Polish skipper Jaroslaw Hampel hailed an “amazing night” after coming out of the pressure cooker of a last-heat decider with his sixth FIM Speedway World Cup gold medal in Prague on Saturday night.
Hampel went into heat 20 of the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final tied on 38 points with Denmark and knowing he needed to finish ahead of FIM Speedway Under-21 world champion Michael Jepsen Jensen to clinch Poland’s sixth SWC title in nine years.
And the FIM Speedway Grand Prix rider didn’t disappoint – jetting from gate three to pull clear of his competition, while MJJ could only battle past Czech skipper Ales Dryml and Australian captain Troy Batchelor for second place.
Hampel finished with 15 points from six races, including six from his tactical joker win in race 16, as Poland triumphed on 41 points. Denmark finished with an agonising 40, while Australia claimed bronze on 33 and the Czech Republic were fourth with 12.
Former world No.2 Hampel has been involved in all six of his country’s SWC wins in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and now 2013, so he had no fears about taking the weight of a nation on his shoulders in an epic finale.
He said: “I had lots of pressure in the last race, of course, but I handled that. It was really tough. But I had a good gate – gate three – and I did everything to make a good jump from the start.
“My bike worked well. It was really fast. I knew I had to do everything the best I could to make a good jump from the gate and make the right choice of line on the first turn.
“I did it and I’m really happy because it was an amazing night. It was really tough. The Danes pushed us from beginning to end. At one stage, we were six points behind and we played the joker. That’s why we feel great about this win because it was not easy.”
Hampel was well supported by 2011 World Under-21 champion Maciej Janowski, who stormed to 12 points and collected a huge heat-19 win to level the scores and give his captain the best possible chance of sealing the Ove Fundin Trophy in race 20.
Grand Prix regular Krzysztof Kasprzak scored seven, along with Hampel’s Zielona Gora team mate Patryk Dudek. The 21-year-old currently leads the FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship and took national legend Tomasz Gollob’s spot in the team before Event 1 at Czestochowa last Sunday.
This is the first time Poland have won the SWC without the 2010 world champion and Hampel is pleased to see his nation’s racing future looking so secure, even without Gollob.
He added: “Patryk did very well and he looks good. He tried to fight every single time and the other boys did a good job as well. The young guys in the team got some more experience and it’s going to be good for us in the future. When we start in big events like this, the pressure is completely different to normal. But we all handled it.”
Hampel missed the 2012 Monster Energy SWC due to a broken ankle and the Poles failed to reach the Final in Malilla. So he was delighted to put his side back on top of the world.
He said: “After a bad 2012, we tried to get back on a good level and go back to the top. That was important and we proved we could do it. We’re really happy with that.”
Danish icon Nicki Pedersen lamented his side’s luck and the costliest of engine failures in heat 16 as they fell a point short of retaining the Ove Fundin Trophy they lifted in Malilla last July.
He said: “I still believe we were the team with the team spirit over this week, but we had to have the consistency and everyone needed to score their 10 points – minimum.
“We didn’t quite do that. I was flying to start with in the first two. Then I had a couple of problems with my best engines losing compression – it keeps doing that in the Grand Prix. That’s what happened again. I went from a second to a third in heat nine.
“I changed to a new bike and my ignition went. I haven’t had a stop for 200 races or something like that. Without having that stop, we’d have had two points more and that would have meant we would have been world champions.
“There were other factors, but I think it’s just down to the fact we didn’t have the last bit of luck we needed. We were almost there.”
Aussie captain Batchelor hailed his side’s efforts as they bagged bronze without injured world champion Chris Holder.
The 25-year-old notched 11 points, including a six-point joker win over Janowski, Pedersen and Ales Dryml in heat nine, which kept his country in the hunt for gold almost until the end.
He said: “To pull that joker off and get us back in it was pretty crucial. It felt good too.
“I’m proud of everyone really. Just because we didn’t get a gold medal, it doesn’t mean we didn’t win. We were consistent, we fought hard and we still scored points from the bad gates, which was crucial. We seemed to lose the setup in the last round of races and Denmark and Poland proved to be a little bit stronger at the end.”
The SGP series returns in two weeks’ time with the Italian FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Terenzano on August 3.
MONSTER ENERGY FIM SWC FINAL SCORES:
POLAND 41: 1 Jaroslaw Hampel 15, 2 Krzysztof Kasprzak 7, 3 Patryk Dudek 7, 4 Maciej Janowski 12.
DENMARK 40: 1 Nicki Pedersen 10, 2 Kenneth Bjerre 11, 3 Niels-Kristian Iversen 12, 4 Michael Jepsen Jensen 7.
AUSTRALIA 33: 1 Darcy Ward 9, 2 Cameron Woodward 8, 3 Jason Doyle 5, 4 Troy Batchelor 11.
CZECH REPUBLIC 12: 1 Vaclav Milik 3, 2 Ales Dryml 7, 3 Lukas Dryml 1, 4 Josef Franc 1.