GREG HANCOCK, NICKI PEDERSEN, CHRIS HOLDER AND MARTIN VACULIK HANDED WILD CARDS FOR THE 2018 FIM SPEEDWAY GRAND PRIX SERIES.
Three world champions have been handed wild cards for the 2018 FIM Speedway Grand Prix series.
Four-time world champion Greg Hancock, triple winner Nicki Pedersen and 2012 champion Chris Holder were all selected by the SGP Commission, with Slovak star Martin Vaculik completing the line-up.
Hancock was unable to defend his title this year after undergoing surgery to fix the shoulder damage caused by a dislocation in a freak fall on the stairs at his Swedish base in mid-July.
Having missed just one SGP event in 22 years prior to this season, the Californian has enjoyed an incredible career in the series, racing in 208 SGPs, winning 21 and scoring 2,553 points.
Pedersen has raced in the SGP elite full-time since 2001, winning 16 rounds and establishing himself as one of the most talked-about stars in the sport.
The 40-year-old has been sidelined since May, when he fractured a vertebra in his neck – the same one he injured in a season-ending crash at Czech track Pardubice in September 2016. But having been assured the fracture is stable and healing well; Pedersen takes his place in an 18th straight SGP series.
Holder finished 10th in this year’s World Championship after enduring a tough campaign on and off the track as he battled with equipment issues.
But having stormed to fourth in the world last term and only previously fallen short of the top eight once – when his 2013 season was prematurely ended by injury – the Aussie icon is given a return ticket for next year.
Vaculik is also selected after finishing ninth in this season’s series, just eight points short of the top eight and with a victory at the series-opening AZTORIN Slovenian SGP in Krsko to his name.
It was his highest ever SGP position and the Zarnovica-born racer gets the chance to build on it when he rides what will be his third full series next year.
Six-time Danish champion Niels-Kristian Iversen could also play a part in the 2018 SGP series, after being named as first series reserve. He will be called up in the event any of the regular 15 stars are forced out of a round due to injury, illness or other reasons.
Czech ace Vaclav Milik is next year’s second series reserve after showing huge promise in three SGP outings this term, with a third place at the Mitas Czech SGP in Prague a real career highlight.
Swedish international Linus Sundstrom is named third series reserve, with new World Under-21 champion Maksym Drabik of Poland and Australia’s Max Fricke handed the fourth and fifth stand-in berths respectively.
Riding numbers will be confirmed in due course.
2018 FIM SPEEDWAY GRAND PRIX LINE-UP (IN RANKING ORDER):
1 Jason Doyle (Australia)
2 Patryk Dudek (Poland)
3 Tai Woffinden (Great Britain)
4 Maciej Janowski (Poland)
5 Bartosz Zmarzlik (Poland)
6 Emil Sayfutdinov (Russia)
7 Matej Zagar (Slovenia)
8 Fredrik Lindgren (Sweden)
9 Martin Vaculik (Slovakia)
10 Chris Holder (Australia)
11 Greg Hancock (USA)
12 Nicki Pedersen (Denmark)
13 Przemyslaw Pawlicki (Poland)
14 Artem Laguta (Russia)
15 Craig Cook (Great Britain)
1 Niels-Kristian Iversen (Denmark)
2 Vaclav Milik (Czech Republic)
3 Linus Sundstrom (Sweden)
4 Maksym Drabik (Poland)
5 Max Fricke (Australia)