PEDERSEN: I NEVER DOUBTED SGP CLASS
Danish icon Nicki Pedersen ends near-three-year wait for FIM Speedway Grand Prix win with Malilla triumph.
12 / 08 / 2018, 01:16
Triple world champion Nicki Pedersen insisted he never lost faith in his ability to beat the world’s best after defying years of injury strife to win the Betard Scandinavian FIM Speedway Grand Prix.
The great Dane topped the podium in Malilla ahead of Slovenian star Matej Zagar, home hero Fredrik Lindgren and Slovak racer Martin Vaculik for his first SGP win since he triumphed at Torun on October 3, 2015.
It has been a tough road back to the top of the box for Pedersen. His 2016 and 2017 seasons were both ended by separate fractures to the same vertebra in his back, leaving him fearing for his speedway career.
I always look at myself in the mirror and the day I know I am finished, I wouldn’t even get on the bike.
Pedersen bounced back this year, only to suffer a broken bone in his hand in a PGE Ekstraliga meeting at Gorzow on April 29.
But he refused to slow down and is now 10th in the standings – just seven points short of the top-eight automatic qualification places for SGP 2019.
Pedersen was elated to bring his form on to the SGP stage and silence his doubters. He said: “It’s always easy to say ‘he’s finished’ and things like that. But my family and I always believed in me.
“I know where I’m standing. I always look at myself in the mirror and the day I know I am finished, I wouldn’t even get on the bike.
“It has been uphill. I have broken my back two times. I haven’t quite been there and the engine hasn’t been where I wanted it. But we just kept on pushing and working and getting the points.
“All we wanted to do was plug away and get the points. As the meeting went on, we thought ‘whoa, we can reach the final or even get on the rostrum.’ Step by step, we got up there.
“It’s so easy to say ‘I want to win’, but it’s a very long journey along the way. It’s about getting everything back together.
“I felt I had a good start to the season, but then I had big, big injuries again. I banged my head twice and crashed in a league match at Gorzow and in the Warsaw Grand Prix. That knocked me out for some time – my hand is still not 100 percent, but it’s getting a lot, lot better.
“The form hasn’t been there, but I have the racing in me and I never give up before the fat lady sings. I proved that tonight.”
Second place gave Zagar’s SGP 2019 qualification hopes a huge shot in the arm and he now stands ninth in the World Championship on 50 points – just three adrift of Artem Laguta in eighth.
There’s no doubting the Ljubljana-born man’s desire to stay on speedway’s biggest stage. He said: “It hasn’t been easy, but finally I am finding my feet. There are still four rounds to go and I want to make progress.
“Speedway Grand Prix is my life and I want to race here. I enjoy it. I love speedway. The Grand Prix is where I want to be.”
Third-placed Lindgren cut Great Britain star Tai Woffinden’s series lead from 20 points to 17.
He’s keen to take his title quest one round at a time and with the Orebro-born ace second overall, he’s firmly in the running for what would be his first World Championship medal.
He said: “I can only do the best I can. Today we pulled a few points back. But I’m not really looking at the championship at the moment. My goal is a medal and I’m taking one round at a time.”
Lindgren also paid a huge tribute to the fans, who braved wet and cold conditions in Malilla to get behind the home riders.
“It has been crazy for the fans,” he said. “Speedway fans are a different breed. They stayed on and cheered me on all night long. I was happy to at least give them a podium place in the end.
“I really enjoy racing in front of my fans. It gives me some positive energy and I want to go out and perform for them.”
Next up for the SGP stars is the MIB Nordic Gorzow FIM Speedway Grand Prix of Poland on August 25.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Tai Woffinden 91, 2 Fredrik Lindgren 74, 3 Maciej Janowski 70, 4 Bartosz Zmarzlik 69, 5 Emil Sayfutdinov 62, 6 Patryk Dudek 56, 7 Greg Hancock 56, 8 Artem Laguta 53, 9 Matej Zagar 50, 10 Nicki Pedersen 46, 11 Jason Doyle 44, 12 Chris Holder 43, 13 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 27, 14 Craig Cook 21, 15 Martin Vaculik 17, 16 Niels-Kristian Iversen 9, 17 Krzysztof Kasprzak 7, 18 Andreas Jonsson 7, 19 Vaclav Milik 6, 20 Peter Ljung 5, 21 Michael Jepsen Jensen 4, 22 Oliver Berntzon 3, 23 Maksym Drabik 2, 24 Bartosz Smektala 2, 25 Robert Lambert 1, 26 Mikkel Michelsen 1, 27 Joel Kling 1.
BETARD SCANDINAVIAN SGP SCORES: 1 Nicki Pedersen 15, 2 Matej Zagar 16, 3 Fredrik Lindgren 13, 4 Martin Vaculik 10, 5 Bartosz Zmarzlik 14, 6 Maciej Janowski 11, 7 Patryk Dudek 10, 8 Tai Woffinden 10, 9 Artem Laguta 6, 10 Emil Sayfutdinov 6, 11 Peter Ljung 5, 12 Chris Holder 5, 13 Jason Doyle 4, 14 Oliver Berntzon 3, 15 Craig Cook 3, 16 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 3, 17 Greg Hancock 3, 18 Joel Kling 1.