MARTIN VACULIK ADMITS IT WAS Â€ŒTHE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLDÂ€ AS HE PUT SLOVAKIA ON THE SPEEDWAY MAP AND STORMED TO VICTORY IN GORZOW.
Martin Vaculik admits it was “the best feeling in the world” as he put Slovakia on the speedway map and stormed to victory in the FIM Gorzow Speedway Grand Prix of Poland on Saturday night.
Vaculik, this season’s SGP series first reserve, only entered the meeting after Polish star Jaroslaw Hampel was forced to withdraw as he recovers from a broken leg.
But the man who finished fourth in last year’s GP Challenge at Vetlanda to earn this chance grabbed it with both hands and could not have introduced himself on the world stage in more spectacular style.
He made a stunning start in the final, which took place on a rain-drenched track, and triumphed ahead of World Championship contender Chris Holder, wild card sensation Bartosz Zmarzlik and Gorzow icon Tomasz Gollob.
With Zmarzlik picking up bronze on his SGP bow, it was the first time two debutants have appeared on the rostrum since the first ever Grand Prix meeting at Wroclaw in 1995.
Vaculik will not only go down as the first Slovak to race in and win an SGP event; he is also only the third rider in history to have triumphed on his Grand Prix debut.
Tomasz Gollob, winner at Wroclaw in 1995, and Emil Sayfutdinov, who triumphed in Prague in 2009, are the only other men in this exclusive club. And the Zarnovica-born racer admits he could never have dreamed of such an awe-inspiring introduction to World Championship racing.
I COULDNÂ€™T HAVE IMAGINED IÂ€™D WIN BEFORE THE MEETING.
He said: “This is unbelievable. I think it’s the best feeling in the world. I won my hardest meeting ever. I’m very happy and it’s a cool feeling.
“I won the Grand Prix and I couldn’t have imagined I’d win before the meeting. I’m very happy and I want to say a big thank you to my team. My motorcycles were very fast and great in the conditions.”
Vaculik’s victory will come as a huge surprise to some, but perhaps not to those who follow his fortunes in the Polish Ekstraliga with Tarnow and the Swedish Elitserien, where he races for Vetlanda.
The 22-year-old has been racking up double-figure scores for both sides on an almost weekly basis and the two clubs are top of their respective divisions. Vaculik races the SGP regulars throughout the season in these competitions and says it prepared him for his big night.
“The Polish and Swedish leagues are the best schools for a speedway rider,” he said. “Winning this is just a bonus for me. I’m taking experience all the time and I want to be a very good rider.
“Consistency is the key to success. You need to have some good starts and get good points. Getting two or three points in every heat is perfect and I had no ones or lasts, so that’s very good.”
Vaculik could have the chance to chase another gold medal in the FIM Fogo Croatian SGP at Gorican on July 28, as Hampel has admitted he faces a real battle to be fit for the event.
The former World Under-21 finalist would love another shot at the big time, but said: “I’m sorry for Jarek and I hope he will be back very soon.
“If he’s not back for Gorican, then I’ll be there. But that’s the future – I’m concentrating on tomorrow’s league meeting (between Tarnow and Rzeszow). What will be, will be.”
Vaculik hopes his victory will take speedway in Slovakia to new heights as he bids to make more history as the nation’s first speedway world champion in the years to come.
But for now, the rider is keen to enjoy the greatest moment of his career to date and share it with his many supporters in his home town.
“I have a lot of fans in Zarnovica and there are a lot of bars where they show the racing on TV,” he said. “The fans were all watching the racing and I think there will be a very big celebration there. I love all my friends and I’m sure we’ll have a good party.”
Greg Hancock extended his World Championship lead to nine points, moving on to 87, after exiting at the semi-final stages on 12. Holder’s 17-point haul puts him level with Jason Crump in second place on 78 after the triple world champion missed the semi-finals on five.
Holder was delighted to pull out two wins in his last two heat races and go on to collect the silver medal.
He said: “Second is awesome. I came here to make the final and get some points. It’s so difficult to get points – even in the heat races.
“After three races, I was on five and I was just trying to scrape into the semi. I got there, took gate four and it paid off.
“The rain probably helped me a bit in the final because I was off gate three and thought the boys would go to the outside. I went to the inside, it worked for a lap, but it wasn’t as good as I thought and I ended up having a good race with Bart.
“I’m just happy to be here. I got a lot of points in the bag. It’s great.”
Holder may have overhauled Zmarzlik for second, but having to settle for the bronze medal was anything but a disgrace for the 17-year-old starlet, who races at reserve for Gorzow.
He said: “I took a track walk a couple of hours before the meeting began. I just had a very short look at the podium. I was thinking ‘what on earth would it feel like if I was to stand on one of those rostrum positions?’ I just couldn’t believe that a few hours later I was in that spot and made the same kind of debut Darcy Ward made in Torun last year. It was wonderful.”
The FIM Speedway Grand Prix series resumes in Gorican on July 28. For now, the world’s top riders turn their attention towards competing for FIM Monster Energy Speedway World Cup glory.
The competition gets underway with Event 1 at Bydgoszcz on Saturday, before Event 2 takes place at King’s Lynn on July 9. The Race-Off and Final are set for Swedish track Malilla on July 12 and 14 respectively.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Greg Hancock 87, 2 Jason Crump 78, 3 Chris Holder 78, 4 Nicki Pedersen 72, 5 Tomasz Gollob 64, 6 Fredrik Lindgren 63, 7 Emil Sayfutdinov 58, 8 Andreas Jonsson 47, 9 Jaroslaw Hampel 46, 10 Antonio Lindback 40, 11 Peter Ljung 36, 12 Bjarne Pedersen 33, 13 Hans Andersen 31, 14 Kenneth Bjerre 28, 15 Chris Harris 28, 16 Martin Vaculik 20, 17 Thomas H Jonasson 11, 18 Josef Franc 9, 19 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 7, 20 Michael Jepsen Jensen 7, 21 Mikkel B Jensen 4, 22 Peter Kildemand 2, 23 Jason Bunyan 1.
GORZOW SCORES: 1 Martin Vaculik 20, 2 Chris Holder 17, 3 Bartosz Zmarzlik 13, 4 Tomasz Gollob 12, 5 Greg Hancock 12, 6 Fredrik Lindgren 11, 7 Emil Sayfutdinov 10, 8 Andreas Jonsson 9, 9 Peter Ljung 7, 10 Nicki Pedersen 7, 11 Hans Andersen 7, 12 Antonio Lindback 6, 13 Jason Crump 5, 14 Bjarne Pedersen 4, 15 Kenneth Bjerre 3, 16 Chris Harris 1.