Polish hero Bartosz Zmarzlik revealed he was tipped for the top by Tomasz Gollob a decade ago after following in his mentor’s tyre treads to become Poland’s third FIM Speedway Grand Prix world champion.
Zmarzlik made history when he reached the Revline Torun SGP of Poland final with 14 points to follow 1973 World Final winner Jerzy Szczakiel and 2010 SGP champion Tomasz Gollob into Polish speedway’s most exclusive club.
The 24-year-old held his nerve under immense pressure after Leon Madsen won the Revline Torun SGP with a 21-point maximum to push Zmarzlik all the way, with the Dane claiming the silver medal and Russia’s Emil Sayfutdinov bagging bronze.
It’s nine years since Gollob lifted the sport’s biggest prize in 2010 and Zmarzlik spent that season racing with the great man at Polish club Gorzow.
Now it’s Zmarzlik who leads Gorzow’s challenge in the PGE Ekstraliga and he admits Polish speedway’s all-time great backed him to follow his compatriot to the top of the sport one day.
He said: “Tomasz Gollob was my leader and I remember being with Tomasz in 2010. He said to me ‘young man, you are the same make as me, but in a smaller size.’
“This is unbelievable – I am the third Polish world champion. It is very nice and I don’t know what to say now.
“It has been a hard month for me. I have had all these people coming up to me, saying ‘you can win’ or ‘you’ve won’. It was a hard time. I am much happier now.
“I want to say a big thanks to the Polish fans, and all the fans. They created a good atmosphere in the stadium.”
Zmarzlik went into the second semi-final requiring a win or second place to seal the title, and he delivered one of the starts of his life to claim an unforgettable victory before celebrating wildly with his crew and the fans.
With so much at stake, Zmarzlik was ultra-focused at the start line. He said: “The semi-finals were very important. I didn’t think anything in my head – I was only looking for the tapes. It was very important – that very first moment at the start line.
“At the end of the first corner, I felt I could win the heat. Then everything happened in slow motion in that race. It was unbelievable. It was the best race of my career.”
Zmarzlik hailed Madsen for racing to the first and only 21-point maximum of 2019 to push him all the way in the battle for gold.
He said: “All season, no other rider has scored 21 points. But Leon did it.
“I am even happier because everything worked well and I got 14. It was not so easy, but I got the World Championship.”
Madsen was elated with his third SGP win of 2019, adding to his Warsaw and Cardiff victories, as he became only the second rider to win World Championship silver in their debut season, following Patryk Dudek in 2017.
The 2018 European champion said: “It was incredible. I am stoked about my own performance tonight. I am very happy about being vice-world champion in my first year in the GP.
“Considering the injuries I have had this year, it hasn’t been easy, racing with pain in the ankle and back. It just makes me prouder about what I have achieved this year.”
Sayfutdinov reached the rostrum for the first time since winning SGP bronze in his debut season 10 years ago.
While he was disappointed not to become Russia’s first individual senior world champion, he saluted new champion Zmarzlik.
He said: “I tried my best and I would have loved to have won this meeting. I would love to have been the first Russian world champion, but Bartosz Zmarzlik didn’t give me the chance. He was so good.
“I tried my hardest. I raced 100 percent all night and I knew what was at stake. Bartek is the well-deserved world champion.”
Zmarzlik, Madsen and Sayfutdinov are joined in qualifying for SGP 2020, by fourth-placed Fredrik Lindgren, Martin Vaculik in fifth, Maciej Janowski in sixth, Jason Doyle in seventh and eighth-placed Patryk Dudek.
Ninth-placed Matej Zagar and Niels-Kristian Iversen in 10th spot join them after finishing first and second respectively at the GP Challenge in Gorican on August 24, with Australia’s Max Fricke – third in that meeting – joining them.
The SGP 2020 line-up will be completed by four wild cards, which will be named by the SGP Commission soon.
FINAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Bartosz Zmarzlik 132, 2 Leon Madsen 130, 3 Emil Sayfutdinov 126, 4 Fredrik Lindgren 105, 5 Martin Vaculik 95, 6 Maciej Janowski 87, 7 Jason Doyle 84, 8 Patryk Dudek 79, 9 Matej Zagar 78, 10 Niels-Kristian Iversen 77, 11 Artem Laguta 76, 12 Antonio Lindback 63, 13 Tai Woffinden 60, 14 Janusz Kolodziej 57, 15 Robert Lambert 39, 16 Max Fricke 36, 17 Mikkel Michelsen 15, 18 Bartosz Smektala 10, 19 Oliver Berntzon 7, 20 Adrian Miedzinski 6, 21 Charles Wright 5, 22 Vaclav Milik 4, 23 Maksym Drabik 4, 24 Matic Ivacic 2, 25 Jacob Thorssell 2, 26 Martin Smolinski 1.
REVLINE TORUN SGP SCORES: 1 Leon Madsen 21, 2 Emil Sayfutdinov 15, 3 Niels-Kristian Iversen 11, 4 Bartosz Zmarzlik 14, 5 Jason Doyle 11, 6 Tai Woffinden 9, 7 Antonio Lindback 7, 8 Fredrik Lindgren 7, 9 Artem Laguta 7, 10 Martin Vaculik 7, 11 Maciej Janowski 7, 12 Janusz Kolodziej 6, 13 Adrian Miedzinski 6, 14 Patryk Dudek 4, 15 Matej Zagar 4, 16 Robert Lambert 2, 17 Jakub Miskowiak DNR, 18 Karol Zupinski DNR.