Polish hero Bartosz Zmarzlik was elated to join the FIM Speedway Grand Prix series’ elite club of back-to-back world champions after winning FST Grupa Brokerska Torun SGP round eight on Saturday.
Zmarzlik was crowned Poland’s first-ever double world champion when he finished second in semi-final one – reaching the final he needed to put the sport’s biggest prize beyond Great Britain icon Tai Woffinden and Swedish star Fredrik Lindgren.
Woffinden won a run-off with Lindgren for the silver medal after the pair tied on 117 points, but the season belongs to Zmarzlik, who topped the standings on 133, winning four of this year’s eight rounds along the way.
He crowned an epic season with victory in Torun, seeing off fellow countryman Maciej Janowski, Artem Laguta and Lindgren in the final.
Zmarzlik is only the third rider to retain the world title in the SGP era, following in the footsteps of SGP greats.
Tony Rickardsson won successive titles twice in 1998 and 1999 and in 2001 and 2002, while Nicki Pedersen was the last to achieve the feat in 2007 and 2008.
Szczecin-born star Zmarzlik also surpassed the single title wins of Polish legends Tomasz Gollob and Jerzy Szczakiel, with the 25-year-old young enough to add more to his tally. After cementing his place in speedway history, Zmarzlik admitted the magnitude of his achievements hasn’t sunk in.
He said: “Now I have followed some big heroes in speedway in winning back-to-back titles – Tony Rickardsson and Nicki Pedersen. It’s a great feeling and I don’t know what to say now. I don’t believe it at this moment.
“Wow! For me it is an unbelievable night. For the second year, I am No.1 in the world, and that’s really nice.
“It was a really hard day for me mentally. After yesterday and the crash in my second race, I wasn’t feeling so good in my body. But what an amazing race I had in the semi-final! I am happy I am a two-time world champion.
“Last season I could not have dreamed of this result. But again I am No.1 and for me it is unbelievable.”
Zmarzlik was elated to add to his title win with victory in FST Grupa Brokerska Torun SGP round eight.
He added: “Wow! What a night for me and the Polish fans! It’s unbelievable. I won the final again and that’s so nice. I don’t know what to say now. I can’t believe it at this moment, but maybe soon I will take in what I have done today.”
World Championship runner-up Woffinden admits 2020 has not been his year, but he was heartened to reach the SGP rostrum for the sixth time in eight seasons since he rejoined the series in 2013.
He said: “I am not on form. I have not been on form all year. It’s super frustrating. But on the flip side, when Tai Woffinden is out of form, I am still in the top three in the world. You have seen that over the years. When I am on form, I am world champion.
“I want to say a massive thanks to everyone at home for watching and supporting me.”
Woffinden insists he isn’t short of motivation for 2021. He said: “The fire is burning for next year – massively. You learn more by losing. When you win, you win. You don’t know how you did it. Many world champions can say the same thing.
“In a sense, he (Zmarzlik) hasn’t learned anything this year. I have learned a lot – physically, mentally, nutritionally and with stuff on my bikes.”
Lindgren would have sealed the silver medal with a top-three finish on the night, but he suffered a mechanical failure at the start line in the final, forcing him into a run-off with Woffinden, which the Brit won.
The Orebro-born ace revealed a curburettor issue halted him at the cruellest of moments. But he takes heart from matching the bronze medal he achieved in 2018 and was pleased to mount a strong title challenge throughout 2020.
He said: “Overall, I have had a great performance this season. I got another win in Gorzow. Last time I got the bronze medal, I was definitely happier than I am today. But at the same time, this year I have been close to having a shot at the title. I didn’t have that last time, so it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
“The bike packed up at the start line in the final. I knew the gold medal was already gone, but it would have been nice to finish off with a win. I felt like I had a really good shot from gate one and I was riding well tonight.”
While SGP 2020 has concluded, world championship racing returns in less than two weeks when the Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations Final takes place in Lublin on October 16 and 17.
Hosts Poland face world champions Russia, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain and the Czech Republic in the ultimate test of team riding.
FINAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Bartosz Zmarzlik 133, 2 Tai Woffinden 117+3, 3 Fredrik Lindgren 117+2, 4 Maciej Janowski 107, 5 Leon Madsen 89, 6 Jason Doyle 87, 7 Artem Laguta 84, 8 Emil Sayfutdinov 81, 9 Martin Vaculik 78, 10 Max Fricke 64, 11 Matej Zagar 46, 12 Patryk Dudek 39, 13 Niels-Kristian Iversen 32, 14 Mikkel Michelsen 32, 15 Antonio Lindback 22, 16 Gleb Chugunov 16, 17 Jack Holder 12, 18 Anders Thomsen 10, 19 Vaclav Milik 1, 20 Eduard Krcmar 1.
FST GRUPA BROKERSKA TORUN SGP R8 POINTS: 1 Bartosz Zmarzlik 20, 2 Maciej Janowski 18, 3 Artem Laguta 16, 4 Fredrik Lindgren 14, 5 Tai Woffinden 12, 6 Jason Doyle 11, 7 Leon Madsen 10, 8 Emil Sayfutdinov 9, 9 Antonio Lindback 8, 10 Jack Holder 7, 11 Patryk Dudek 6, 12 Martin Vaculik 5, 13 Max Fricke 4, 14 Matej Zagar 3, 15 Mikkel Michelsen 2, 16 Niels-Kristian Iversen 1, 17 Viktor Trofymov 0, 18 Igor Kopec-Sobczynski DNR.