Polish racer Przemyslaw Pawlicki revealed a team talk from injured skipper Jaroslaw Hampel inspired his side into Saturday’s Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final as they won tonight’s Race Off at Vojens.
The Poles triumphed at the Danish track on 48 points, pipping Great Britain who were second on 43, despite a terrific 21-point maximum from captain Tai Woffinden. The USA were third on 22, while three-man Russia finished fourth on 11 points.
Poland will now battle it out with hosts Denmark, Event 1 winners Sweden and Event 2 victors Australia in Saturday’s Monster Energy SWC Final at Vojens, and the men in red and white have dedicated their world title bid to Hampel.
The former world No.2 broke his leg in two places in an horrific crash at Event 1 in Gniezno, Poland on Saturday and underwent a five-hour operation to repair the damage in Poznan on Tuesday. He is unlikely to race again this year.
That didn’t stop the six-time SWC winner playing his part in Poland’s success and Pawlicki paid tribute to his former Leszno team mate for some timely encouragement before the Race Off.
He said: “Jarek called before the meeting when we were walking the track. He called and said ‘boys, I’m watching the TV and keeping my fingers crossed.’
“Jarek was captain in the first meeting and we lost him. We’re in contact every day, though, and he feels better now. This is important for the Polish team. Now we race for him.
“Every point we score is for him and we remember he’s the captain of the Polish team. It was not such a good situation in Gniezno. He broke his leg, but he knows all the riders in Poland are keeping their fingers crossed he’s back on track fast.
“I’m sure he was happy with us. It was such a good night for the Polish team. It wasn’t so easy, but everyone in the team did some good work. Every rider scored points and we won.”
Poland didn’t have things all their own way and disaster struck in heat 12 when GB took maximum advantage of their joker ride. Woffinden stormed clear to double three points to six, while Pawlicki was controversially excluded for a clash with Russian rival Andrei Kudriashov on lap four, bend two.
This turned the meeting on its head as Poland went from being six points up to being level with the Lions on 28. But after the final result went his team’s way, Pawlicki didn’t dwell on what could have proved a turning point.
He said: “Now I’m not thinking about this situation, but everyone saw on the TV what happened. I know I didn’t touch him too much.
“Tai won the joker ride – he was very fast tonight. He had perfect starts and perfect speed on the track.
“He took the joker and scored six points. I was excluded and that was not so good. We had the same points as Britain after that race, but everyone knew we had to fight. We did this and we had a really good night. We won. That’s important and we’re back at Vojens for Saturday.”
GB manager Alun Rossiter accepts his Lions just fell slightly short against a talented young Polish side. But he was elated with maximum man Woffinden and 17-year-old sensation Robert Lambert, who scored eight from four rides, including two race wins.
He said: “We were not quite strong enough really in the end, if we’re quite honest. The Poles were strong all the way through and didn’t make that many mistakes. It has been a good week, though.
“Woffy was absolutely outstanding. He was on fire and just left everybody behind really. Robert certainly did really well and it was great to work with him this week.
“There’s all the hoo-ha about him and the whole world is watching. He handed that pressure very well. He has an old head on young shoulders.”
USA skipper Greg Hancock was keen to take the positives from another Monster Energy SWC, where his young American side continued to gain experience on the big stage.
He said: “We had our moments. We knew we were up against a huge battle. In one way, it’s a win, win situation for us again. We’re trying to slowly climb the ladder and the more experience these guys get, the better. You can see that they’re getting more and more on the pace and throwing in some good heats.
“We outdid the Latvians in Britain and we outdid the Russians on Thursday. I know they were depleted, but we fought hard and it gives our guys a good boost to know they have the ability to take points and be competing with the world’s best, which they did again in Vojens.”
The Monster Energy SWC Final draw was completed after the Race Off. Hosts, defending champions and favourites Denmark race in red helmets. Sweden compete in blue, Poland line up in white, with Australia racing in yellow.
Tickets for the Vojens showpiece are still on sale. They are available at the stadium on Saturday, or buy online and print at home here: www.billetlugen.dk/en/event/2015-monster-energy-fim-speedway-wold-cup-finale.
MONSTER ENERGY SWC RACE OFF SCORES:
POLAND 48: 1 Maciej Janowski 14, 2 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 11, 3 Krzysztof Buczkowski 13, 4 Bartosz Zmarzlik 10.
GREAT BRITAIN 43: 1 Daniel King 7, 2 Tai Woffinden 21, 3 Robert Lambert 8, 4 Chris Harris 7.
USA 22: 1 Gino Manzares 3, 2 Ryan Fisher 5, 3 Greg Hancock 12, 4 Max Ruml 2.
RUSSIA 11: 1 Renat Gafurov 2, 2 No Rider, 3 Vitaly Belousov 5, 4 Andrei Kudriashov 4.