Russian racer Emil Sayfutdinov is ready to make more history for his country at the Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations Finals in Togliatti on Saturday and Sunday.
FIM Speedway World Championship leader Sayfutdinov joins forces with SGP rival Artem Laguta and FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship leader Gleb Chugunov to fly the Russian flag in the biggest meeting ever staged on Russian shale.
The outstanding Anatoly Stepanov Stadium – one of the world’s top purpose-built track racing venues – welcomes seven of the world’s leading nations as defending champions Russia take on Sweden, Poland, Germany, Great Britain, Australia and Denmark.
With the likes of world No.2 Bartosz Zmarzlik and Maciej Janowski of Poland, Australia’s 2017 world champion Jason Doyle, Sweden’s world No.3 Fredrik Lindgren and Denmark’s World Championship frontrunner Leon Madsen and seven-time national champion Niels-Kristian Iversen among a star-studded line-up, Russian fans are in for an unforgettable weekend.
Russia won their first senior speedway world title of any kind on June 9, 2018, when they triumphed in the first-ever Monster Energy SON Finals in Wroclaw.
Now they are determined to repeat the trick in their homeland, with a passionate home crowd roaring them on.
Sayfutdinov admits being the host nation may put a little extra pressure on his side. But he can’t wait to be part of the first shale-sport world final ever contested in a nation famous for its ice racing.
He said: “This will be a fantastic meeting. It will not be easy and there will be a little bit of pressure because we are at home. Our fans will be there and it will be a full stadium I hope.
“For sure we have a plan to win again, but we just want to enjoy this meeting. Then hopefully we can make history for Russian speedway.”
None of Russia’s stars are strangers to Togliatti. Laguta finished second in the 2017 GP Challenge there to earn his place in the SGP series, while Chugunov races his Russian league home matches there.
The city also holds great memories for Sayfutdinov. He said: “For sure I will have a lot of friends there because when I started my career, I lived in Togliatti. I still have good friends there. I lived there for three or four years.”
The Monster Energy SON is the only top-line speedway event where team riding is allowed and encouraged, and Sweden underlined how much teamwork can reap rewards with their victory ahead of Poland and hosts Germany at Race Off 1 in Landshut on May 4.
Former SGP star Peter Ljung handed Lindgren the inside gate in each of their heats to give the 2018 SGP bronze medallist the best chance of victory, and it paid off as he roared to an 18-point maximum.
Ljung has no hesitation in taking on the toughest gates again if it’s the right thing for his country. But he says Sweden may mix up their tactics for the Finals. He said: “We’re probably just going to take it as it comes. That worked out really well for us in Landshut. As long as we can get enough points together, that’s all we need to do.
“Whoever wins the heat and who gets the one or two points doesn’t really matter. We will do whatever we can for us to produce as a team. Whether that’s me or Freddie on the inside gates or we mix it up, it’ll be what it is.
“We don’t have a precise plan about that now. We will just take it as it comes. I’m sure we can get the team riding going and I’m sure we have a good chance of getting a good result.”
Tickets for the Monster Energy SON Finals are still available at the Anatoly Stepanov Stadium from 10:00-19:00 today and from 10:00-21:00 on both Saturday and Sunday.
MONSTER ENERGY SON FINALS TEAM LINE-UPS
RUSSIA: 1 Emil Sayfutdinov (captain), 2 Artem Laguta, 3 Gleb Chugunov (U21). Also in squad: Grigory Laguta, Roman Lakhbaum (U21). Team Manager: Igor Dmitriev.
SWEDEN: 1 Fredrik Lindgren (captain), 2 Peter Ljung, 3 Filip Hjelmland (U21). Also in squad: Antonio Lindback, Alexander Woentin (U21). Team Manager: Morgan Andersson.
POLAND: 1 Maciej Janowski (captain), 2 Bartosz Zmarzlik, 3 Maksym Drabik (U21). Also in squad: Patryk Dudek, Bartosz Smektala (U21). Team Manager: Marek Cieslak.
GERMANY: 1 Erik Riss, 2 Kai Huckenbeck (captain), 3 Lukas Fienhage (U21). Also in squad: Martin Smolinski, Michael Hartel. Team Manager: Herbert Rudolph.
GREAT BRITAIN: 1 Craig Cook (captain), 2 Chris Harris, 3 Robert Lambert (U21). Also in squad: Tai Woffinden, Dan Bewley (U21). Team Manager: Alun Rossiter.
AUSTRALIA: 1 Jason Doyle (captain), 2 Max Fricke, 3 Jaimon Lidsey (U21). Also in squad: Chris Holder, Jordan Stewart (U21). Team Manager: Mark Lemon.
DENMARK: 1 Leon Madsen, 2 Niels-Kristian Iversen (captain), 3 Frederik Jakobsen (U21). Also in squad: Michael Jepsen Jensen, Patrick Hansen. Team Manager: Hans Nielsen.
MONSTER ENERGY SON FINAL DAY 1 DRAW
G: Great Britain
MONSTER ENERGY SON FINAL DAY 2 DRAW
F: Great Britain