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Motor Racing: Bees battle to grab a cup lifeline; SPEEDWAY: Louis logs maximum for Witches but Coventry are still in the hunt.

COVENTRY Bees set up an intriguing KO Cup quarter-final second leg at Brandon next month with another gutsy away-day display in Suffolk last night.

They led in the early stages at Foxhall Heath and were still level at 39-39 after 13 races. But the home side gained a six-point advantage to bring to the return meeting with a 4-2 and 5-1 in the final two heats.

A stunning showing from home skipper Chris Louis, who rolled back the years to record a vintage 15-point maximum, fronted Ipswich's winning surge.

The displays of Louis and Mark Loram were decisive for the Witches as Piotr Protasiewicz had a nightmare and in-form reserve Daniel King crashed out in his second ride.

Bees opened brightly with Scott Nicholls and Morten Risager racing to a 5-1 in the first race to leave Protaise-wicz and Kim Jansson trailing.

King rode well in the early stages of heat two to hold off Olly Allen, and the teams then traded 4-2s. Louis beat Rory Schlein in heat three with Robert Miskowiak third, and then Chris Harris put his recent machinery troubles behind him with a fine win over Loram in heat four.

The first setback for Bees came in heat five when Risager was excluded after coming off on the first bend. Louis produced a remarkable ride in the re-run to chase and pass Nicholls, storming past the Coventry captain on the outside on the back straight of the final lap for his partnership with Miskowiak to record its second 4-2.

The scores were all level after an excellent heat six saw plenty of passing and re-passing between Harris and Jansson, but there was a nasty accident in heat seven, a race that had already been re-started after first-bend bunching saw Schlein come to grief.

In the re-run, King attempted to dive inside Schlein going into turn three and ended up taking himself and the Aussie down.

King was catapulted over the fence and onto the stock car track and there was a lengthy delay while he received attention, though the initial indications suggested his leg injury was not too serious. Loram took control of the re-run but from that point on the Witches were always going to find it hard to build a lead without their top-scoring reserve.

Jan Jaros stepped up to the plate to hold off Allen for third place in heat eight as Jansson took the win ahead of Risager to put the Witches in front for the first time.

Ipswich moved clear with their first maximum of the night in heat nine, Louis and Miskowiak heading Harris home in a blanket finish as the Bees man did everything possible to get through.

Bees now trailed by six points, but they hit back in heat 10 as Protasiewicz's up-and-down night continued with an engine failure off the start-line.

Schlein showed no ill effects from his earlier fall to beat Jansson, with Billy Janniro unchallenged in third as Bees cut the gap back to four, a margin which was retained when Loram beat Nicholls in heat 11, Risager completing a solid night on one of his least favourite tracks with third place ahead of Jaros.

The Coventry comeback gathered pace in heat 12 thanks to rapid starts from Schlein and Martin Smolinski who comfortably took the points over Miskowiak, the Pole coming past teammate Jaros in the early stages but unable to make an impression on the Coventry duo.

Parity was maintained in a shared heat 13, Loram gaining plenty of speed on the first lap to switch inside Nicholls but Harris easily in third ahead of the unhappy Protasiewicz.

But the Witches edged in front once more in the penultimate race as the mechanical misfortune went Coventry's way. Louis reeled off his fourth win, but with Smolinski second and Janniro third ahead of Jaros, Janniro dropped yet another chain on the last lap and retired.

It looked as if Louis would finally be beaten when he was headed by Nicholls in the last race, but the Ipswich skipper was having none of it and cut inside Nicholls on the back straight on the second lap.

To the delight of the home fans, Loram performed a similar move two laps later to give the Witches a final 5-1 and a six-point cushion.

CAPTION(S):

KEY CONTRIBUTION... Rory Schlein notched 10 points' MASTER CLASS... Ipswich skipper Chris Louis dominated last night's cup tie with a magnificent maximum
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 2, 2006
Words:741
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