American great Greg Hancock is determined to continue making history, insisting “I’ve never put a timeframe on this game” after lifting FIM Speedway World Championship No.4 in Melbourne on Saturday.
The 46-year-old signed off another chapter in his storied career when he won heat four of the QBE Insurance Australian FIM Speedway Grand Prix at Etihad Stadium to clinch the sport’s biggest prize, with Great Britain star Tai Woffinden seeing off Bartosz Zmarzlik in the final to pip the Pole to World Championship silver.
Hancock is now one of the top six riders of all time in terms of world title wins, pulling level on four with New Zealand icon Barry Briggs and Danish team manager Hans Nielsen.
Grin is already an SGP legend, but he has no plans to slow down as he bids to continue his winning ways in the coming years.
“Well that’s the idea,” he said. “I’ve never put a timeframe on this game. I love what I am doing.
“As it is now, I’ll keep fighting and I am trying to find that little bit extra every year to be a little bit quicker. I can’t beat these guys on sheer aggression. I have to be a little smarter and a little quicker.”
Hancock was elated to seal gold in his opening ride after winning a terrific tussle with Piotr Pawlicki. He said: “That first heat was exciting, nerve-wracking, emotional, everything.
“I realised after the first lap that the tyre was warm enough and the bike took off. I managed to reel in Pawlicki. I’m ecstatic. To look back now on the year I’ve had, I’m so, so amazed.
“It’s great to be on a list of names with these other four-time world champions. Those guys have all been heroes, icons or pillars in the sport. To join them in something like this, I feel honoured. I’m impressed and happy for myself. It’s a real, real honour to be in that company.”
Hancock was elated with the warm reception he received Down Under and paid tribute to the home fans and riders – meeting winner Chris Holder and the absent Jason Doyle.
“It was fantastic to win it here in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said. “The Australian people deserve a lot of credit. Obviously they were missing Jason, which is a shame, but Chris won and what a great result.
“Chris’ year has been rough, so I’m just so happy for him. As it turned out, he worked hard from his first heat. He really, really worked hard.”
Hancock’s night ended after his third ride. He was disqualified from heat nine by the FIM Jury under rule 070.10.13, which states “A rider, who, having started in a heat does not make an honest attempt to ride to the best of their ability, as judged by the referee, shall be guilty of an offence, which may entail disqualification from the heat or a penalty.”
Following the decision, the Swedish-based rider elected to withdraw from the remainder of the meeting. The FIM Jury opted to take no further action.
While Hancock’s evening ended prematurely, Holder stormed his way into the final and blew the roof off Etihad Stadium with a breathtaking triumph over Tai Woffinden, Bartosz Zmarzlik and Antonio Lindback.
It was his first SGP victory in 43 rounds, with his last triumph coming at the British SGP in Cardiff on August 25, 2012. It also secured him fourth place in the final World Championship standings.
A delighted Holder said: “To be sitting here with the trophy in front of my home fans is amazing. It’s sweet. It’s something we dream about doing – all us Aussie guys. This is the best feeling in the world apart from being the champ.
“It has been a rough year off the bike, but on the bike, it has got better. I am looking forward to next year.”
Last year’s world champion Woffinden admits his 2016 season could have been better, but he was still pleased with a “special” silver medal.
He said: “Regaining the championship is really hard and not many guys have done it. But I gave it my all and to stand here and have a silver medal around my neck is pretty special.
“I’ll come back fighting. As far as my own performance this year, I’m not really happy with it as a whole. But to be sat here with a silver medal around my neck is pretty good.
“I’d like to thank my mechanics Jaco, Konjo and Arek – those boys always work hard. It’s not just the stuff you see here; it’s the stuff behind the scenes. Thanks to all my sponsors, all the British fans and all the Aussie fans in Melbourne. It has been amazing.”
Woffinden paid a glowing tribute to new quadruple world champion Hancock. He said: “We can’t take anything away from this guy. He’s a true legend and the biggest and best ambassador for this sport.
“He has won four world titles. I have done two, but I can’t even imagine doing four. It totally blows my mind. He’s so experienced. He’s a legend. He keeps pushing and working hard.
“He has pulled it out the bag again. How much longer is he going to do it for? We don’t know, but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.
“I wish Doyley all the best. I hope you’re back soon and we’ll see you next year.
“Congrats to Chris for winning this GP. I have watched him over the last few rounds and he has started to become the Chris Holder of a few years ago. I’m looking forward to having some good battles with him for the next few years.
“I’d like to thank Bartek. We have had some good races this year, and not just in the GP – in Sweden and Poland as well.”
SGP bronze medallist Bartosz Zmarzlik started 2016 targeting a top-eight finish to secure his spot in the 2017 series. So he was ecstatic to achieve that and a podium place in his debut SGP year.
He said: “Before the season, my dream was the top eight and now I am No.3 in the world. I am very happy because everything this season has been so good for me. My dream in the second season next year is the same.
“We will see what next year brings. All the years are so very different. I’ll see you next year.”
As well as lifting the world title, Hancock booked his place in the 2017 SGP series along with fellow top-eight stars Woffinden, Zmarzlik, Holder, Doyle, Pawlicki, Lindback and Niels-Kristian Iversen.
They are joined by the top three from the GP Challenge in Vetlanda on September 3 – Patryk Dudek, Martin Vaculik and Fredrik Lindgren. The line-up for 2017 will be completed by four wild cards to be selected in due course by the SGP Commission.
FINAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Greg Hancock 139, 2 Tai Woffinden 130, 3 Bartosz Zmarzlik 128, 4 Chris Holder 126, 5 Jason Doyle 123, 6 Piotr Pawlicki 99, 7 Antonio Lindback 93, 8 Niels-Kristian Iversen 91, 9 Matej Zagar 90, 10 Maciej Janowski 90, 11 Fredrik Lindgren 88, 12 Peter Kildemand 68, 13 Nicki Pedersen 62, 14 Andreas Jonsson 52, 15 Chris Harris 40, 16 Michael Jepsen Jensen 31, 17 Patryk Dudek 8, 18 Martin Smolinski 8, 19 Pawel Przedpelski 8, 20 Danny King 7, 21 Krzysztof Kasprzak 7, 22 Anders Thomsen 5, 23 Kim Nilsson 5, 24 Peter Ljung 4, 25 Vaclav Milik 3, 26 Sam Masters 2, 27 Tobias Kroner 2, 28 Brady Kurtz 2, 29 Jack Holder 2, 30 Denis Stojs 1, 31 Jacob Thorssell 1, 32 Nick Skorja 1, 33 Daniel Kaczmarek 1, 34 Kacper Woryna 1.
QBE INSURANCE AUSTRALIAN SGP SCORES: 1 Chris Holder 17, 2 Tai Woffinden 15, 3 Bartosz Zmarzlik 15, 4 Antonio Lindback 14, 5 Niels-Kristian Iversen 12, 6 Matej Zagar 11, 7 Michael Jepsen Jensen 10, 8 Piotr Pawlicki 8, 9 Andreas Jonsson 6, 10 Fredrik Lindgren 6, 11 Greg Hancock 5, 12 Maciej Janowski 5, 13 Peter Kildemand 4, 14 Chris Harris 4, 15 Jack Holder 2, 16 Sam Masters 2, 17 Brady Kurtz 2, 18 Max Fricke 0.