The 15 permanent riders in FIM Speedway Grand Prix (SGP) have been given the green light to use their personal riding numbers in the 2014 Series as they bid to become world champion.
While SGP fans are more used to seeing the permanent riders line up in numbers one to 15, this year’s field will break that tradition as they don numbers ranging from one to 507.
Riders were given the option to retain their ranking number – their finishing position in last year’s SGP series – or chose their own rider number. It’s no surprise that world champion Tai Woffinden will enjoy the prestige that comes with being No.1, instead of using his personal racing number, which is 108.
Triple world champion Nicki Pedersen has chosen No.5 after finishing fifth in 2013, but American legend Greg Hancock races in his iconic No.45, while Slovenian star Matej Zagar will have No.55 on his race jacket as well as his bike this year.
World No.2 Jaroslaw Hampel has nominated No.33 and bronze medallist Niels-Kristian Iversen has picked No.88 – one digit away from No.89 Emil Sayfutdinov.
Riders could not pick numbers one to 22, unless the number they selected was their finishing position in 2013. Luckily for 2012 world champion Chris Holder, this allowed him to choose his No.23.
Two riders will be in triple digits after Andreas Jonsson plumped for No.100 and Polish racer Krzysztof Kasprzak takes the prize for the highest number of all, as he races at No.507.
The new racing numbers will not be used to settle any ties for World Championship places or semi-final qualification. If riders are deadlocked on points, the rider with the lowest ranking number takes seniority.
SGP first reserve Troy Batchelor retains the No.19 race jacket, while second stand-in Michael Jepsen Jensen will be No.20 if they are called into action. Each SGP wild card will still turn out in the traditional No.16 race jacket, while the track reserves remain No.17 and No.18.
BSI Speedway managing director Paul Bellamy hopes the introduction of personal racing numbers will come as a boost to the FIM Speedway Grand Prix stars on and off the track.
He said: “The SGP riders mentioned they would be keen to use their own numbers, as athletes do in other sports, to ensure they are as memorable and marketable to the fans as possible.
“We are only too happy to agree and the move allows riders to use their lucky number on the track, while their fans wear it on their merchandise off the track.
“I can’t wait to see which number comes out on top at the end of the year. With another competitive World Championship race in prospect, all we know is that it will be somewhere between No.1 and No.507.”
FIM SPEEDWAY GRAND PRIX RACING NUMBERS (in ranking order):
1 Tai Woffinden (Great Britain)
33 Jaroslaw Hampel (Poland)
88 Niels-Kristian Iversen (Denmark)
45 Greg Hancock (USA)
5 Nicki Pedersen (Denmark)
89 Emil Sayfutdinov (Russia)
55 Matej Zagar (Slovenia)
43 Darcy Ward (Australia)
507 Krzysztof Kasprzak (Poland)
66 Fredrik Lindgren (Sweden)
23 Chris Holder (Australia)
100 Andreas Jonsson (Sweden)
91 Kenneth Bjerre (Denmark)
84 Martin Smolinski (Germany)
37 Chris Harris (Great Britain)
16 WILD CARD
17 TRACK RESERVE 1
18 TRACK RESERVE 2
19 Troy Batchelor (Australia)
20 Michael Jepsen Jensen (Denmark)
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