Polish racer Janusz Kolodziej admitted “it’s like a dream for me” as he joined Niels-Kristian Iversen and Antonio Lindback in qualifying for the 2019 FIM Speedway Grand Prix series.
Kolodziej, who last served as a full-time SGP star in 2011, topped the podium on 12 points at the GP Challenge in Landshut on Saturday night to end a seven-season absence from the sport’s biggest stage.
He’s joined by runner-up Iversen, who made it with a race to spare on 11 points to return to the series after just a year out.
And Swedish star Antonio Lindback also returns after a season away after dramatically roaring around current SGP rider Craig Cook to win a tense run-off, with the pair tying on 10 points after five rides.
Two-time FIM Speedway World Cup winner and three-time Polish champion Kolodziej can’t wait to have another shot at SGP success. And after realising his ambition of getting back into the big time, the Tarnow-born ace is already plotting for a successful return in 2019.
He said: “At the moment, it’s like a dream for me! Every rider wants to ride in Speedway GP, but now I know I can race in it next year. This is very important for me.
“Now I have to really think because I must change many things to produce good racing in the GP and be a good rider. But this is very good for me because maybe I will be a better rider. I look at when I rode in the GP and see what mistakes I made now. It’s easier for me because I know what I must change, I want to try it and now I can.”
Former world No.3 Iversen is elated to have put a year of shoulder-injury strife behind him by overcoming the Challenge for the fourth time in his career. He said: “It was good. I am really, really happy about the result. These meetings are always difficult – very tough and very cutthroat. But I am very happy I made the cut and I’m back in the game for next season.
“This is the fourth time I have qualified now. I have won the Challenge twice and I came third in 2012 and second in this one.
“I know what we have to do now. There is a long time to prepare for next season. It has been a tough time since I got injured last year and it has taken a long time to get back. Hopefully now I can just focus on building everything up and coming back strong.”
Lindback produced one of the moves of the meeting in the run-off as he broke Cook’s heart to put himself through to SGP 2019.
He said: “It was nice. It was hard work. The track was very difficult in the beginning, but I did a lot of hard work on it and finished up the meeting well. I am happy.
“I knew Craig was fast and he had a better start than I had. I needed to have a second plan and I was a little bit lucky he stayed on the inside, so I could go around him.
“Now I have qualified, I want to finish up this season first and then I will start to think about next year.”
Kolodziej, Iversen and Lindback will be joined in SGP 2019 by the top eight riders in this year’s World Championship, plus four permanent wild cards chosen by the SGP Commission.
GP CHALLENGE SCORES: 1 Janusz Kolodziej 12, 2 Niels-Kristian Iversen 11, 3 Antonio Lindback 10+3, 4 Craig Cook 10+2, 5 Robert Lambert 9, 6 Max Fricke 9, 7 Martin Smolinski 8, 8 Jack Holder 8, 9 Kenneth Bjerre 7, 10 Vaclav Milik 7, 11 David Bellego 7, 12 Hans Andersen 6, 13 Kevin Wolbert 5, 14 Matej Zagar 2, 16 Max Dilger 1, 17 Krzysztof Kasprzak 0, 18 Valentin Grobauer 0.