Team manager Alun Rossiter “it’s a great day for Great Britain, but it’s only half time” after his side powered into the lead in the Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations Final in Wroclaw.
The Lions stunned a host of more fancied rivals to end Final 1 on 25 points – putting them two ahead of Russia (23) and five clear of Denmark (20) going into Final 2 on Saturday night.
Double world champion Tai Woffinden blazed to an incredible 18-point maximum on his PGE Ekstraliga home track, while British Under-21 champion Robert Lambert’s terrific trapping earned him seven.
If the Brits cling on to their lead, they could land their first world team title since England won the World Team Cup at Bradford in 1989 – before either Woffinden or Lambert were born. It would also be their first world title in a pairs format since England won the 1984 World Pairs at Italian track Lonigo.
But thoughts of an historic triumph couldn’t be further from Rossiter’s mind tonight as he insists his side has plenty of work to do.
He said: “It’s good, but it’s only half time. We’re in a great position but our feet are firmly on the ground. It’s only halfway and anything can happen tomorrow.
“We’re 10 points up on the ones at the bottom of the bunch, but we’re only two points up on the
Russians. We have to stay firmly focused and I’m confident we’ll be doing that. It’s a great day for Great
Britain, but it’s only half time.”
Asked if he expected Lions to be in such a strong position at this stage, Rossiter admitted: “I thought we could be in the mix, but I’d be a liar if I said I thought we’d finish top. It’s great, but it’s half time and we have another big meeting tomorrow. We’ll carry on doing what we’re doing.”
The GB setup has undergone a huge revamp since VRX Motorsport bosses Rob Painter and Vicky Blackwell took over the national side from the BSPA in a franchise deal, drafting in a team of experts in everything from fitness and nutrition to travel and media.
And while Woffinden and Lambert delivered on the shale, Rossiter insists their performance was a team effort.
He said: “We all got back together when Rob and Vicky put this thing together. You can see everybody has worked for it and we’re all working together as a team.
“We have a great team. It’s not about me or Tai – it’s about the whole team we have now. This is what we have been trying to build up and hopefully we can go on to bigger things.
“We look good, we look smart and we look professional. We look like a team. Everybody has their jobs to do. Certain people are doing certain stuff. We have physios, nutritionists, fitness guys, tacticians – it’s a team effort.”
Can the Lions end their 29-year wait for gold? “Who knows?” Rossiter said. “Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
Russian racer Emil Sayfutdinov is glad his side is still in the hunt after he battled to six points on a night of setup struggles.
He said: “We are still in the game and we can do anything. For sure it was a tough meeting. We just need to focus on our points on Saturday.
“I had a little bit of a problem with the setup, but by the end of the meeting I had good speed. Hopefully we can keep that on Saturday and I can score some more points. Then we will try to win this Final.”
Danish star Michael Jepsen Jensen raced to 12 points for his country as he and Kenneth Bjerre recorded only one last place in a rock-solid performance. He said: “We’re just trying to gather all the points we possibly can and take it heat by heat. I think we worked great together. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.
“We know we have to score the points and have no last places in every heat if we’re going to be in the game at the end. I feel like I have good speed in the bikes. I made a few mistakes, but I was racing the bike and I felt good.”
MONSTER ENERGY SON FINAL 1 SCORES:
1 Great Britain 25: Tai Woffinden 18, Craig Cook 0, Robert Lambert 7.
2 Russia 23: Artem Laguta 17, Emil Sayfutdinov 6, Gleb Chugunov 0.
3 Denmark 20: Michael Jepsen Jensen 12, Kenneth Bjerre 8, Frederik Jakobsen DNR.
4 Sweden 16: Fredrik Lindgren 13, Antonio Lindback 3, Joel Kling DNR.
5 Australia 15: Jason Doyle 13, Max Fricke 2, Jaimon Lidsey DNR.
6 Poland 15: Maciej Janowski 9, Patryk Dudek 3, Maksym Drabik 3.
7 Germany 12: Kai Huckenbeck 0, Martin Smolinski 11, Michael Hartel 1.