Good news! Upbeat Louis has this message for Ipswich Witches fans.... (get the diary out!)
- Credit: Archant
The 2020 speedway season was a complete write-off for fans in Britain. But are brighter times ahead? MIKE BACON caught up with Ipswich Witches promoter Chris Louis.
Ipswich Witches promoter Chris Louis says it’s all systems go for 2021 and he expects the fixture list for next season to be out ‘reasonably soon’.
Louis was upbeat about the sport’s hopes for next year despite the domestic league in Britain being wiped out completely this summer.
And he says that he is expecting all clubs who were set to go the tapes back in March, to be ready to go again next year.
For Ipswich fans, he had this message: “The club is in a healthy enough state to take forward. We will be racing next season. It’s been tough and obviously it has cost us having had the expense of getting ready for a season that never took place.
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“I’d be a fool to say everything is 100% rosy, but Ipswich are in a perfectly healthy position to get going again next year.”
If that wasn’t music to the ears of Witches fans who could understandably have been nervy about the sport’s future, especially as speedway relies heavily on attendance figures, Louis went on to say he has already pencilled in opening night at Foxhall next year.
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“We are looking to start on Thursday, April 1, which is the start of the Easter weekend next year,” he said.
“We are way down the road looking at stadium implications for putting together a fixture list - in both leagues. I would like to think it will be out reasonably soon. Obviously a big part of that is rider availability. It’s been a whole year without the sport, apart from a bit in Sweden and in Poland. So many clubs, including us are working on that.
“But I’ve spoken to all the Witches who would have made up this season’s team and they are all looking forward to next year.”
Witches fans were very much looking forward to seeing their 2020 1-7 line-up in action and will be buoyed they may well still see that happen - albeit 12 months late!
“I was happy when we built last year’s Witches team,” Louis said. “I was happy on press day and I’m sure I would have been happy with it during this season.”
Not that all the Witches of 2020 had no track time. Indeed teenager Drew Kemp was a busy boy with plenty of meetings, mostly abroad.
“I honestly think Drew gained more than any other rider in the world, racing the way he did and where he did this year,” Louis said.
“He gained a lot of confidence and proved alot to himself and others. Not that he had anything to prove to me, I knew it. But he did show he can mix with some of the best riders – from the starts, out on track. He rode in British finals, including the senior one and of course he was in the Speedway of Nations squad, even though he didn’t ride. But this was all great experience.”
The big signing of last winter for the Witches was three-time world champion, Jason Crump.
The excitement around the 45-year-old’s signature was palpable at the time and he managed to fit in a few meetings when he came over from Australia this year - including coming third in the British Final at Belle Vue.
“Jason gained a lot from the few competitive meetings he had,” Louis added.
“I know he came away from his final one at Belle Vue, the Peter Craven Memorial, a bit disappointed, but margins were fine from what I saw. He could have scored 10 or 11 points and I told him that afterwards.
“I’m not saying Jason is going to win another world championship, but he’s going to be a top rider for us and a top heat leader. I can’t wait to see him race in Witches colours.”
Danny King, Nico Covatti and Nikolai Klindt also managed to get some racing in this year, particularly Klindt, who rode in Poland as much as he could.
For Louis, the bigger picture is also looking good.
“We are extremely positive that, as a sport in general, clubs will survive,” he said. “Hopefully all teams will look the same in 2021 as they would have done this year, but there is no guarantee on that. There is still a lot of hard work to be done but we are proud of the situation we have manufactured and got ourselves in as a sport going forward.
“I am not aware of anyone having a problem with an Easter start, and we are very relieved and pleased about that.”