now reduced the home side's lead to just six points.

Sullivan was away fastest in the next, but just as Louis had found his party invitation, so Witches' guest Dryml found his.

He swooped round the outside of Sullivan in thrilling fashion on the second lap of heat 11 as Ipswich continued to make a fight of it, trailing 36-30 with just four heats to go.

Sullivan won his first race of the night in heat 12 with the Witches still six points behind and although Dryml passed Iversen on lap two in the next, the home side's first heat advantage since heat six put them eight points ahead, with just two races to go.

Louis was again involved in another great scrap in heat 14 with him and Iversen side by side for four pulsating laps with the Ipswich skipper again getting the nod as Ipswich continued to scrap well.

But the night ended with former Witch Andersen reeling off his fifth race win of the night and although Iversen and Dryml had a great battle for second, it was the home man who gained second place as the Panthers finished as they had begun, with a 5-1 maximum and a 10-point victory.

What they said

IPSWICH Witches skipper Chris Louis finished his night with two heat victories, after two last places in his opening rides. The visiting skipper was clearly not happy with conditions early on, but came to the fore with two cracking rides as the meeting progressed and the track became more raceable.

“This was a reasonable recovery from us, because at one stage it looked like we might be in for a hammering”, Louis said.

“It was interesting to read in the papers yesterday morning that Peterborough were going to prepare a track with plenty of grip.

“But grip is not what they produced and I should know, because I have ridden at Ipswich for goodness knows how many years, when years ago, there was real grip, not just heavy shale.

“The track was badly prepared, it's as simple as that, and even the home riders were unhappy with it at the start.”

Ipswich's Swedish youngster Kim Janssen said: “To say the track was difficult early in is a bit of an understatement and I didn't feel at all comfortable.

“My races were finished by heat 11 and of course by then, the track was in much better condition.”

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