Aussie skipper Jason Doyle says his side will delay any dreams of world title glory until Sunday’s Grand Final after the Roos claimed the overnight lead at the Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations Finals in Togliatti on Saturday.
The men from Down Under topped the scorechart on 23 points, pipping defending champions and hosts Russia, who tallied 22. In a tight battle for top spot, the Poles are also in hot pursuit on 21 in third.
Doyle led his country in fine style with 16 points from a possible 18, with Max Fricke adding five and under-21 star Jaimon Lidsey scoring two.
It’s 17 years since Australia’s last world team title win at the 2002 FIM Speedway World Cup Final in Peterborough. But 2017 FIM Speedway Grand Prix world champion Doyle won’t be getting carried away about the prospect of ending that wait with some big rides ahead of his side on Day 2 on Sunday.
He said: “We don’t think about that until tomorrow night going into the Grand Final. Everyone knows what can happen. We need to keep our heads screwed on and know it’s a new day.
“We’re all doing our country proud and we hope the Aussies back at home can see how much it means to us to ride for our country.
“It’s halfway and we know what can happen in speedway. We need to work very hard in the coming heats to get back the points we missed out on today. Max got on his second bike and started going very fast. That’s a good sign. I’m glad we made that move and we know we’re ready for tomorrow.
“I am very happy with my performance, but I know speedway can change and you never know what can happen.”
Doyle only made his debut for Australia aged 27 in 2013 and feared his chance to represent his country had passed him by. So he was delighted to underline his pride in racing for the Roos with another big haul of points.
He said: “It’s always an honour to ride for your country and it’s a thing I thought would never be possible.
“It’s always close to my heart when I do ride for Australia because I know there are many young boys who still want to ride for their country.
“I take great pride in it and this was a great night for myself with the points I scored. But I know it’s going to be tough tomorrow.”
It was a night of hard knocks for a few of Australia’s rivals with the likes of Denmark’s Niels-Kristian Iversen, Polish racer Maciej Janowski and British pair Craig Cook and Robert Lambert suffering falls.
Iversen sustained a knock in heat 12, when he spun off and was thrown over the handlebars, but is set to be fit for tomorrow. GB had concerns over Lambert (neck) and Cook (wrist) after they collided in heat four, but they expect both to feature on Sunday.
Poland are set to take a decision on whether to replace Janowski, who crashed in heat 21, with World Championship frontrunner Patryk Dudek, who travelled to Togliatti with the team.
Doyle admits staying out of trouble was vital for his side. He said: “That’s what we said before the meeting – bag the points and don’t do anything stupid. It’s a two-day event and anything is possible.
“We have three fit riders, which is not the case for many other teams. They had a lot of big crashes. Hopefully they’re all raring to go tomorrow. We don’t want to see the crashes that happened.”
Doyle paid tribute to Aussie Under-21 champion Lidsey, who raced to second place and showed impressive speed when he took his mandatory ride in heat eight against Germany.
“Jaimon stood up to the challenge and did really well for himself,” Doyle said. “We know how good he is. The young kid is going to be a big talent in the near future. Hopefully we can lead him on.
“When I was riding with him in that heat, we looked out for each other. He rode around the inside and I went a bit wide. It worked pretty well.
“It’s quite difficult for the young kids to come in after three or four heats and try to do well. Hats off to him; he did very well and hopefully we can all do the same tomorrow.”
Tickets for Monster Energy SON Final Day 2 are still available at the stadium on Sunday from 10:00-21:00.
MONSTER ENERGY SON FINAL DAY 1 SCORES:
AUSTRALIA 23: 1 Jason Doyle 16, 2 Max Fricke 5, 3 Jaimon Lidsey 2.
RUSSIA 22: 1 Emil Sayfutdinov 17, 2 Artem Laguta 4, Gleb Chugunov 1.
POLAND 21: 1 Maciej Janowski 0, 2 Bartosz Zmarzlik 17, 3 Maksym Drabik 4.
DENMARK 19: 1 Leon Madsen 13, 2 Niels-Kristian Iversen 2, 3 Frederik Jakobsen 4.
SWEDEN 16: 1 Fredrik Lindgren 9, 2 Peter Ljung 7, 3 Filip Hjelmland 0.
GERMANY 14: 1 Erik Riss 5, 2 Kai Huckenbeck 9, 3 Lukas Fienhage 0.
GREAT BRITAIN 10: 1 Craig Cook 6, 2 Chris Harris 2, 3 Robert Lambert 2.