BLOG: SPEEDING TO STARDOM
Wednesday 10th October 2012, 11:20
When I visited the Sport Australia Hall of Fame at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in January, there was never a doubt in my mind that new world champ Chris Holder would join his nation’s greats one day, writes Paul Burbidge.
I just didn’t expect him to achieve his place in the history books quite as soon as he did.
It has probably been a shock to some fans to watch Tomasz Gollob win his first FIM Speedway Grand Prix title aged 39 in 2010 and then Greg Hancock lift the trophy at the ripe old age of 40 last season.
But there are many reasons why these guys were better equipped to top the rostrum than their young pretenders. They’ve built up a world-class pit crew over many years, know what it takes to deliver the best machinery and have the experience to deal with anything SGP racing might throw at them.
So for Holder to win speedway’s biggest prize at just 25 – becoming the youngest world champion in the Grand Prix era – is an astonishing achievement.
No-one has ever doubted the Poole skipper’s talent – certainly not any of the fans who will turn out at Wimborne Road for Pirates’ challenge match against Coventry tonight to watch him parade the World Championship trophy.
But talent only gets a rider so far – ask Gollob and Antonio Lindback. It took Gollob nearly two decades to lose the tag ‘best rider never to be crowned world champion.’ Lindback at his best can do things on a bike to rival Holder or Gollob – all three are gifted motorcyclists.
Lindback is finally assembling all the other components to back up his talent. He’s settled, confident, relaxed and quick, and with two SGP wins now under his belt, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is in contention for a World Championship medal in 2013.
Holder, however, has managed to harness his incredible natural talent far quicker than any of his SGP rivals. As his dad Mick rightly told me, things haven’t just fallen into place for the Sydneysider. He earned the gold medal that was hung around his neck in Torun.
Since moving to the UK to start a new life in 2006, he has assembled a ravenously hungry pit crew, which has backed him every inch of the way this season. Some riders chop and change their teams on an annual basis. Holder’s crew looks settled, happy and totally free of egos.
The rider has established himself as one of top tuner Peter Johns’ best customers – ensuring he has the speed to support his talent and effort.
Intelligence and personality are two more key ingredients. Holder may seem more laidback than an ironing board, but this belies a man with a steely will to win and someone who studiously watches his competitors and learns everything he can.
This desire and his warm, happy-go-lucky persona have won him plenty of friends around the world, not least Grand Prix legends Crump and Greg Hancock.
Holder joined Piraterna in Sweden because he wanted to team up with Herbie, and he has clearly been taking notes as he raced with the 2011 world champion this season.
Crump must certainly go down as a friend for life after playing a pivotal role at a pivotal moment in Holder’s title quest on Saturday night. When things got a little heated with Nicki Pedersen, Crump was quickly on the scene to take his fellow countryman out of the fire, ensure he regained his composure and then went back on track to finish the job.
As one of Holder’s competitors, Crump didn’t have to rush from the pits to get involved. He could have been sat back celebrating what has been a superb SGP career, which surely must hand him a place in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame as a matter of urgency.
Instead, before he bowed out of the Grand Prix arena, he took it upon himself to assume the role of mentor and ensure Australia’s next world champion got over the winning line. Holder has obviously earned Crump’s respect on a professional and personal level – his reward was a pep talk which arguably made all the difference.
Holder’s ability to make friends also resulted in tears of joy from those who have followed and supported him all the way to the top. It was a popular victory and I doubt it will be the first time Holder parades the World Championship trophy.
He has all the tools needed to not only hold on to the No.1 race jacket, but take his game to another level. He is the first of a new generation of SGP stars to reach the very top, and the likes of Emil Sayfutdinov, Freddie Lindgren and Antonio Lindback will have to do something special to catch him …
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- 24/05: PUK PUZZLED BY SGP FORM
- 23/05: NICKI OUT OF DANISH FINAL
- 23/05: HANCOCK LEADS AMERICAN ASSAULT
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