Great Britain are FIM Team Long Track World Champions for the first time after beating holders Germany in a nail-biting finale to a memorable meeting in front of some 4000 spectators in Muhldorf on Sunday.
Pre meeting favourites Germany saw their grip on the trophy slip away as the British team raced to victory in the final heat to secure a one point advantage over the home team. Despite the surprise omission of Martin Smolinski from their team, the Germans had been expected to retain the title they had lost only once in the history of the competition. Smolinski had been competing in the Speedway Grand Prix semi-final in Italy and was not guaranteed to be available for this event so Team Manager Josef Hukelmann selected a mixture of youth and experience with individual champion Erik Riss and young Michael Härtel alongside veterans Stefan Katt and captain Jörg Tebbe.
The home team had held the lead during the early stages despite a puncture for Riss in Heat 4 but the competition behind them was fierce with the Mustonen family Aki-Pekka and Jesse scoring freely for the Finnish side and the Tresarrieu brothers, Stéphane and Mathieu providing similar support for the French. Equally the Great Britain team after early setbacks were clawing their way back into contention and their ten points against France in Heat 7 was a turning point. They were brilliantly led by Richard Hall who was unbeaten by an opponent throughout and only a mechanical failure in his second ride prevented him from scoring a full maximum.
The French had taken the full 12 points from Heat 12 after Josef Franc had surprisingly missed the gate and by the start of the final set of races the scores could hardly have been tighter. With France ahead on 34 points, Finland 33 and Britain and Germany with 32 the scene was set for a tense three races.
After the Czechs and Finns had shared points in Heat 13, Germany needed a strong performance against the French in the following race but fortune was not on their side as young Härtel fell and was disqualified. In the restart, Riss led from the gate and a tremendous ride from Tebbe kept their Gallic rivals behind. Their 9 points brought them to a total of 41 which could only be beaten by the Brits in their final race against the Dutch. Hero Richard Hall nosed in front of Jannick De Jong and with Glen Phillips and Andrew Appleton holding on to the minor placings their ten points secured an historic championship win for Great Britain. It was a particularly poignant moment for British Team Manager Mitch Godden as his side collected for the first time the Don Godden Trophy named after his legendary father.
Erik Riss won a race off with Finland’s Aki-Pekka Mustonen for the silver medal with France ending a disappointing afternoon one point behind. The Netherlands fielding a weakened three man team were generally outclassed with skipper Jannick De Jong contributing 23 of his side’s total of 31 and the Czech Republic finished in sixth place on 30 points.
1. Great Britain 42 points (Richard Hall 20, Glen Phillips 14, Andrew Appleton 8, James Shanes 0)
2. Germany 41 (Erik Riss 18, Michael Härtel 14, Jörg Tebbe 9, Stephan Katt 0)
3. Finland 41 (Aki Pekka Mustonen 23, Jesse Mustonen 14, Aarnie Heikkilä 3, Matias Mäenpää 1)
4. France 40 (Stephane Tresarrieu 18, Mathieu Tresarrieu 14, Dmitri Berge 4, Theo Di Palma 4)
5. Netherlands 31 (Jannick De Jong 23, Sjoerd Rosenberg 5, Henry Van Der Steen 3)
6. Czech Republic (Josef Franc 18, Richard Wolff 7, Michal Dudek 5, Michal Skurla 0)