Russian hero Emil Sayfutdinov set his sights on individual World Championship gold after lifting the nation’s first world title at the first ever Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations Final in Wroclaw.
Sayfutdinov and partner Artem Laguta made history as they saw off Great Britain pair Tai Woffinden and Robert Lambert in the Grand Final to win Russia’s first senior world title of any kind on the shale – individual or team.
Despite GB topping the scorechart over two days to finish on 46 points, Russia – who were just one short – saw off Poland in the final qualifier to take their place alongside the Lions in the battle for gold.
And despite Woffinden winning the race, Laguta and Sayfutdinov filled the minor places needed to make history.
But the former world No.3 has no intention of stopping there and is now targeting the nation’s first world individual title in the FIM Speedway Grand Prix series.
Sayfutdinov said: “Now I am focused on the Grand Prix and making history there. I want to be world champion for sure in the Grand Prix and I’ll do everything to be on top. We will see.
“But this is a great feeling – unbelievable. We did it – we made history for Russia and we have to thank our Russian fans and also our Polish fans who support us. We have Polish sponsors who help us too. We have made history and it is an amazing feeling.
“This meeting was so tough over two days for me. Artem scored good points, even today he made some mistakes with the setup, but he was still good.
“For me, Saturday was everything I worked for. After Friday, we needed to change the bike setups. I have to say thank you to my team who worked really hard and helped me. They’re a good team. I am so, so happy.”
Laguta was equally elated to etch his name in Russian speedway folklore and admits being held to a 3-3 by GB in heat 19 spurred them on to get the verdict when it mattered most.
He said: “I don’t know what to say. There are no words that can answer how I feel. I feel so happy and proud of the whole team and especially to have won the first gold for Team Russia. It’s just unbelievable – such a great night.
“When I was leading in the last regular race against GB, we knew the Grand Final was nearly there, but then Tai was faster. It was good, fair racing.
“It showed we needed to work harder and we did it in the final qualifier. In the Grand Final, we knew second and third would give us gold, so we planned to let Tai go and try to hold those places.”
Like Sayfutdinov, Laguta also has a taste for gold after his Monster Energy SON success. He said: “Now I will keep going. I’m looking for a Grand Prix win. I’ve tasted gold now. Next I would like to taste the SGP champagne. But the main thing is enjoying my speedway and every single day of racing.”
Great Britain team manager Alun Rossiter admits he had mixed feelings, despite seeing his side race to their first world championship medal of any colour outside of the UK since England won silver in the World Team Cup at Bydgoszcz in 1995.
He said: “I’m slightly disappointed, but I shouldn’t be really. I got criticised a couple of years ago when we got silver in our own country, but we’ve come to Poland and beaten them in their own back yard. That’s a massive step forward.
“When it all sinks in properly, we shouldn’t be too down on ourselves. I know the boys aren’t. I’m super proud of all three of them.
“It was a team event; it wasn’t just about one or two riders. Everybody played their part and we have a silver medal. I should be really happy and I am.”
Polish star Patryk Dudek was content with a bronze medal after helping the hosts bounce back from finishing sixth on the opening day of the Final to race their way firmly into championship contention.
He said: “We have third place and I feel good because Friday was very, very bad for the team.
“This is speedway. On Friday I had the same engines as today, but we had a big problem with the sprocket. Today I had the same engine and it was okay. So I don’t know what to say.
“It’s a difficult sport. All the riders are at a high level, so the small differences are important.”
With the Monster Energy SON complete, the focus switches back to the FIM Speedway Grand Prix series, which resumes with the Danish SGP in Horsens on June 30.
MONSTER ENERGY SON FINAL STANDINGS (after two days):
1 Russia 45+1st in Grand Final
2 Great Britain 46+2nd in Grand Final
3 Poland 36
4 Denmark 35
5 Australia 35
6 Sweden 32
7 Germany 23.
FINAL 2 SCORES:
1 Russia 22: Artem Laguta 14, Emil Sayfutdinov 8, Gleb Chugunov DNR.
2 Great Britain 21: Tai Woffinden 17, Craig Cook DNR, Robert Lambert 4.
3 Poland 21: Maciej Janowski 13, Patryk Dudek 8, Maksym Drabik DNR.
4 Australia 20: Jason Doyle 16, Max Fricke 4, Jaimon Lidsey DNR.
5 Sweden 16: Fredrik Lindgren 9, Antonio Lindback 7, Joel Kling DNR.
6 Denmark 15: Michael Jepsen Jensen 15, Kenneth Bjerre 0, Frederik Jakobsen 0.
7 Germany 11: Kai Huckenbeck 9, Martin Smolinski 2, Michael Hartel 0.