Polish hotshot Jaroslaw Hampel was coy about his chances of making a last-gasp World Championship challenge after snatching a dramatic victory in the FIM Scandinavian Speedway Grand Prix at Swedish track Malilla on Saturday.
The world No.2 made a sensational swoop around local hero Andreas Jonsson on the last turn of the final to steal the gold medal and go second in the SGP standings. Hampel is 22 points behind series leader Greg Hancock, who finished on eight.
While the Californian is still firm favourite to top the World Championship rostrum this year, the Leszno and Vetlanda star has four rounds left to try and overhaul him.
But Hampel has no intention of getting carried away by the second SGP triumph of his career as he is just 16 points ahead of eighth-placed Kenneth Bjerre, who finished third ahead of Emil Sayfutdinov in the Malilla meeting.
The Polish World Cup winner said: “There are four rounds to go and we need to wait and see what happens in the next one.
“I’m really enjoying it and everything looks very good. I’m racing well everywhere in the Polish league and Sweden. I hope everything can be good in the end with the Grand Prix.
“But it’s pretty tight with the points between second and seventh position. Anything can happen.”
Hampel set a new Malilla track record of 55.7 seconds in heat three after producing an electrifying start and powering home to lower the previous 55.9 mark held jointly by Hans Andersen, Antonio Lindback, Nicki Pedersen and Jonsson.
But he struggled to reproduce that blistering speed in his following four heats and managed two seconds and two thirds.
This took him into the semi-finals on nine points, where Hampel blasted around Jason Crump on turn two to deny the Aussie, who finished his five heats with a 15-point maximum, a spot in the last four.
A delighted Hampel said: “I was very quick at the end. In my first start I beat the track record, but then I was missing something in my bike.
“I couldn’t race as fast as before and I changed the bike in almost every single race. In the end I found what I needed to do and then I raced fast and well.
“Everything went very well in the semi-final and final. I couldn’t score too many points before the semi-final and get a choice of gates. But the final was good. I tried to go very quick behind Andreas and the outside line was the best one.”
Dackarna rider Jonsson had an enormous following at his Elitserien home circuit and Hampel’s incredible last-gasp move to snatch the gold medal from the Swede did not give his fans a happy ending.
But the Polish contingent left on cloud nine, and Hampel was ecstatic to find the speed he needed to tear around AJ at the death.
He said: “I was wondering whether I was quick enough or not because I built up my speed for almost four laps behind Andreas and I was very close.
“I tried to do something on the first corner, but I knew that if I missed the gate, I could still stay very close to the guys and attack. I was second after the first turn and then I just had to think what I needed to do to pass Andreas. Fortunately, I made it.
“The only way was to go around the outside line because the inside was pretty slick and I couldn’t attack there. I built up my speed and I hit some dirt on the last corner. My bike was really quick and that’s why I passed Andreas.”
Jonsson was gutted to miss out on his second SGP win at the G&B Arena, but the Stockholm-born man was more than happy to storm up to fifth in the standings on 72 points – level with Jason Crump in fourth spot and Emil Sayfutdinov in sixth.
He said: “I’m really happy with my results so far. I got beaten on the line and that’s really tough. But I’m still happy with the meeting and I scored a lot of points in my home meeting and made it to the final.
“Jason had a maximum and he got thrown out in the semis. That can happen, so I’m really happy I reached the final and got an extra four points there. I’m fifth at the moment and we have four more Grand Prix rounds to go, so anything can happen.”
Meanwhile, Bjerre returned to the top eight for the first time in three months. His form is picking up ahead of the FIM Torun SGP of Poland on August 27 and the FIM Dansk Metal Nordic SGP at Vojens on September 10, where he will be highly fancied to triumph.
Bjerre said: “It has been pretty tough for me this season. Over the past couple of rounds I have made it to the final and I’m enjoying it since the World Cup break. I’ve got my engines working and I’m just looking forward to the next one.”
There was better news for British fans in Malilla as Chris Harris produced his performance of the season to reach the semi-finals and finish the Grand Prix on 10 points.
He is now 12th in the World Championship with 43, but remains 23 points adrift of the top-eight automatic qualification spots for 2012.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (AFTER SIX ROUNDS) : 1 Greg Hancock 104, 2 Jaroslaw Hampel 82, 3 Tomasz Gollob 76, 4 Jason Crump 72, 5 Andreas Jonsson 72, 6 Emil Sayfutdinov 72, 7 Chris Holder 70, 8 Kenneth Bjerre 66, 9 Nicki Pedersen 59, 10 Freddie Lindgren 55, 11 Antonio Lindback 48, 12 Chris Harris 43, 13 Janusz Kolodziej 39, 14 Rune Holta 33, 15 Thomas H Jonasson 17, 16 Magnus Zetterstrom 12, 17 Artem Laguta 11, 18 Matej Zagar 9, 19 Scott Nicholls 5, 20 Damian Balinski 4, 21 Matej Kus 3, 22 Mikkel B Jensen 2, 23 Tai Woffinden 2, 24 Simon Gustafsson 1.
FIM SCANDINAVIAN SGP RESULTS : 1 Jaroslaw Hampel 17, 2 Andreas Jonsson 19, 3 Kenneth Bjerre 16, 4 Emil Sayfutdinov 13, 5 Jason Crump 16, 6 Chris Harris 10, 7 Thomas H Jonasson 9, 8 Greg Hancock 9, 9 Freddie Lindgren 8, 10 Chris Holder 7, 11 Antonio Lindback 7, 12 Rune Holta 4, 13 Nicki Pedersen 3, 14 Tomasz Gollob 3, 15 Artem Laguta 1, 16 Janusz Kolodziej 1, 17 Simon Gustafsson DNR, 18 Linus Sundstrom DNR.