BLOG: NICKI ON A ROLL
Wednesday 1st August 2012, 12:39
Nicki Pedersen may not be leading the FIM Speedway Grand Prix standings with five rounds to go, but he has emerged as the man to beat in this year’s title race, writes Paul Burbidge.
It would be very easy to write that comment off as a kneejerk reaction to his superb performance, which earned him FIM Fogo Croatian SGP gold in Gorican on Saturday night. But the wind is very much in the Odense-born rider’s sails.
Purely going on his league form, the fact Pedersen is firmly in the hunt is no surprise at all. He has single-handedly carried Gdansk in the Polish Ekstraliga this year. With the exception of an off-night at home to Piraterna on Tuesday, when he suffered two wins and two retirements, the Danish Championship leader’s Elitserien form has been rock-solid for Vargarna.
Pedersen has also been delivering the goods for Holsted in the Danish Super League and Prague in the Czech league. But, for whatever reason, he still hadn’t quite clicked into top gear in the SGP series.
We all know what top gear means for Pedersen. When he won his second and third world titles in 2007 and 2008, he reached the rostrum in 16 out of the 22 rounds he raced over those seasons – winning five.
Prior to his appearance in Gorican, the Stevenage-based rider had made all but one of this year’s semi-finals, topping the rostrum in Prague and finishing third in Auckland.
That’s not quite championship-winning form. But with Hancock, Jason Crump and Chris Holder all struggling to get a firm grip on the title race, if Pedersen can build on his gold medal in Gorican, he may just be the man to take charge.
He topped the heat scorechart in Gorican on 11, while six riders all finished on nine points and two missed the semi-final cut on eight. That just shows how competitive Saturday’s meeting was.
And, after following wild card Jurica Pavlic home in the semi, Pedersen pulled out the biggest of starts to leave the Croat scrapping with Andreas Jonsson and Tomasz Gollob behind him in the final.
Having had a week off in Gran Canaria prior to last month’s FIM Monster Energy Speedway World Cup Race Off and Final, before returning to help Denmark win the gold medal just three days after getting back on the job, Pedersen goes into the last five rounds of 2012 on a real high.
But he will need to produce his 2007/2008 form to overhaul Hancock, who is still super consistent. Herbie has reached the semis at every round this season and has only dropped out of double figures once – scoring a still satisfactory nine in Leszno.
The 42-year-old is desperate to add to the commanding victory he achieved at the FIM Buckley Systems New Zealand SGP in Auckland on March 31, where he scored a colossal 22 points. And given that Pedersen became the first rider to win two 2012 SGP rounds in Croatia, it looks like he’ll have to do that if he is to fend off the Dane’s advance.
We shouldn’t forget about Aussie pair Crump and Holder, even though both must overcome injuries.
Crump has only just returned from collarbone surgery, although his nine points in Gorican and the 15-point maximum he scored for Rzeszow in Poland on Sunday suggest he’s recovering very well indeed.
Holder took two blows to the ribs last week – one at Poole on Wednesday and another when his chain came off and he crashed at Gorican. He has wisely opted to take a week off to recover ahead of the FIM Fogo Italian SGP on August 11.
History shows Crump is another man capable of producing win after win and making a run for the top prize. Even with the worry of him having a plated collarbone, only a fool would overlook the 36-year-old.
Holder is a somewhat unknown quantity when it comes to the championship run-in. His talent and hunger are beyond question and it would be a shock if he didn’t win multiple world titles in years to come.
But it’s going to take something extra special for him to overtake three men who all have bags of experience at the sharp end of the season – experience of finishing off the hardest job in world speedway.
Whether Holder has the class to do it remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure – this will be one of the most exciting endings to an FIM Speedway Grand Prix series in the competition’s 18-year history.
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- 21/05: NKI'S INDIANS STUN VETLANDA
- 21/05: CHAMP'S CHANGES FOR CARDIFF
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- 20/05: ZAGAR INTO QUALIFYING SEMIS
- 20/05: AMERICAN DREAMING IN HUNGARY
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