THE RACE FOR FIM SPEEDWAY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GLORY IS ON AS OVER 50,000 FANS GET READY TO CRANK UP THE VOLUME FOR THE BOLL WARSAW SGP.
The race for FIM Speedway World Championship glory is on as over 50,000 fans get ready to crank up the volume for the BOLL Warsaw FIM Speedway Grand Prix of Poland at PGE Narodowy on Saturday.
Aussie ace Jason Doyle launches his title defence in the Polish capital, but faces stiff competition in his quest to become only the third back-to-back world champion since the series was launched in 1995.
The Polish contingent will all be determined to start in style on home shale, with world No.2 Patryk Dudek determined to go one better than in 2017; Maciej Janowski and Bartosz Zmarzlik chasing medals, and Przemyslaw Pawlicki keen to make his mark in his SGP debut season.
I DON’T THINK THERE HAVE BEEN MANY BACK-TO-BACK WORLD CHAMPIONS. IF YOU LOOK AT IT THAT WAY, THERE ISN’T MUCH PRESSURE.
But former world champions Tai Woffinden, Chris Holder, Greg Hancock and Nicki Pedersen will all be keen to have their say in the title race, as will Emil Sayfutdinov, Matej Zagar, Fredrik Lindgren, Artem Laguta and Craig Cook.
When it comes to defending the title, Doyle says the lack of back-to-back world champions takes the pressure off his shoulders.
Just two men have won two world titles on the trot in the SGP era since 1995 – Tony Rickardsson in 1998/1999 and 2001/2002 and Nicki Pedersen in 2007/2008. With that in mind, Doyle knows winning No.2 this year will be no easy task – so he’s keen to make the most of what should be a special season.
He said: “We’ll just take it as any other season, where we go for it and try our best. If it happens, it happens. As long as I have a safe and successful year and stay injury-free – I’ve said many times that this would be a good year.
“The GPs are going to be very tough and I just want to make it through into the following year and enjoy it. That’s the main goal.
“I don’t think there have been many back-to-back world champions. If you look at it that way, there isn’t much pressure. If there were lots of back-to-back world champions, there might be a bit more pressure.
“If you win one and you never win one again, it’s still a massive honour to have won a world title. I’ll go there and ride like I have been doing the last couple of years. We haven’t changed much. We still have the same setup and same mechanics. I can’t see it being any different.”
Doyle has had one knock already this season – he was floored in a crash at Gorzow on the opening day of the PGE Ekstraliga season last month. Having endured more than his fair share of injuries in recent years, JD is keen to ensure he stays away from the treatment room this year.
He said: “At the start of the year, I always have one decent crash. But hopefully that’s out of the way now, everything is feeling good and I am ready to go.
“I don’t want to be known as the person who has injuries all the time. I just want to go for it this year and do my best.
“I’m going to ride totally differently to how I have in the last two or three previous seasons and we’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to let too many things out of the hat, but we’ll see what happens in the next couple of meetings.”
As one of the world’s biggest speedway events, Warsaw’s PGE Narodowy is a fitting location for the opening round of SGP 2018 – even if Doyle knows many of the fans in attendance will be cheering for home stars Dudek, Janowski, Zmarzlik, Pawlicki and wild card Krzysztof Kasprzak.
He said: “Warsaw is a great way to start the Grand Prix season with the number of people in the crowd. Obviously we don’t get the support the Poles get, but it is nice to see the atmosphere they bring to a Grand Prix.”
Doyle admits the roar generated by 50,000-plus fans will test the nerve of even the sport’s biggest stars – not least series newcomers Pawlicki, Laguta and Cook.
He said: “With Warsaw being the first one, there will be a lot of nerves and there are a few new faces in the Grand Prix.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes. But if you have a bad first round, it isn’t all over. I guess it will all come down to the last meeting.”
World No.2 Dudek wrote his name in SGP history in 2017 by becoming the first new rider to finish in the championship’s top two since the series was launched. He accepts the pressure will be on following last year’s heroics, but with time on his side, Dudek is keen to keep his cool amid the hype.
He said: “Supporters can expect a lot, but I'm just a man who does his job. Sometimes it's better, sometimes worse. I will do everything to become a world champion, but if it fails, I will fight for the title for a year, two or maybe 10 years.”
While some will tip him as a title contender, Dudek is merely keen to cement his spot in next year’s World Championship.
He added: “The goal is to get into the top eight and stay in the series for next season. The position is irrelevant at this moment; everything will settle over time. I just want to stay in the Grand Prix for as long as possible.”
BOLL WARSAW SGP LINE-UP (in ranking order with rider numbers): 69 Jason Doyle, 692 Patryk Dudek, 108 Tai Woffinden, 71 Maciej Janowski, 95 Bartosz Zmarzlik, 89 Emil Sayfutdinov, 55 Matej Zagar, 66 Fredrik Lindgren, 88 Niels-Kristian Iversen (substitute for 54 Martin Vaculik), 23 Chris Holder, 45 Greg Hancock, 110 Nicki Pedersen, 59 Przemyslaw Pawlicki, 222 Artem Laguta, 111 Craig Cook, 16 Krzysztof Kasprzak, 17 Maksym Drabik, 18 Bartosz Smektala.