GP Challenge winner Patryk Dudek insists he doesn’t fear the step up to the FIM Speedway Grand Prix elite after qualifying for the 2017 World Championship in Vetlanda on Saturday.
The Zielona Gora and Dackarna star capped an unforgettable year by triumphing in the GP Challenge with a 15-point maximum. He’s joined in next year’s SGP series by runner-up Martin Vaculik, who scored 14, and third-placed Fredrik Lindgren, who won a run-off with Kenneth Bjerre to qualify after they tied on 11.
Dudek was in unstoppable form in one of the most intense meetings on the world speedway calendar. He admits he quickly settled any nerves he had before the Swedish showdown, and now he can’t wait to take on the world’s biggest names in the 2017 SGP series.
He said: “I felt a little pressure before the first heat, but when I took a few laps, I felt better and I felt very good on the bike and on this track. It was a perfect day. We didn’t change the sprocket on the bike. I stayed with the same one all the time and it was brilliant.
“I think next year will be very good. Maybe the tracks won’t be the same, but all the riders are the same because I race them all the time in the Swedish and Polish leagues. I think it will be good next year.
“It’s four laps, five heats ... hopefully seven if I make the final! It’s just the same. It’s normal.
"I’m happy. It’ll be my first time in the GP and I hope I can start in the GP all the time now.”
Dudek went into the meeting having won his first Polish Championship and his second Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup this year.
So adding SGP qualification to the list was a special moment. He said: “I have done it all this year – Polish champ, SWC winner and I’ve qualified to the Grand Prix for next year. Now I hope I can get a good result in the Polish league and the Swedish league. We’re fighting in the play-offs, so I hope it will be very good.”
Elated runner-up Martin Vaculik can’t wait to be an FIM Speedway Grand Prix rider for the first time since 2013.
He said: “It’s unbelievable! It’s fantastic! I’m very pleased with this result. First I want to thank the organisers for giving me a wild card for this meeting. They trusted me and I got this chance.
“I also want to thank the Vetlanda club. They helped me with everything today and we are very good friends. I just want to thank everyone who supports me like sponsors, family and friends. It’s perfect. Now I am very happy. I just want to enjoy this moment.”
Third-placed Lindgren has served as this season’s SGP first reserve, but his place in every round is guaranteed for 2017 after he held his nerve in a titanic run-off with Bjerre.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “It has been one of the very big goals for me all year. It hasn’t been one of my favourite tracks, so I am really proud of what I have achieved – making it into the top three.
“I gave it everything I could. I rode Kenneth pretty tough a few times, but he kept coming back and coming back. We swapped positions a few times, but I managed to make a pretty smart manoeuvre on the last lap and stay in front.”
GP CHALLENGE SCORES: 1 Patryk Dudek 15, 2 Martin Vaculik 14, 3 Fredrik Lindgren 11+3, 4 Kenneth Bjerre 11+2, 5 Martin Smolinski 10, 6 Peter Ljung 9, 7 Krzysztof Kasprzak 7, 8 Nicolas Covatti 7, 9 Piotr Pawlicki 6, 10 Max Fricke 6, 11 Sam Masters 5, 12 Mikkel Bech Jensen 5, 13 Brady Kurtz 5, 14 Krzysztof Buczkowski 5, 15 Max Fricke 3, 16 Robert Lambert 1, 17 Vaclav Milik DNR.