Thursday, 19 July 2018


The stakes are high Down Under as the race for FIM Speedway World Championship medals, qualification and wild cards reaches a dramatic climax at the QBE Insurance Australian SGP in Melbourne on Saturday.

Series leader Greg Hancock may head to the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest indoor motorsport event at Etihad Stadium needing just a heat win to be guaranteed an historic fourth world title. But the race for the rostrum and places in the 2017 FIM Speedway Grand Prix series is set to be spectacular.

Injured Aussie rider Jason Doyle misses his home event after suffering season-ending lung, elbow and shoulder injuries in Torun. But with 123 points to his name, he could still land silver, with Tai Woffinden (115), Bartosz Zmarzlik (113) and Chris Holder (109) all chasing him down.

The top five are all guaranteed SGP places for 2017, with Piotr Pawlicki (91) in sixth, 10 points away from securing automatic qualification too, and his compatriot Maciej Janowski (85) in seventh also keen to seal his spot.

But they face stiff competition from Torun winner Niels-Kristian Iversen, Matej Zagar and Antonio Lindback, who are all tied on 79 points just outside the top-eight automatic qualification places.

Sweden’s Freddie Lindgren in eighth is already guaranteed a berth in the 2017 series after finishing third in the GP Challenge at Vetlanda last month. Should he finish inside the top eight, his qualification position earned in that meeting will be handed to Denmark’s Kenneth Bjerre.

Once the qualifiers are confirmed, the SGP Commission will complete the line-up with four permanent wild cards, meaning the Melbourne showdown is a final chance to impress before the selectors meet.

Hancock doesn’t have to worry about racing for his place in the competition and he could even win the title without turning a wheel if Woffinden or Zmarzlik drop points before he takes to the track.

But having romped to a 21-point maximum to win the Aussie round last year, Grin won’t be backing off the gas even if speedway’s biggest prize is guaranteed.

“I want to win,” stated Hancock.

“I’m feeling good and everything is working, so it’s just a case of carrying on what I’m doing and chasing the dream. Winning the title and stepping down has never been my thing.

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“I’m not going to just let everyone else race for the rest of the points and prize money. There’s always something at stake and I’m chasing whatever is there for the taking. It’s hard to let anything go, no matter what situation I’m in.”

If Hancock seals the SGP crown, he’ll become only the sixth rider in history to win four world titles or more as he joins Danish team manager Hans Nielsen and New Zealand great Barry Briggs in the quadruple world champions’ club.

Despite being on the cusp of making even more history, Hancock insists he’s in Melbourne to win, not just savour the moment.

“I’m impressed with some of the things I’ve done and sometimes sit down and say ‘wow, that’s pretty cool’,” he commented.

“But when my head is in the game and I’m going for success, I don’t think about that stuff. I just want to be good. I’m just there to win. I don’t think about all the stats or trying to be someone special. I just want to win and be the best.

“It’s just in my manner and my way. I set out as a young kid to be really good. Sometimes I’m a little bit too hard on myself, but I can’t help that. I still love what I do and I’m still pleased when I come out on top.”

Hancock’s task has been made considerably easier by Doyle’s injuries suffered at the FST Grupa Brokerska Torun SGP on October 1. Grin has huge sympathy for his rival, who was cruelly denied the chance to become Australia’s sixth world champion and the first to lift the title Down Under.

“It’s so hard to put words to the situation,” expressed Hancock.

“I know how he feels to a certain extent. The guy has had such a great run this year and unfortunately the accident got the better of him. Anyone with a heart would say the guy deserves silver or something out of this. He didn’t deserve to be led in the hospital.

“In 2011, I tore the cruciate ligament in my knee just before the round in Croatia where I secured the title. In 2014, I broke my finger in Gorzow, had to have an operation and missed a round at Vojens.

“Obviously I was okay to ride the last ones to win the title. But I remember lying there, thinking ‘come on, I’ve had such a good run. I’m leading the series.’ Someone put a massive roadblock in front of me and I had to figure out how to get around it.

“Doyley is in a much more serious situation than I have ever been. But I know that feeling of thinking ‘why? I didn’t do anything wrong!’ I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and the same for him. It leaves you with a lot of ifs, ands and buts in your head and it’s not fun.”

While Doyle’s medal hopes hang in the balance, Holder could still fight his way on to the rostrum for the first time since he won the 2012 world title. Despite having Aussie hopes resting on his shoulders, the Sydneysider insists he doesn’t feel under any extra pressure.

“I wouldn’t say there’s extra pressure, only what I put on myself,” said Holder.

“There’s a good chance I could walk away with a second or third – it’s not out of reach. Doyley is 14 points from me, so even second place is up for grabs. It’s going to be a big meeting.

“Hopefully I can pull something out and get on that podium. That would be a good finish to an overall pretty good year. I’ll just do the best I can and if I can pull something out, that’ll be great.

“It has been a pretty solid season. It was only two GPs in the middle in Prague and Cardiff where I lost a lot of points. The rest has been quite strong. It has definitely been something to build on for next year.”

Tickets for the QBE Insurance Australian SGP are still available online. Visit:

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Greg Hancock 134, 2 Jason Doyle 123, 3 Tai Woffinden 115, 4 Bartosz Zmarzlik 113, 5 Chris Holder 109, 6 Piotr Pawlicki 91, 7 Maciej Janowski 85, 8 Fredrik Lindgren 82, 9 Niels-Kristian Iversen 79, 10 Matej Zagar 79, 11 Antonio Lindback 79, 12 Peter Kildemand 64, 13 Nicki Pedersen 62, 14 Andreas Jonsson 46, 15 Chris Harris 36, 16 Michael Jepsen Jensen 21, 17 Patryk Dudek 8, 18 Martin Smolinski 8, 19 Pawel Przedpelski 8, 20 Danny King 7, 21 Krzysztof Kasprzak 7, 22 Anders Thomsen 5, 23 Kim Nilsson 5, 24 Peter Ljung 4, 25 Vaclav Milik 3, 26 Tobias Kroner 2, 27 Denis Stojs 1, 28 Jacob Thorssell 1, 29 Nick Skorja 1, 30 Daniel Kaczmarek 1, 31 Kacper Woryna 1.

QBE INSURANCE AUSTRALIAN SGP LINE-UP (in ranking order with rider numbers): 108 Tai Woffinden (Great Britain), 45 Greg Hancock (USA), 52 Michael Jepsen Jensen (Denmark – substitute for 3 Nicki Pedersen), 88 Niels-Kristian Iversen (Denmark), 17 Sam Masters (Australia – substitute for 69 Jason Doyle), 55 Matej Zagar (Slovenia), 71 Maciej Janowski (Poland), 23 Chris Holder (Australia), 25 Peter Kildemand (Denmark), 100 Andreas Jonsson (Sweden), 37 Chris Harris (Great Britain), 66 Fredrik Lindgren (Sweden – substitute for 33 Jaroslaw Hampel), 95 Bartosz Zmarzlik (Poland), 777 Piotr Pawlicki (Poland), 85 Antonio Lindback (Sweden), 16 Brady Kurtz (Australia – wild card), 18 Max Fricke (Australia – track reserve), 19 Jack Holder (Australia – track reserve).

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