FIM Speedway Grand Prix history could be made at the final European round of 2017 as Australian icon Jason Doyle closes on World Championship gold.
The Newcastle-born racer on 132 points goes into the NICE Torun SGP of Poland with a 22-point lead over nearest rival Patryk Dudek, who has 110.
While he can guarantee the title with a 21-point maximum; Doyle’s target is reduced with every point surrendered by the Pole, with Maciej Janowski in third also chasing on 108. Finishing the job in Poland would see Doyle become the first rider representing Australia to be crowned world champion on home shale at the QBE Insurance Australian SGP at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on October 28.
But JD is a man who takes nothing for granted, especially having left Torun’s Marian Rose Motoarena in an ambulance on two of his last three visits, suffering season-ending injuries in last year’s Torun SGP and a broken foot when Polish club Zielona Gora visited in the Ekstraliga in June.
“After what happened in Torun last year, we just have to be safe,” he said. “I just keep thinking about what happened in Torun when we were in front, so there is still a long way to go. It’s not going to happen until they actually say I am world champion. You never know. I don’t really want to think about it at the moment. There are too many things that can go wrong. Let’s wait and see what happens; that’s all I can do myself.”
While Doyle is somewhat cautious, Slovenian star Matej Zagar is a man on the march after back-to-back SGP wins in Teterow and Stockholm last month. He currently holds the eighth and final automatic qualifying place for the 2018 World Championship on 86 points – one ahead of Martin Vaculik in ninth.
But Zagar insists he isn’t looking down as he bids to keep his successful run going and secure his spot for next season.
He said: “We just need to keep this together. I know I cannot win every GP, but why not win more? That’s my focus – keep sharp and win as many as I can. I come to the meetings now on a high and content. Even when something isn’t working, I know we only have to make some small changes to the setup on the bike and it will be good.
"I have good equipment now and when I come to the tapes, I’m 100 percent sure I’m in a battle to win the races. It’s a great feeling. My main goal is getting in the top and being there in 2018. Can I make it three wins in a row? No-one knows that. I will give it my best shot and I definitely have better confidence than a few months ago. It would be really fantastic if I could and we’ll see what I can do in Torun.”
There are four changes to the line-up for Torun with Greg Hancock, Nicki Pedersen, Niels-Kristian Iversen and Fredrik Lindgren all sidelined due to injury. Series reserves Peter Kildemand, Martin Smolinski, Max Fricke and Vaclav Milik cover for them. Meanwhile, this weekend could also see Great Britain skipper Craig Cook’s place in the 2018 World Championship confirmed, should Dudek guarantee his place in this year’s top eight.
If he does, the qualification berth he earned for finishing third at the GP Challenge in Togliatti on August 19 will pass to Cook, who was fourth in the Russian event.
NICE TORUN SGP OF POLAND LINE-UP (in ranking order with rider numbers): 25 Peter Kildemand (substitute for 45 Greg Hancock), 108 Tai Woffinden, 95 Bartosz Zmarzlik, 23 Chris Holder, 69 Jason Doyle, 777 Piotr Pawlicki, 85 Antonio Lindback, 46 Max Fricke (substitute for 88 Niels-Kristian Iversen), 55 Matej Zagar, 71 Maciej Janowski, 225 Vaclav Milik (substitute for 66 Fredrik Lindgren), 84 Martin Smolinski (substitute for 12 Nicki Pedersen), 692 Patryk Dudek, 54 Martin Vaculik, 89 Emil Sayfutdinov, 16 Pawel Przedpelski, 17 Bartosz Smektala, 18 Igor Kopec-Sobczynski.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Jason Doyle 132, 2 Patryk Dudek 110, 3 Maciej Janowski 108, 4 Fredrik Lindgren 107, 5 Emil Sayfutdinov 102, 6 Tai Woffinden 100, 7 Bartosz Zmarzlik 94, 8 Matej Zagar 86, 9 Martin Vaculik 85, 10 Chris Holder 75, 11 Antonio Lindback 72, 12 Piotr Pawlicki 69, 13 Peter Kildemand 46, 14 Greg Hancock 45, 15 Niels-Kristian Iversen 44, 16 Vaclav Milik 20, 17 Martin Smolinski 17, 18 Nicki Pedersen 8, 19 Michael Jepsen Jensen 8, 20 Maksims Bogdanovs 8, 21 Max Fricke 7, 22 Kenneth Bjerre 7, 23 Krzysztof Kasprzak 6, 24 Kai Huckenbeck 4, 25 Jacob Thorssell 4, 26 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 3, 27 Craig Cook 2, 28 Linus Sundstrom 2, 29 Kim Nilsson 2, 30 Josh Bates 2, 31 Nick Skorja 1.
FIM Speedway GP