Australian skipper Chris Holder admits he would love to become “a world champion with my mates” after leading his side through to the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final on Saturday night.
The Aussies won tonight’s Race Off in Bydgoszcz on 43 points to secure the one remaining spot in the Final alongside hosts Poland, Team Great Britain and Denmark.
They saw off a spirited challenge from Sweden, who finished on 32. The USA were third on 26, with double world champion Greg Hancock scoring 21 of those points in a sensational six-ride maximum. The Czech Republic were fourth on 24.
But the night belonged to Holder and his compatriots, who are chasing Australia’s first SWC gold medal since 2002. Having won almost everything there is to win in world speedway, 2012 world champion Holder is desperate to add a Monster Energy SWC victory to his CV.
And he admits doing it with Troy Batchelor, Darcy Ward and Jason Doyle – three riders he has grown up with – would make it even sweeter.
The 26-year-old said: “It would be awesome. Winning the World Championship was the best thing ever. That was such a cool feeling. The next best thing would be to win the team one and be a world champion with my mates. How good would that be?
“We’re keen as and we’re ready for it. If we can come and do a good job, there is no reason why we can’t be up there.
“We’re due one. We’ve had a few silvers. But it’s going to be tough. We’re happy we got to the Final. We did it the hard way, but we’re here now and we’ll see what we can do.”
Holder took his place at Bydgoszcz after returning from a five-week layoff with a broken wrist and fractured neck. He pulled out of Event 1 at King’s Lynn on Saturday as he didn’t want to risk his injury putting the Roos at a disadvantage.
He was content to return with 11 points and is keen to continue putting in the laps during Friday’s practice session for the Final.
He said: “It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t the greatest, but I managed to get a few points in the end. I’m just looking forward to some more laps and getting back into it.
“I was happy to get through tonight without too many problems. Having a few laps tomorrow will be even better – it’s more time to do all the things you need to do in the pits; the sort of things you miss out on when you’re not racing.
“You miss out on being on top of things and changing stuff. That’s probably the hardest thing; getting back into the groove of what to do with your bike. If you can get the setup around here, it helps. If you’re not fast and you’re in front, you know they’re coming.”
Swedish racer Tomas H Jonasson admits Kim Nilsson’s exclusion from heat 15 knocked the wind out of his side’s sails as they faltered in the closing stages of the meeting.
Nilsson was disqualified after the race was completed as referee Jim Lawrence felt the Swede took Czech tactical joker Eduard Krcmar too wide when he crashed against the home-straight fence going into the final lap and somehow stayed upright.
Jonasson admits the incident changed the meeting as the sides were tied at 26 points going into that race. He said: “It went a little bit wrong after the exclusion – the same as it did when I was excluded in Tuesday’s meeting at Vastervik. Such small differences make a big difference.
“It’s so hard. I’m not surprised we fought so well against the Australian team and I’m not surprised they are in the Final. It was a hard night.”
American manager Billy Hamill hailed USA “icon” Hancock after he smoked a world-class field to collect an unforgettable 21-point max, including six points from a tactical joker outing.
The 1996 world champion said: “If you look at his scores since I’ve been team manager, he has been remarkable in the World Cup. He’s a remarkable rider period, and that’s four wins out of four when I’ve used him as a joker.
“I think we were all privileged to witness that tonight. He is an icon. He’s not only going to go down as an American icon, but an icon in the sport of speedway. I feel privileged to not only watch him race, but also to be part of the American speedway team with him.”
The FIM has confirmed the starting draw for Saturday’s Monster Energy SWC Final at Bydgoszcz. Hosts Poland ride in white, while Event 1 winners Team Great Britain compete in yellow. Event 2 victors Denmark don red helmets and Australia are in blue.
MONSTER ENERGY SWC RACE OFF SCORES
AUSTRALIA 43: 1 Darcy Ward 11, 2 Troy Batchelor 11, 3 Jason Doyle 10, 4 Chris Holder 11.
SWEDEN 32: 1 Tomas H Jonasson 11, 2 Kim Nilsson 4, 3 Oliver Berntzon 8, 4 Andreas Jonsson 9.
USA 26: 1 Gino Manzares 0, 2 Max Ruml 1, 3 Ricky Wells 4, 4 Greg Hancock 21.
CZECH REPUBLIC 24: 1 Vaclav Milik 9, 2 Eduard Krcmar 8, 3 Josef Franc 2, 4 Ales Dryml 5.