Russian hero Emil Sayfutdinov led his country into the FIM Monster Energy Speedway World Cup Final and declared “I think it will be the same result” at Swedish track Malilla on Saturday.
Sayfutdinov bagged third place in an epic heat 20 as Russia scored 35 points to win Event 1 in Bydgoszcz ahead of host nation Poland (34) and Denmark (33). The United States were eliminated after finishing on 23 points.
The Poles and Danes must make do with spots in the FIM Monster Energy SWC Race Off at Malilla on Thursday, where they will face the second and third-placed teams from Event 2 at British track King’s Lynn on Monday.
But Russia join hosts Sweden in the last four and make their first World Cup Final appearance since 2009 – the year they defeated Sweden, Denmark and the Czech Republic to win Event 1 and spring one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history.
Sayfutdinov and his team finished fourth in the SWC Final at Leszno that year, but he hopes to make up for that disappointment with gold medals this time. He said: “We’re in the Final and we’re ready for the Final. I think we can get some medals.
“It was just like 2009 tonight. It was a really hard meeting and this is great for Russian speedway. We’ll have more fans coming to Malilla now and it will be great. I think it will be the same result as Bydgoszcz – we want to win and take the gold medal. We’ll do that.”
Heat 20 in Bydgoszcz will go down as one of the best races in the 12-year history of the FIM Monster Energy SWC. Despite the USA being out of qualification contention, Greg Hancock pipped Tomas Gollob to victory in a race which contained more passing than a Friday night rush hour on London’s M25.
Sayfutdinov clung on for the third place he required to avoid a run-off with Poland for first place. “That last race was very important for me and I got the point I needed,” he said. “I am very happy. All the riders from Russia took some points in each heat and that’s why this meeting was a success.”
Russia were six points behind leaders Denmark going into heat 16 and team manager Oleg Kurguskin sent Sayfutdinov out to race for double points against Polish legend Gollob, America’s world champion Hancock and in-form Dane Niels-Kristian Iversen.
But this didn’t faze the FIM Speedway Grand Prix star, who powered from gate one and romped to six vital points. With Iversen finishing at the back, this pulled Russia level on 28 points at the top.
Sayfutdinov admits this gave him and team mates Roman Povazhny and Grigory and Artem Laguta the momentum they needed to get the edge over their rivals. He said: “I had the joker in the 16th heat. I won the start and won the heat. Taking the six points mobilised us for the last few heats and I’m very happy with that. I had a really pumped up team after that and now we’ll see what happens in Malilla.”
Sayfutdinov and his colleagues plan to enjoy a break before heading to Sweden for the FIM Monster Energy SWC decider on Saturday. He said: “Now we have a holiday and we’ll spend some days with our families and girlfriends. I’m not thinking about the final just yet. I’ll stay in Bydgoszcz and maybe I’ll go and do some jet-skiing.”
Danish skipper Iversen was dejected to see his side end up third after they led during the middle section of the meeting. He said: “Everyone is disappointed now because we were so close. We were leading for a while and had one leg in the final. We have to be disappointed, but we also have to be proud. I think we did a good job. We pushed all the way and we could have won it with a little bit of luck.”
Hancock’s FIM Monster Energy SWC dream may be over for this year. But the 42-year-old was proud of the USA’s first foray into the competition since 2007. He said: “We knew it was going to be tough and a hard battle for the US, but we fought hard and did the best we could. We’re happy we made it here and everybody learned something new. I think we’ve have created a really positive vibe for the future of American speedway.”
The FIM Monster Energy SWC moves to Great Britain on Monday night, when the Brits host Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic at King’s Lynn’s Norfolk Arena.
FIM MONSTER ENERGY SWC EVENT 1 SCORES:
Russia 35: Emil Sayfutdinov 16, Artem Laguta 7, Roman Povazhny 6, Grigory Laguta 6.
Poland 34: Tomasz Gollob 12, Maciej Janowski 11, Piotr Protasiewicz 9, Grzegorz Walasek 2.
Denmark 33: Niels-Kristian Iversen 10, Michael Jepsen Jensen 8, Leon Madsen 8, Mikkel B Jensen 7.
United States of America 23: Greg Hancock 16, Ricky Wells 3, Billy Hamill 2, Ryan Fisher 2.