WITCHES TEAM MANAGER
Monday 27th March 2017
The ‘Tru7.com’ Witches are back in action at Foxhall on Thursday as they take on the Berwick Bandits in the Knockout Cup (7.30pm). This meeting is sponsored by title sponsors ‘Tru7.com’.
The Witches started the 2017 season in style on Saturday night as they put Sheffield to the sword to bag three Championship points in front of a big crowd. Attentions now turn to the Knockout Cup as Berwick visit Suffolk for the first leg tie as the home side look to build a lead to defend at Shielfield Park on Saturday.
The Foxhall outfit have been dealt an early blow with the news that Kyle Newman will be ruled out for a period of time after fracturing his shoulder blade and tearing muscles in his shoulder after a fall at Poole last Friday. Chris Louis and Ritchie Hawkins have moved quickly to cover Newman’s absence by bringing back James Sarjeant on a short term deal until Newman is back fully fit. Sarjeant was a hit with the Foxhall crowd in 2016 and will ride at number two on Thursday.
It’s an exciting year for the Bandits as they enter their 50th season and with new owners and management, optimism is high on the terraces. Managed by Gary Havelock, the Bandits swooped for Lewis Bridger to spearhead their 2017 team with Witches asset Kevin Doolan captaining the side again this season. Dany Gappmaier misses Thursday's clash with concussion and is replaced by Leicester's Danny Ayres at reserve.
Team Manager Hawkins is hoping his side can build up some momentum and take a big lead to Berwick on Saturday.
“It’s nice to be riding again a few days after a good result and we can build some momentum,” said Hawkins. “We have got a week off after the Knockout Cup clashes with Berwick and we can’t afford any slip ups, it’s a competition we want to win. We need to put in a really good performance and build a decent lead.”
Hawkins says the feedback on the track changes at Foxhall has been positive amongst the riders.
“The feedback was really positive which is good for Chris (Louis), we know the surface is a lot better now. Even I could see that the wideness of the track was helping, you could see it helping Nico (Covatti) straight away in his first ride. You will see more use of the wideness over the course of the year but all the work Chris has done on the banking has been a massive improvement.”
The boss says his side will head to Berwick on Saturday looking to win whatever happens on Thursday and wants to see his team progress week by week.
“We have got to put a solid performance like we did last week and I have no doubt that we are good enough to go through. We will go up to Berwick looking to win too but we will concentrate on building the biggest lead possible on Thursday. As riders it would be good to see each of them progress more this week too.”
Hawkins had special words for Berwick but is hoping his team end their Knockout Cup hopes this week.
“I wish Berwick all the best, it seems like a breath of fresh air for everyone up there with the changes and I have heard the crowds are good which is positive. We had a good crowd on Saturday and I really hope it is successful up at Berwick as they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet but I hope we knock them out this week!”
Words: Henry Chard
Meeting Sponsor: Tippers ‘R’ Us
Ipswich ‘Tru7.com’ Witches:
1. Danny King (c) 9.57
2. James Sarjeant 5.81
3. Nico Covatti 7.49
4. Cameron Heeps 5.07
5. Rory Schlein 7.17
6. Connor Mountain 2.00
7. Danyon Hume 2.00
Team Manager: Ritchie Hawkins
‘Olympus Marquees’ Berwick Bandits:
1. Lewis Bridger 8.53
2. Liam Carr 4.69
3. Dimitri Berge 6.91
4. Claus Vissing 6.80
5. Kevin Doolan (c) 6.99
6. Danny Ayres (g) 3.60
7. Ryan Blacklock 2.00
Team Manager: Gary Havelock
Referee: P. Carrington
Parade: Thursday, 7.30pm
Venue: Foxhall Stadium, IP4 5TL
Last five home results v Berwick:
Witches Knockout Cup history:
2016 R1 Lost v Rye House
2015 R1 Lost v Berwick
2014 Runners Up v Edinburgh
2013 QF Lost v Workington
2012 Runners-Up to Newcastle
Berwick in 2017:
TTT Newcastle 55-35 Berwick
TTT Berwick 45-45 Newcastle
WITCHES TEAM MANAGER
I'm really looking forward to the season now. Obviously we got the team building done pretty early, so over the winter I've spent a lot of time with the little baby but I'm looking forward to getting going again. Last year I didn't have anything to do with the team building so to have a big influence on that this year is a plus for me. It's a side that I've had a big input in building and it is one that I'm looking forward to seeing in action. I'm very happy with how the side has finished up.
Last year we went to Italy as a team and we tried to get the team together for a couple of practice days this year but that didn't happen for various reasons. A couple of them have been out to France and they're getting plenty of laps in though. Hopefully the weather is good and we can get a couple of days in at Ipswich as well before the season starts.
I learnt a lot of lessons last year and it was good to have a whole year as by the end of it I had a good understanding of what riders I want to work with and what kind of attitude I am looking for this season. The new team has been built to that and I'm looking forward to working with them. It's a good team and we'll have another go at trying to bring some trophies back to Ipswich.
We're looking for winners but you want everyone to get on as a team. If everyone can bounce off each other it will help each other. Success breeds off success so if everyone is doing well, it will help. You want a good team spirit but you want people there who are determined to win, it's no good just being there for a laugh.
I'm glad we are in a position to give British kids a chance in Danyon (Hume) and Connor (Mountain). Obviously with having two '2-pointers' at reserve it has meant we can have a stronger top end if you like. They are capable riders, we had a look at a lot of number seven riders last year and they are the best two. I'm looking forward to seeing how they progress and helping them. Being in the team they are in with Danny (King) and Rory (Schlein), it should be a good influence on them too. I think looking at the other reserves in the league and having seen enough of Danyon last year and Connor a couple of times, it gives me confidence in their abilities.
Everyone's averages will go up this season, that's how it works but I'm hoping all our top five can really push on. Nico (Covatti) has GP ambitions so he needs to push on further. Rory is a class act and will want to be number one but Danny won't want to give that up. Kyle (Newman) has ridden at number one himself so everyone will be pushing on. Cam (Heeps) is more than capable of being a heat leader too and needs to push on to that level too. They've all got to catch the one in front of them in that sense and that should be good for all of them.
The ultimate goal is to win the league but that is eight months away so you don't need to spend too much time talking about that. Before then it is a build up to that point and we'll work together to build up momentum before the play-offs and it would be great to win the league and get promoted. That is our goal but it is tough and there are a lot of good teams and it is not an expectation, it's an ambition and an achievable goal.
I see racing Sheffield on the opening night as an opportunity for us. They are one of the favourites on paper alongside us this season and they are a strong team but I see it as an early opportunity to get an early lead on them at the start of the season. We need to get the three points at home. We don't want to slip up like we did last year in the cup either, we want to have a cup run and it is another chance to win a trophy. We need a strong start.
By halfway through last year we managed to turn things around and built a really positive atmosphere and mentality and that is something I want to continue this year. That ranges from the management, riders to the supporters, every single person and that is one thing I'd really like to see this season too.
See you all soon,
I need a rest after this winter! It's mainly been the usual stuff of organising sponsorship and advertising and things like that and there are other people at the club who help me with that. It has gone reasonably well but we need more financial input into the club. Hopefully the team will start strongly, we are starting as many people's favourites to be up there and the racing will be very entertaining and with a bit of luck that will be enough to tempt another local company on board with us.
We've retained Tru7.com as title sponsors which is great and Guy (Nicholls) remains as keen as ever to see us succeed on and off the track and more people coming to watch is the aim. We've also gained RN Euston Construction as a partner sponsor which is a great news. They have been supporting the club by sponsoring various meetings and getting involved with programme advertising for a number of years so it is really nice to get them more involved. The air fence sponsorship continues, it was always the plan to have that for two years to cover the cost of renewing the air fence last year and that has gone well. Just about everyone has renewed that and we've gained Scott Properties on the air fence sponsorship and they are another company that have supported us over the years so that's good.
The big job of the winter has been making a few changes to the track which hasn't been going well due to the unfortunate regular rain showers and frost after Christmas but we have had a couple of breaks in the weather and managed to crack on and it's looking really good now. It's not 100% finished but it is almost done and we're 100% confident it will be done by Press Day. I'm looking forward to seeing the lads out on the track and getting their feedback and seeing what they think.
I've kept in contact with all of the lads and got a late call up to go to France with Danny (King) and Danyon (Hume). It was a great couple of days and they both got plenty of laps in and I managed to get half a dozen laps in myself which was fun! It was good to see Danyon riding strong and feeling good and not having any backlash from his injuries last year and that was an important fitness test for him and it went really well.
Ritchie (Hawkins) has a really good attitude towards management. He got on well with the riders and he understood them and where they are coming from and their needs and their shortcomings. He was able to get his message across and communicate with them. Having had a very good side but having made a poor start to the season made me aware that changes were going to be necessary and he had the right ideas and wanted to make the changes so we enabled that to happen. He really did instil a belief into the team after we made the changes that we could climb the table and make the play-offs which we did. We fell short when the pressure was on at the end. Having had pressure on us for a while to win every meeting, it did take its toll in the end but Somerset were better than any side in the league and that showed.
I was shocked when I looked at our team on paper after we had completed it and was wondering how we had done it with 2.5 points less than we had previously! It looks stronger than any team we have built previously since we have been in the Premier League, which is now the Championship. it was surprising but I'm very happy with it and we are in many people's top bracket to do well and rightly so. I don't think anyone wants to label anyone 'favourites' as it looks competitive again this year. We have a strong top five and we have the best two '2-pointers' in the league with the most potential. I'm very pleased with the side and enthusiastic and looking forward to working with them and watching them and obviously with the track changes I think it is going to be a really interesting year.
We start against Sheffield and they are a lot of people's favourites to be up there again so we couldn't have asked for a tougher start. Berwick in the cup is also a tough one and we need a cup run and need to stay in that competition so they are two very full on fixtures to start with. As soon as it was a Saturday meeting against Sheffield I decided to run our 'Kids for free' offer as there's no school on Sunday and we want to get a big crowd in. We need plenty of support for the lads and need to get off to a good start.
It's been a strange and tough winter for the sport and I have to say it could have been a lot worse if wasn't for the chairman and his management committee team. Buster Chapman has put so much work into this winter to help maintain Belle Vue and Leicester and he did everything he could to try and save Coventry. They did everything they could to keep them on track but in the end it wasn't going to be possible. The TV deal was a shocker for everybody. We had no reason to not want Sky Sports on board as they have been a great media partner for speedway for many years now and it is a shame to have lost them but the fact we have had another major player in BT Sport step in is great for the sport.
Thank you for your continued support,
I went on holiday just after the season finished and didn’t get up to too much before Christmas and then the hard work started in January getting the bikes ready. We got them ready and we got the chance to go to France to do some testing and that was great as we were lucky with the weather too. We had two really good days there and it was really nice to be back on the bike and it felt like I hadn’t been off it. Since then we’ve had a couple of days training with Team GB which was great and seeing everyone with the new bikes. We had a new engine too which we tested and we we’re really happy with it. I’m excited for the season to start now.
My own personal fitness plan has gone really well this winter, I’m probably the lightest I have been since I was a teenager! It’s been different as I have completely changed my training regime and approach. I’ve got involved with the Team GB trainer too personally and he has worked with some of the top guys in the sport too like Doyley (Jason Doyle) and (Niels Kristian) Iversen. It’s totally different to what I have been doing and I’m feeling the benefits and hopefully that will help on track as well. I think you feel generally better if your body is in better shape. As I’ve said I’m lighter and they say the lighter the better so we will wait and see! I always train but I’ve never been this light going into a season that’s for sure. I never feel that rusty getting back on the bike, I just get on and wind it on! I just drop the clutch and give it everything and that’s the best way for me.
The Coventry situation has been tough, I’m lucky I have a Championship side and have managed to pick up a couple of guest bookings and some challenge meetings that Coventry are putting on. So, at the start of the season my calendar is fairly full which is nice. However, as soon as we get to May it will start to quieten down and hopefully I will pick up another team. I just have to start the season well and keep myself in the shop window. It’s a difficult situation but I will have to take any opportunity given to me. On a personal note I need to earn a living and I can’t do that just riding in the Championship. I have tried not to worry about it too much and it is something I just have to get on with and I’m lucky enough to start the season quite busy and as long as I do my job on the track I am sure something will come up.
I’m very excited about the Ipswich team this year and I think it is the best team we have assembled since we have been in the Championship and I have been with the club. It’s so hard to say though, people get excited when they see a team and we have had it before where on paper it looks good but that does not win meetings, you have to perform. We’ve got myself, Nico (Covatti), Rory (Schlein) and Kyle (Newman) who are all capable number ones in the league, all in the same team! That tells me how strong we are and if we all do our job I’m confident we’ll be up there.
The track is looking good and I’m looking forward to getting out there for some practice. What I think will happen is that it will ride very similar to how it was before but it will allow more racing room and riders to take more chances. You’ll see more passing and there might even be more contact and things like that because riders will be going for those gaps that you wouldn’t go for previously. Chris (Louis) is very clever with things like this. Although we always go well on our home track he is thinking of the fans and you need to have good racing and Chris thinks about that. With the track changes that have been made he wants riders to come here and go for those gaps that you would normally back out of.
We had a terrible start last year and let’s be honest it can’t get any worse than that can it?! We need to hit the ground running and I really believe we will. We have great characters in the team and everyone is high on confidence even those who have struggled with injuries. I watched Connor (Mountain) ride yesterday and it looked like he hadn’t been off the bike and Rory has dealt with injuries before, he is an experienced rider and he has come back before, he is an ultra-professional and knows what to do.
We didn’t get away this year as a team but we have got the group chat on Whatsapp and there has been a lot of jokes flying around and team spirit is high. We all know each other, no one is new there is no unknown in the team.
I’m going into the new season hoping to carry on from last year as we were happy with that. It is going to be difficult to top what we did last year as it was the best year of my life! I want to maintain my British title, go back to Cardiff and I want to represent Team GB again and I want to win silverware with Ipswich. It is a big year when you sit down and look at it and there is a lot to happen ahead.
All the best,
Foxhall Rd, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 5TL 01473 623640