American legend Greg Hancock admits sheer adrenaline soothed the pain of his knee ligament injury and helped him secure a sensational second World Championship in Gorican on Saturday night.
The Californian finished fourth in the FIM Nice Croatian SGP with 15 points to clinch the sport’s biggest prize – 14 years after he lifted it for the first time at Vojens on September 20, 1997.
At 41 years and 113 days old, Hancock is the oldest world champion in the sport’s history, eclipsing Kiwi icon Ivan Mauger’s record which has stood since September 2, 1979, when he won his sixth gold medal in Katowice aged 39 years and 339 days.
The Zielona Gora and Piraterna star’s challenge threatened to come off the rails on September 11 when he wrenched his knee ligaments in a Polish Ekstraliga play-off meeting in Gorzow.
The FIM Nice Croatian SGP, which was won by Swedish star Andreas Jonsson, was Hancock’s first track outing since he aggravated an injury which has troubled him since 1993.
But the Swedish-based racer said: “The adrenaline pretty much took the pain away and I didn’t think about the knee. I’ll pay for it later, but I’m over the moon with this.”
Hancock admits his second championship win was just as sweet as his 1997 triumph. He said: “I can’t say it’s better. The first time was fantastic. It was so emotional and it was this time too.
“We know how many years I had to work to get it the first time and the second time. I’ve made it there again and I have no complaints. I am so happy right now.”
Hancock sealed his triumph with third place in heat 20 behind his nearest rival Jaroslaw Hampel. The Cradley Heath legend needed second or better to guarantee the title.
But with the Pole failing to beat his fellow countryman Rune Holta, Hancock got over the winning line with a point, before being mobbed by his pit crew and receiving the bumps from his rivals.
Hancock said: “They said I still needed a couple of points and I only got one there. I didn’t know whether I had won. I hadn’t thought about the fact Hampel had lost a point there too, but that doesn’t matter.
“It still hasn’t sunk in. I’m feeling so good and I just want to celebrate now, but there are still more races to come this year.”
Hancock travels to Leszno, Poland, on Sunday afternoon for Zielona Gora’s Ekstraliga play-off final, first leg.
But he ends his Grand Prix season with the FIM Enea Gorzow SGP of Poland on October 8, when he will be presented with the brand-new World Championship trophy.
It will also be a special night for his team, led by manager Richard Child, as well as mechanics Rafal Haj, Bodzio Spolny and Stefan Andersson. Hancock said: “Richard has been with me for a really long time. Rafal is my chief mechanic and he has been with me for ages too. We’ve learnt so much together.
“Bodzio has been great as well and these guys work so hard. They’ve been with me in some good times and some really bad times.
“I owe this to them. This is for Richard and of course Stefan has come into our team this year.
“This is for them and more importantly my wife Jennie. Like I’ve said before, she is my everything – my wife, my therapist and my perfect person to go home to every time.”
Meanwhile, Andreas Jonsson was delighted to turn an indifferent start to his Croatian SGP into his third Grand Prix gold medal of 2011.
Jonsson also won the rounds in Terenzano and Torun and is now second in the World Championship on 118 points after moving one clear of Jaroslaw Hampel, who ended his night at the semi stages.
Having taken just four points from his opening three races, Jonsson feared his medal push was going to suffer a serious setback, before finding some speed to go home with a tremendous tally of 18.
He said: “I’m just happy I could pull this one out. I have one more Grand Prix to go in Gorzow. Hopefully I can do my best there and I hope that will also be a great night.
“I don’t want to focus too much on chasing the silver. I just have to put my head down and work really hard in the last Grand Prix. Then, after my last heat, hopefully my goal will be achieved. It’s a big challenge for me, but I’m ready for it.”
There was fantastic news for British fans as Chris Harris picked up the silver medal in Gorican for the second season in succession. The Cornishman left Croatia with 19 points – one more than Jonsson.
And while he is still waiting for his first SGP win since he triumphed at Cardiff in June 2007, he admits reaching the rostrum for the first time this season was a real lift. He said: “I still can’t get on top of that podium, but I’ll take that second. It was a fantastic night and I’m really pleased with it. I can’t say much more really.
“The track got a little bit slicker and I lost a little bit of speed towards the end. But the boys worked fantastically well all weekend and I have to say a big thanks to my pit crew. They got the bikes working well.”
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (After 10 out of 11 Rounds): 1 Greg Hancock 154, 2 Andreas Jonsson 118, 3 Jaroslaw Hampel 117, 4 Jason Crump 104, 5 Tomasz Gollob 98, 6 Emil Sayfutdinov 98, 7 Kenneth Bjerre 97, 8 Chris Holder 95, 9 Fredrik Lindgren 85, 10 Nicki Pedersen 79, 11 Antonio Lindback 69, 12 Chris Harris 67, 13 Rune Holta 53, 14 Janusz Kolodziej 45, 15 Artem Laguta 25, 16 Magnus Zetterstrom 19, 17 Thomas H Jonasson 17, 18 Darcy Ward 15, 19 Matej Zagar 14, 20 Scott Nicholls 5, 21 Damian Balinski 4, 22 Matej Kus 3, 23 Bjarne Pedersen 3, 24 Mikkel B Jensen 2, 25 Tai Woffinden 2, 26 Simon Gustafsson 1.
FIM NICE CROATIAN SGP SCORES: 1 Andreas Jonsson 18, 2 Chris Harris 19, 3 Fredrik Lindgren 12, 4 Greg Hancock 15, 5 Kenneth Bjerre 12, 6 Emil Sayfutdinov 10, 7 Jaroslaw Hampel 9, 8 Rune Holta 9, 9 Jason Crump 8, 10 Chris Holder 7, 11 Tomasz Gollob 5, 12 Matej Zagar 5, 13 Janusz Kolodziej 4, 14 Artem Laguta 4, 15 Nicki Pedersen 4, 16 Antonio Lindback 3, 17 Dino Kovacic DNR, 18 Matija Duh DNR.