Swedish skipper Andreas Jonsson saluted a sensational Vastervik home crowd as his side stormed into the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final. The defending champions triumphed on 48 points in Event 2 at the Stena Arena, seeing off Australia (37), USA (22) and Germany (19).
Sweden join hosts Great Britain and Poland in the Monster Energy SWC Final in Manchester on Saturday, with Australia and the USA facing Denmark and Russia in the Race Off on Friday for the fourth spot in the Final. "It’s nice to win when you have the home fans there because there’s a lot of extra pressure. When you can do it and perform, it’s such a lovely feeling." - Andreas Jonsson
A fantastic crowd turned out to roar the Swedes through, with Jonsson and Antonio Lindback topping their scorechart on 13 points apiece. Fredrik Lindgren and local hero Peter Ljung weighed in with 11 each as the hosts sealed victory with two races to spare.
AJ was delighted with the way his team dealt with the huge weight of expectation from the home fans and thrived on the support of a great crowd. He said: “The fans were unbelievable. It was really good to be racing in front of such a nice home crowd. You could see they backed us up great.
“It’s nice to win when you have the home fans there because there’s a lot of extra pressure. When you can do it and perform, it’s such a lovely feeling. It was really good. I’m really happy. If you look at the performance of the whole team, everybody did such a good job. That’s the most important thing. We worked as a team and we won as a team.”
Sweden started the meeting playing catch-up after Lindgren hit the tapes in race one. It took AJ’s men eight races to draw level with Australia, but Jonsson was delighted with how his side responded.
He said: “Obviously it’s not the best to start with one of the boys touching the tapes, but you have to understand it’s a lot of pressure performing on our home track. Freddie was off gate four, which isn’t very good here, so there was a lot of pressure on him. He just wanted it a little bit too much I think. But we pulled it back after that and really worked as a team. We did a great job together.”
Jonsson heads to Manchester seeking what would be his fourth SWC gold medal, following his triumphs at Vojens in 2003 and 2015 and Poole in 2004. But even with one of the most experienced sides in the competition, AJ accepts retaining the Ove Fundin Trophy is a huge task.
He said: “In the Final, there will be four great teams. Everybody is going to take points from each other. You need to have a bit of luck to really hit it right. The team that wins is going to have a little bit of luck for sure. I really hope we can win it. That’s what we’re going there for. We know it’s going to be tough. We’ll do everything we can and if we can do it, it would be wonderful.”
Australian team manager Mark Lemon believes Sweden capitalised on their experience and home advantage. But he insists a young Roos team is already determined to make up for missing out on Final qualification by booking their spot via Friday’s Race Off.
He said: “Experience and home-track advantage paid, and the Swedes are the current world champions. They came into the event extremely confident and it would have been extremely disappointing for them to lose. They were up against it and they had to deliver, which they did. We’ve been here before; we’re going to the Race Off. No-one wants to go to the Race Off because it’s so damn hard. But our attention is already focused on Friday.”
Lemon admits he considered bringing in top scorer Jason Doyle as his tactical joker in heat 16, but opted to keep faith with Chris Holder, who was programmed for that race.
The 2012 world champion was passed by Lindback and Greg Hancock, doubling just one point to two. “I could have played the joker with Jason instead of Chris,” Lemon said. “But Chris had just sorted his bikes out. It was a team decision. It didn’t affect the result. Sweden were just too good.”
American icon Hancock piled up a whopping 17 points for the USA – more than any other rider in Vastervik. His six-point haul from a joker ride in heat 13 proved the difference in dumping Germany out of the Monster Energy SWC.
With the Race Off in Manchester, Grin hopes his team’s vast experience in the British leagues benefits them on Friday night.
He said: “Now we’re in the Race Off. It’s on British soil – Ricky and Ryan race there, and Billy raced a lot of years there. I had a lot of years there as well. We’re going to a new track and it’s going to be an awesome opportunity for all of us. I hope it’ll be a different result than it was tonight. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t think it would be that hard. The Germans came on strong.”
The helmet colour draw has been completed by the FIM for the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Race Off and Final. For the Race Off, Russia ride in red, Denmark in blue, Australia in white, with USA completing the line-up in yellow. Hosts Great Britain have been drawn in yellow for the Final on Saturday, where Poland race in red, Sweden in white and the Race Off winners in blue.
MONSTER ENERGY SWC EVENT 2 SCORES
SWEDEN 48: 1 Antonio Lindback 13, 2 Fredrik Lindgren 11, 3 Andreas Jonsson 13, 4 Peter Ljung 11, 5 Joel Andersson DNR.
AUSTRALIA 37: 1 Chris Holder 11, 2 Sam Masters 5, 3 Max Fricke 9, 4 Jason Doyle 12, 5 Brady Kurtz DNR.
USA 22: 1 Greg Hancock 17, 2 Ryan Fisher 2, 3 Billy Janniro 2, 4 Ricky Wells 1, 5 Luke Becker DNR.
GERMANY 19: 1 Kevin Wolbert 2, 2 Kai Huckenbeck 1, 3 Tobias Kroner 4, 4 Martin Smolinski 12.