Timely return to top form by Louis

IPSWICH Witches' skipper Chris Louis found his best form at the right time when the home side beat current champions Coventry Bees 51-42 at Foxhall Stadium last night.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Witches' skipper Chris Louis found his best form at the right time when the home side beat current champions Coventry Bees 51-42 at Foxhall Stadium last night.

The 36-year-old has been struggling to find his touch in recent weeks, but he combined with long-time friend Mark Loram in a crucial maximum heat success that paved the way to the Ipswich victory.

The home side not only won, but also collected the aggregate bonus point, which will be vital this season for teams that want to finish in the top four and qualify for the Elite League play-offs.

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With the Bees' stinging Ipswich with two heat advantages in races 11 and 12, the outcome of the contest was in the melting pot with three races to go.

Ex-Witch Scott Nicholls won heat 11 when riding for double points to bring his team back into the match, and when Ollie Allen and Rory Schlein combined for a 5-1 in the next heat, Coventry were right back in the match.

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They had won by three points in the corresponding meeting at Brandon and looked as though they could send Witches' supporters home disappointed.

But the smiles returned to the faces of the home fans when Louis and Loram re-found the partnership that they first enjoyed at Foxhall in 1989.

Louis, from the inside gate, rode superbly to hold off the rampant Nicholls going round the first two turns, and with Loram sweeping round the outside, the two home riders then team rode for the rest of the race to inflict the only defeat of the night on Nicholls.

And when Piotr 'Pepe' Protasiewicz won the penultimate race and Daniel King was third, Ipswich had done enough to pocket the three points on offer.

This will pep their hopes of enjoying a good campaign in a league that looks as though it will be competitive right until the end of August when the play-offs will be settled.

While Louis played a vital role, the rest of the Ipswich team, apart from the struggling Jan Jaros, all contributed well.

Loram top-scored yet again, although he is still searching for his first Ipswich maximum, while Protasiewicz dropped just one point and continued his impressive run of Witches' scores.

Robert Miskowiak was his usual inconsistent self, but still figured in a couple of maximum-heat advantages, while the recalled Daniel King partnered Loram to a 5-1 in heat nine and was good value for his paid six points.

But the man of the match for Ipswich was Swede Kim Jansson, who dropped just one point from his four rides and is showing what a capable rider he is becoming.

Last season, he was crashing too many times and was unable to show any consistency.

But he now has an older head on his young shoulders and having a high points-scorer at No. 2 is proving of great benefit to Ipswich.

The Witches went behind in heat two, when both Coventry riders passed Jaros on the first lap after King had been pushed wide on the opening bend.

The Polish pair of Protasiewicz and Miskowiak brought the scores level in the next ride before Allen went from first to last in heat four. Loram showed his class when he made space when passing Allen for King to also go through on the third lap.

It was speedway at its best and put Ipswich in good spirits, although Nichols showed his talents when he held off Protasiewicz coming out of the second bend to win heat five.

Louis and Jansson both passed a disappointing Chris Harris on the second turn, as Ipswich stretched their lead in heat six, with Jansson making a great pass on Allen on the third lap to win heat eight.

The two Poles plugged in another 5-1 and when Jansson won heat 10 with an inside pass on Rory Schlein on the first lap, three points for Ipswich looked a certainty.

But then Coventry hit back with Nicholls flying beyond Loram coming out of the second turn on heat 11 before Ipswich stepped up a gear from heat 13 onwards to send their fans home happy.

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