CHRIS HOLDER CROWNED CHAMP
New world champion Chris Holder was ecstatic to make the “biggest race of my life” count at the second time of asking as he clinched FIM Speedway Grand Prix glory in Torun on Saturday.
The 25-year-old lifted speedway’s biggest prize with 160 points. Danish star Nicki Pedersen was second on 152 and outgoing champion Greg Hancock claimed the bronze medal on 148.
Holder picked up his most vital race win to date in semi-final two, when he left FIM Torun SGP of Poland winner Antonio Lindback, Pedersen and Emil Sayfutdinov for dead to seal top spot in the re-run of the heat. The action was stopped the first time around when Holder and Pedersen clashed as they hit turn one wheel-to-wheel, elbow-to-elbow.
Referee Craig Ackroyd invited all four riders back for the restart and Holder was elated to make his boyhood dream come true with a jet-propelled start.
"Itâ€™s unbelievable. Iâ€™m so happy right now. You race speedway to be the world champion. You always believe you can be the champ and not many guys get to do it."
- Chris Holder
He said: “It’s unbelievable. I’m so happy right now. You race speedway to be the world champion. You always believe you can be the champ and not many guys get to do it.
“I’ve done it now and it’s unreal. I’m pretty proud of myself that I got this far and I couldn’t have done it without my family, girlfriend, brothers and mechanics.
“You can only imagine how much pressure I had coming up to this meeting with me being in such a good position at the last round. I was trying to stay cool and not think about it. You’ve just got to try and stay calm and it went off well.
“To come out for the semi-final with me and Nicki next to each other was a massive pressure for me. That was the biggest race of my life.
"It obviously didn’t go to plan the first time, but I made a better start the second time and got there. I’m over the moon. I’m so happy.”
Holder and Pedersen were involved in an angry exchange at the pit gate following the first run of the race. But the four-time Aussie champion says both men quickly buried the hatchet.
“It was heat of the moment stuff,” he said. “Things happen and you say things you don’t mean to say at the time, but that’s racing. As soon as it’s done, I can shake the guy’s hand, not a problem.”
Holder was quickly led away by fellow countryman Jason Crump, who scored five points on his last ever SGP appearance. The 37-year-old took the Sydneysider into a quiet room and helped him to regain his focus ahead of the re-run.
And Holder paid tribute to the triple world champion for helping him stay cool when the heat was on.
He said: “He helped me and I have to thank Jason. I’m pretty stoked he was the first guy to come over, do what he did and shake my hand after I won. He has been there and done it a million times before and it was really cool for him to do that for us.”
Holder was leading the final and could have topped the Torun SGP rostrum as well. He suffered a massive engine blow-out and was forced to pull up, leaving Lindback to triumph ahead of Tomasz Gollob and Hancock.
Holder said: “It was such a shame I couldn’t win it. That would have just capped everything off so well.
“I made an awesome start, I was in front, but then my engine decided it didn’t want to play anymore. It got me this medal, so it’s fine – I don’t care!”
When pundits assessed the Torun, Poole and Piraterna rider’s future prospects in years gone by, the question was not if he would win the World Championship, but how many times.
However, Holder isn’t too worried about mounting his defence in 2013 or setting any records for now at least. He said: “I’ve got one. If I quit tomorrow, I’ll be happy. I’ve got what I always wanted and I’ve joined a pretty cool list of people. I’ll take it all in and really enjoy being No.1.”
SGP runner-up Nicki Pedersen was proud to have fought his way back on to the World Championship rostrum for the first time since 2008.
Having finished 10th two seasons running and needed wild cards to retain his Grand Prix status, he is pleased to have been back in the running for top honours this year.
He said: “I’m happy with my season. I’ve been handed wild cards for the last two years and it didn’t work out the way I wanted. This year I wanted to do well. I wanted to be in the top three. That was my aim and I made it. I’m back where I want to be and I can’t wait for next year. Congratulations to Chris. I raced him all I could all the way to the end. But fair play; he finished it off in Torun.”
Hancock had led the standings for much of this year. But things have not gone his way since he fell short of the semi-finals at the FIM Fogo British SGP in Cardiff on August 25. The Californian was disappointed to come up short in his bid for title No.3.
He said: “I did everything I could to retain the title and had a good run at the beginning, but I slipped up in the last couple of rounds and I have no excuses. It’s tough out there. You’ve got to keep your focus and sometimes things drop off.
“But I’ve got to take my hat off and say congratulations to our new world champion Chris Holder. What an effort the guy put up all year.”
Torun SGP winner Lindback left Poland in buoyant mood after adding to the gold medal he won at the FIM Fogo Italian SGP in Terenzano on August 11.
He said: “I have worked really hard this year. In the middle of the season, we were really down, but we picked it back up. My team was working really hard and I had good engines. I’ve had two wins and two thirds, so I’m happy. The whole season has been really fun and I love to race speedway at the moment.”
FINAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Chris Holder 160, 2 Nicki Pedersen 152, 3 Greg Hancock 148, 4 Tomasz Gollob 142, 5 Emil Sayfutdinov 133, 6 Jason Crump 126, 7 Antonio Lindback 122, 8 Fredrik Lindgren 119, 9 Andreas Jonsson 88, 10 Hans Andersen 69, 11 Martin Vaculik 67, 12 Chris Harris 65, 13 Bjarne Pedersen 59, 14 Jaroslaw Hampel 58, 15 Peter Ljung 57, 16 Kenneth Bjerre 41, 17 Michael Jepsen Jensen 22, 18 Krzysztof Kasprzak 17, 19 Tomas H Jonasson 16, 20 Bartosz Zmarzlik 13, 21 Jurica Pavlic 12, 22 Josef Franc 9, 23 Maciej Janowski 8, 24 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 7, 25 Scott Nicholls 7, 26 Mikkel B Jensen 4, 27 Nicolas Covatti 3, 28 Peter Kildemand 2, 29 Jason Bunyan 1.
TORUN SGP SCORES: 1 Antonio Lindback 19, 2 Tomasz Gollob 21, 3 Greg Hancock 13, 4 Chris Holder 15, 5 Martin Vaculik 12, 6 Emil Sayfutdinov 11, 7 Nicki Pedersen 9, 8 Maciej Janowski 8, 9 Fredrik Lindgren 8, 10 Chris Harris 6, 11 Hans Andersen 5, 12 Jason Crump 5, 13 Andreas Jonsson 4, 14 Bjarne Pedersen 3, 15 Jaroslaw Hampel 3, 16 Peter Ljung 2, 17 Emil Pulczynski DNR, 18 Kamil Pulczynski DNR.
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- 26/03: HOLDER'S HOME ADVANTAGE?
- 25/03: RIDER ROUND-UP: JASON DOYLE
- 24/03: WARD TIPS ZMARZLIK FOR TITLE
- 24/03: SAVE OVER 30% ON KING'S LYNN SWC TICKETS
- 24/03: LIONS SWOOP FOR BRITISH CHAMPS
- 23/03: SGP GOLD: CARDIFF FINAL THRILLER
- 23/03: NICKI'S HOLSTED HOME
- 22/03: ZAGAR'S DOMESTIC CHORES
- 21/03: SGP PREVIEW: HORSENS