Tale of two heat leaders as Witches lose

IT WAS a tale of two contrasting heat leaders last night as Ipswich Witches lost any hope of winning the Elite League Championship this season. They suffered their second home league defeat of the season at Foxhall Stadium after a run of 16 consecutive victories.

By Elvin King

IT WAS a tale of two contrasting heat leaders last night as Ipswich Witches lost any hope of winning the Elite League Championship this season.

They suffered their second home league defeat of the season at Foxhall Stadium after a run of 16 consecutive victories.

Pepe Protasiewicz was sadly out of form and mustered just four points, which resulted in Coventry Bees gaining the upper hand from the start and never falling behind before collecting three points - two for the victory, plus the aggregate bonus point.

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While Protasiewicz suffered as his hectic schedule caught up with him so that he was just a pale shadow of his real self, the other Ipswich top man, Mark Loram, was in superb form.

He gave the administrators another big nudge as they looked to nominate a British rider for next year's Grand Prix series.

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Loram continued his good form with 17 points, and this included two heart-stopping races that had fans alive with excitement as he managed somehow to come from the back in magnificent style to win heats 13 and 15.

Ipswich's away form has been painful in recent meetings, and without the injured Chris Louis, they carried this forward to their home circuit last night.

Loram was the exception and he was pushed all the way for the man of the meeting award by visiting acting captain Chris Harris, who dropped just one point when Loram passed him in the final race.

It could well be between Loram and Harris to see who gets nominated to ride with Scott Nicholls as the British representatives in the 2007 Grand Prix.

On this evidence Harris also has a serious claim, but Loram cannot be discounted as his form over the last two weeks has been reminiscent of when he won the world title six years ago.

Coventry still hold hopes of finishing in the top four and gaining a playoff place and this was their fourth away league win of the season.

Bjarne Pedersen proved a perfect guest for the injured Nicholls, winning his first four races before being undone by Loram in his last two.

Billy Janniro showed his best Foxhall form and contributed well, helping Pedersen to a five-one in the first race.

The two Ipswich reserves evened the scored in the next race with Carl Wilkinson doing well to hold off Martin Smolinski for second place.

Two drawn heats followed before the visitors stamped their authority when the Pedersen/Janniro partnership struck again in heat five and the lead was extended slightly in an eventful heat seven.

Coventry were in a 4-2 situation on the third lap, when Oliver Allen went under Wilkinson, causing the Ipswich man to slide under the first bend air fence.

Allen was excluded and in the re-run Wilkinson's machine refused to function at the tapes.

Harris passed Loram on the second bend to chalk-up his third win in his first three outings.

Kim Jansson continued his habit of winning heat eight before Pedersen did well to hold off Robert Miskowiak on the second bend before just finishing ahead of Loram on the line for first place.

Protasiewicz suffered again in heat 10 as the Bees stung Ipswich with another 5-1, and Pedersen showed his worth when he held off Loram in heat 11 with the Ipswich rider competing for double points as his side was nine points adrift.

Jannero went beyond Wilkinson on the second lap, and in heat 12 Miskowiak had better luck with the black and white helmet colour when he won from the tapes and with Tobi Kroner keeping Allen at bay for third place, Ipswich moved to within four points of the visitors.

Pedersen made the best start again in heat 13, but Loram refused to give in and the pair touched as Loram made a pass in the narrowest of gaps beside the fence in a breath-taking exhibition of top-quality speedway racing.

His win helped to pull Ipswich to within two points, however, their hopes of a fight-back were dashed when Jaceb Rempala gated and Harris went past both Ipswich men on the fourth bend of heat 14.

The match had been decided, but the excitement was by no means finished with Loram opening up his throttle to somehow burst between Pedersen and Harris coming out of the fourth bend to send Ipswich fans home with some consolation with a simply superb race victory.

Injured Ipswich skipper Chris Louis said: “The team has dipped in the last month or so and we have not managed to obtain the results, or the bonus points, that we wanted.

“My season has been more inconsistent than I would have liked it to have been, and we are obviously disappointed with how things have gone this month.

“I expect to be back from my broken collarbone in time to ride against Eastbourne in our final home meeting in the League on September 14.

“It is very frustrating watching, but we can already look forward to next season with the excellent news that it looks as though Mark Loram will be staying with us.”

The rider replacement facility for Louis managed just five points last night and he was sorely missed as Ipswich lost their second home meeting of the season.

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