Australian maximum man Jason Doyle was delighted to defy the “immense” pressure of a last-heat decider as he led his country into Saturday’s Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final in Manchester.
The Newcastle-born racer stormed to victory over Russia’s Emil Sayfutdinov and Danish star Niels-Kristian Iversen in heat 20 to complete a phenomenal 15-point maximum as the Aussies won the Monster Energy SWC Race Off.
They saw off a late charge from Denmark, who finished on 41, Russia (32) and the USA (9) to join Great Britain, Poland and Sweden in tomorrow’s title decider at the National Speedway Stadium.
Doyle was absolutely flawless all night, producing starts and pulling out leads that made him a cut above a world-class field. But even after four wins, he admits the pressure of knowing he needed to beat Iversen in race 20 to see his country into the Final was a real test of nerve. He said: “To get a maximum in World Cup speedway was an awesome feeling. Heat 20 was not the race I wanted to have to win. The pressure was immense.
“Going into that race, I really didn’t know what to think. I had four riders, Darcy Ward and everyone on my back, helping to push me through. I really wanted to do it for the boys. That feeling when we won and went through to the Final, I’ll never forget it. I knew I had to make a really good start off gate one. Having Emil off two and Niels off three, I knew it was going to have to be the race of my life.
“In GPs, you just have to worry about yourself. If you have a bad ride, you beat yourself up about it. I had five guys I really wanted to do it for and the feeling was amazing to go over the finish line and make the World Cup Final.”
Doyle expects a huge challenge from the Poles, Swedes and Brits in the Final and insists Australia won’t underestimate any of their rivals.
He said: “In the press this week, a reporter quoted me as saying Great Britain is a weak team. But there is not one weak team in the Final and there isn’t one weak rider in the British team. “We have three teams we’ll have to ride our backsides off to beat. It’s going to be very difficult and there will be a lot of fans backing the Brits. Everyone rides at their best when they have so much support.”
Australia were forced to draft in under-21 reserve Brady Kurtz midway through the meeting when Max Fricke crashed hard in heat four, sustaining an elbow injury. The Poole star collected six points from four rides and could race in the Final if Fricke isn’t passed fit.
Doyle was delighted to see the Australian champion take his chance to shine as the nation’s young guns proved their class alongside SGP heavyweights Doyle and Chris Holder. He said: “The pressure on these young kids is immense. It’s one of those moments where we need to push them through and not bury them. We want to help these young kids because they are the Aussie future.
“Max is a great prospect and Brady is too. This is what we need in the Australian camp. Hats off to Sam Masters; for him to score 12, it shows he’s up for the challenge. Brady came in after the second heat and did a really good job. We have a lot of young kids coming through in Australia. They see these meetings on TV and really want to be here. Once you see SWC and SGP speedway, it’s amazing.”
Danish skipper Iversen starred for his team on 16 points and was delighted with the way they battled back into Final contention after being eight points down on the Aussies after eight races.
NKI said: “We knew it was going to be difficult and it looked pretty hard at some points. But we managed to win it back and keep it really close at the end. Of course it was disappointing we didn’t manage to turn Australia over in the last race. But they were a better team than us and we benefitted from the joker as well, and they didn’t. I think it’s fair to say they were a better team. But it doesn’t make it any less disappointing.”
Russian captain Emil Sayfutdinov hopes the experience of racing in Britain on the Monster Energy SWC stage will serve his side well in future years after they missed out in third place.
He said: “It was tough. We wanted to get to the Final, but we lost too many points and that’s speedway. It was a tough track for us. Most of us were in Britain for the first time, but it was good for the boys to get some experience. In the future, it will be better. Some riders had a little bit more experience. There’s a lot of pressure on the World Cup meetings.”
One interested observer in the Manchester pits was Great Britain skipper Tai Woffinden. The world champion insists he’s ready to spearhead the Lions challenge at their National Speedway Stadium on Saturday.
He said: “I know there is an extra responsibility for me to help the guys but at the same time I need to do my job for the team and that means scoring as many points as possible. It’s always great to ride for Great Britain in the Monster Energy SWC. I will wear the race jacket with pride and do my very best for the team. It will also be nice to see my British fans again. I’m looking forward to going to Belle Vue and riding a new track. I’m sure the final will be a great meeting.”
MONSTER ENERGY SWC RACE OFF SCORES
AUSTRALIA 44: 1 Sam Masters 12, 2 Max Fricke 2, 3 Jason Doyle 15, 4 Chris Holder 9, 5 Brady Kurtz 6.
DENMARK 41: 1 Niels-Kristian Iversen 16, 2 Leon Madsen 7, 3 Michael Jepsen Jensen 11, 4 Kenneth Bjerre 7, 5 Mikkel B Andersen DNR.
RUSSIA 32: 1 Grigorii Laguta 7, 2 Emil Sayfutdinov 16, 3 Andrei Kudriashov 4, 4 Artem Laguta 5, 5 Viktor Kulakov DNR.
USA 9: 1 Luke Becker 0, 2 Billy Janniro 3, 3 Broc Nicol 0, 4 Ryan Fisher 6.
Photos credit - Nuno Laranjeira