Witches face title favourites
IPSWICH Witches open their home Elite League campaign with an acid test against Poole at Foxhall Stadium tonight (7.30pm), writes Mike Bacon.The attractive-looking visitors, including three of the world's top 10 riders, have already been labelled hot title favourites by many - in direct comparison to the Witches who are considered rank outsiders.
IPSWICH Witches open their home Elite League campaign with an acid test against Poole at Foxhall Stadium tonight (7.30pm), writes Mike Bacon.
The attractive-looking visitors, including three of the world's top 10 riders, have already been labelled hot title favourites by many - in direct comparison to the Witches who are considered rank outsiders.
However, early in the season can be the best time of the campaign to catch so-called stronger teams, as riders find their feet after the winter lay-off.
Led by world champion Tony Rickardsson and Grand Prix stars Leigh Adams, Lukas Dryml and Bjarne Pedersen, the Pirates are extremely powerful at the top-end, although new-boys, Pole, Krzysztof Kasprzak and Swede David Ruud could be there to exploit.
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Witches team manager Mike Smillie is well aware of the task his side face tonight. “Of course it's a huge test for us, but every Elite League fixture is a test, especially if you've been written off before a wheel has been turned.
“But I'm sure the lads got a boost from the Coventry meeting, where we competed with them throughout and were unlucky not to get something. Every rider in the team knows what he has got to do and they must do it.”
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Smillie considers the role of Ipswich's Jarek Hampel as key this evening.
“Jarek, riding at No. 1, races Adams twice and Rickardsson twice and possibly both three times if he comes up against the pair of them in heat 15. If he could nick a few points off them, it would be very useful.”
But it is Ipswich's second strings and reserves Smillie is hopeful will pick up the points for victory.
“Kasprzak didn't ride that well here in last season's 16-Lapper and Ruud has never ridden at Foxhall before, so if we can get among those two and Davey Watt, we will surprise them.”
And Smillie had a dig at Poole team manager and Team GB manager Neil Middleditch.
“It seems strange as the manager of Team GB, Neil doesn't see it fit to have one English rider in his side this season!”
Poole rode at Coventry last night and their new captain and Witches asset, Rickardsson is looking forward to the Pirates' season.
“I am captain with my league teams in Sweden and Poland, but this is the first time I have been captain at the beginning of a British season. We have a very good team on paper, if we can win something along the way, it is really going to be exciting.” And speaking about Kasprzak, the Swede commented: “I know he is a very fast gater. He keeps the gas on, I think he will be very entertaining.”
Ipswich race at Poole next Wednesday in the return fixture. It would be a big confidence-booster if they could take any amount of points off the title favourites - tonight's fixture has all the makings of an excellent meeting.
Ipswich: Jarek Hampel, Chris Slabon, Paul Hurry, Daniel Nermark, Scott Nicholls, Tom P Madsen and Danny Bird.
Poole: Leigh Adams, Krzysztof Kasprzak, Lukas Dryml, Bjarne Pedersen, Tony Rickardsson, David Ruud and Davey Watt.