World Championship leader Greg Hancock declared “I’ve found that love for speedway again” after flying to victory in the FIM Mitas Czech Speedway Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Californian may be the oldest rider in the field and celebrates his 41st birthday on Friday. But his younger rivals are still struggling to live with him out of the starts. He left world No.2 Jaroslaw Hampel, world champion Tomasz Gollob and Australian star Jason Crump trailing in his wake in the final to top the rostrum at the Marketa Stadium. Hancock dropped just one point all night to Crump in race seven, and left with a massive 23 to give him a six-point edge over Gollob at the World Championship summit after three rounds.
The Piraterna and Zielona Gora man has enjoyed a remarkable upturn in fortunes over the past year, after making a terrible start to his 2010 SGP campaign and looking set to miss out on the top eight in the early stages of last season.
And, after picking up his first victory since his season-turning win in the FIM Croatian SGP at Gorican on August 29, 2010, Hancock admits he has got his desire back.[[QUOTE1]] He said: “We had a tough run last year, but midway through the season, things really turned around for me. The win in Croatia kicked it off and I found the little bit inside me that was missing.
“It was that desire and there is something about this sport. You’ve got to love what you do and I’ve found that love for speedway again.
“I feel really, really good. Maybe I am riding better than I ever have. I’ve had some great years and 1997 was an amazing year for me too.
“I don’t like to compare. This is a new thing and a new era. Everything is completely different. But I’m still trying to find the right way and be the fastest guy on the track.” Five out of the last seven riders crowned world champion have won the Czech SGP and Hancock also picked up gold in Prague on his way to the world title in 1997. He said: “I hope being top in Prague is part of the key to winning this year too.”
Despite Hancock’s success, runner-up Hampel left the Marketa Stadium with every reason to be proud after reaching his sixth final in as many SGP appearances at the venue. His American rival admits he could feel the Polish international pushing hard throughout the four laps of the final.
He said: “Hampel was pretty impressive. I could hear him all the time. I kept taking a casual look with both eyes to see whether he was coming, but I managed to hold him off.” The Swedish-based racer dedicated his victory to a special member of the Hancock clan. He said: “I did that for my dog, Leo. I lost him one week ago. He was our first son. That was for Leo.”
It was a tough night for British star Chris Harris, who left Prague with three points from his five races. But he will hope to turn his fortunes around at the FIM Dansk Metal Danish SGP in Copenhagen on June 11, after finishing third at the PARKEN Stadium last year.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (AFTER THREE ROUNDS): 1 Greg Hancock 47, 2 Tomasz Gollob 41, 3 Jaroslaw Hampel 36, 4 Nicki Pedersen 30, 5 Chris Holder 28, 6 Emil Sayfutdinov 28, 7 Freddie Lindgren 26, 8 Jason Crump 24, 9 Kenneth Bjerre 21, 10 Andreas Jonsson 19, 11 Janusz Kolodziej 18, 12 Rune Holta 17, 13 Antonio Lindback 16, 14 Chris Harris 14, 15 Thomas H Jonsson 8, 16 Damian Balinski 4, 17 Artem Laguta 3, 18 Matej Kus 3, 19 Simon Gustafsson 1.
FIM MITAS CZECH SGP SCORES: Greg Hancock 23, Jaroslaw Hampel 19, Tomasz Gollob 17, Jason Crump 13, Chris Holder 9, Nicki Pedersen 9, Kenneth Bjerre 9, Freddie Lindgren 9, Andreas Jonsson 8, Rune Holta 7, Emil Sayfutdinov 6, Antonio Lindback 6, Matej Kus 3, Chris Harris 3, Artem Laguta 2, Janusz Kolodziej 1, Lukas Dryml 0, Zdenek Simota 0.