GOLLOB'S GAME CHANGER
What a difference a win makes! Getting an FIM Speedway Grand Prix gold medal is always something special, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say they can be career-changing, writes Paul Burbidge.
We all saw what it did for Chris Holder when he triumphed at the FIM Fogo British SGP in Cardiff on August 25. He bagged 23 huge points and went from being fourth in the standings and 17 behind then World Championship leader Greg Hancock to being just one adrift in second.
The 24-year-old took over at the top with his silver medal at the FIM Scandinavian SGP in Malilla on Saturday and could well be on course to achieve the world title he has been tipped for ever since he debuted in Europe with the Isle of Wight Islanders in 2006.
Slovak shooting star Martin Vaculik also knows how important a Grand Prix victory can be, having won on his debut in the FIM Gorzow SGP of Poland on June 23.
While his reputation was already strong in Poland and Sweden, he was still something of an unknown quantity in the nations where rarely raced.
Now he is being talked about as a sure-fire Grand Prix star of tomorrow and his lightening starts, fearless performances and bubbly charm have won him friends and fans the world over.
The question is whether Tomasz Gollob can capitalise on his first Grand Prix gold medal in 15 months, which he won with a breathtaking display of speed and first-corner craft on Saturday.
With the exception of Holder, who found some speed in the meeting’s latter stages, and Lindback, who was on fire all night, no-one could get anywhere near the Bydgoszcz-born legend.
If Gollob had brought his gating gloves with him, he would have almost certainly steered the rocket ship he was riding to a 24-point maximum.
Mr G is a man who often leaves people scratching their heads. On Saturday, everyone was wondering how the 41-year-old could have produced such a commanding performance.
But sadly, we have spent much of this year wondering what has been going wrong for him.
When he won the FIM Dansk Metal Danish SGP in Copenhagen on June 11, 2011, he was leading the World Championship and looked set to defend the title he won in 2010.
But for whatever reason, his form dropped dramatically. Only the man himself will know the reason why.
Things haven’t been too bad in the SGP series for Gollob this year. He had reached four out of nine finals prior to his triumph in Malilla – winning silver in Leszno, bronze in Prague and Gorican and finishing fourth in Gorzow.
However, there have been many occasions – particularly in Gollob’s league meetings for Gorzow in Poland and Hammarby in Sweden – where the man has been nowhere near his very best.
A heavy crash at Hammarby on May 22, which left the five-time FIM Speedway World Cup winner severely concussed, was the last thing Team Gollob needed and the six points he accrued in Gothenburg and three in Copenhagen illustrate just how big a blow it was.
So it will have been a huge relief to his fans to see the great man back to his best and smiling broadly on the Malilla rostrum.
If the happy, chatty and bouncy Gollob that left Malilla turns up at the FIM Dansk Metal Nordic SGP in Vojens on September 22, his rivals could be in big trouble.
Gollob is just nine points behind Nicki Pedersen in the race for the bronze medal. He hasn’t been talked about as a rostrum contender that much this season. But after scoring 21 points in Malilla, Mr G is a guy the top boys will be mad to overlook.
Hancock famously won the FIM Croatian SGP at Gorican in August 2010 and still cites this as the night which turned his career around. He went from a veteran running out of steam to a ravenously hungry, relentlessly consistent contender who devastated his competition all the way to the top of the World Championship podium last year.
Will Malilla turn out to be Gollob’s Gorican? It’s a well worn expression, but only time will tell …
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