Danish hotshot Nicki Pedersen won the season-opening FIM Fogo European Speedway Grand Prix at Leszno on Saturday night, and promptly paid tribute to his star-studded pit crew.
The three-time world champion triumphed in the final ahead of defending world No.1 Tomasz Gollob, Russian starlet Emil Sayfutdinov and fellow countryman Jaroslaw Hampel.
Pedersen scraped into the semi-finals on nine points after a win, two seconds and two thirds in his heats, before holding off Kenneth Bjerre to claim second and reach the last four.
He then charged ruthlessly under Gollob on the back straight in the first lap of the final and snatched a lead he never relinquished.
Despite collecting the silver medal, the Pole leads the World Championship after accruing 18 points on the night and is one ahead of Pedersen on 17.
The Odense-born man was over the moon with his performance, though, and admits he could not have done it without mechanics John Jorgensen and Luigi Barath, who have returned to his team after leaving at the end of 2009.
Pedersen said: “They are doing a fantastic job, along with Tom P Madsen. The team is really working well. I am so pleased with that.
“I do my best, but the engines and the bikes have to go forward. It doesn’t matter how much I want to win if we don’t have the right setup.
“That’s all down to me and it’s all down to the team. They really did a fantastic job. They know me and they have to understand me.
“As a result, I’ve got that feeling back where I don’t need to think too much. I just do what I do with the feeling in the pit of my stomach. That’s when I get dangerous and fast.
“The team were supporting me all night, they made the right decisions and that was good.”
After finishing 10th in last year’s World Championship, Pedersen was desperate to make a fast start to 2011.
“Everybody was wishing me good luck for the start of the season and I hoped I could get a better start than last year,” he said. “It couldn’t be any worse. I wanted to show everybody I am an important part of the Grand Prix series. I’ve had two awful seasons and it has been very tough for me. But I feel hungry again, I raced as well as I could and I had the speed.
“Halfway through the meeting I thought I had lost the momentum a little bit. But we made the clever decision for the final to change bikes and it was even faster. It’s about setup all the time. I’m pleased and it was a fantastic, fantastic track to ride.”
Pedersen and Gollob met three times during the meeting and every race produced fireworks. The Pole tumbled on the outside of the Dane in heat six, but having shut off going into the corner and failed to turn, Gollob was rightly excluded by British referee Craig Ackroyd.
The duo were able to laugh and joke about the incident in the post-SGP press conference and Pedersen admits the Gorzow team mates get along well these days, even if they are still prepared to fight hard on the track.
He said: “It has been completely different with me and Tomasz in the last few years. Tomasz has a lot of respect for me and he always has had. He’s a true world champion as well.
“He admitted that he tried to be a bit dirty and it didn’t work. I knew the way around it. But next time it is going to go the other way.”
Britain’s SGP star Chris Harris failed to reach the semis after scoring seven points in his heats. But on a fiercely-competitive night which saw Australian racer Chris Holder miss the last-eight cut on nine, it was far from a disgrace.
LESZNO POINTS AND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (AFTER ONE ROUND OF 11): 1 Tomasz Gollob 18, 2 Nicki Pedersen 17, 3 Greg Hancock 14, 4 Emil Sayfutdinov 14, 5 Jaroslaw Hampel 12, 6 Freddie Lindgren 11, 7 Kenneth Bjerre 10, 8 Rune Holta 9, 9 Chris Holder 9, 10 Janusz Kolodziej 8, 11 Chris Harris 7, 12 Jason Crump 5, 13 Andreas Jonsson 5, 14 Damian Balinski 4, 15 Antonio Lindback 1, 16 Artem Laguta 0, 17 Patryk Dudek 0, 18 Maciej Janowski 0.
Semi-Final 1: Hampel, Sayfutdinov, Hancock, Holta.
Semi-Final 2: Gollob, Pedersen, Bjerre, Lindgren (f.exc).
Final: Pedersen, Gollob, Sayfutdinov, Hampel.