SPEEDWAYGP.COM LOOKS BACK AT THE ICONS WHO HAVE MADE THEIR MARK ON THE SGP STAGE. TODAY, WE FEATURE THE FIRST-EVER SGP CHAMP HANS NIELSEN.
SpeedwayGP.com looks back at the icons who have made their mark on the FIM Speedway Grand Prix stage. Today, we feature the first-ever SGP world champion, Danish great Hans Nielsen.
While many riders of the past 20 years have made their name in the SGP series, Nielsen was already established as one of the sport’s biggest stars when the competition replaced one-off world finals in 1995.
The man known as the Professor had three titles to his name, winning the 1986, 1987 and 1989 World Championships as he vied with the likes of compatriot Erik Gundersen for the sport’s biggest prize.
He also won an astonishing 11 World Team Cups between 1978 and 1997 as Denmark well and truly dominated the international stage for two decades.
But Nielsen wasn’t done with winning individual world titles in the eighties. He came agonisingly close at the last-ever World Final at Vojens in 1994, missing out on gold in a three-man run-off with winner Tony Rickardsson and third-placed Aussie legend Craig Boyce.
That spurred Nielsen on to go one better, and he showed competing for the World Championship over six nights instead of one was right up his street.
He finished second at the first ever SGP round, staged in Wroclaw in 1995 – a meeting won by Polish icon Tomasz Gollob. Nielsen then topped the standings by coming home third in round two at Austrian track Wiener Neustadt.
The Professor extended his advantage with another second at the German SGP in Abensberg, before finishing fourth at the Swedish SGP in Linkoping.
Consistency is everything in this business, and despite not winning a round up to this point, Nielsen was still six points clear of defending champion Rickardsson, who was also yet to top the podium.
Nielsen ended his search for a victory on home shale at the Danish SGP in Vojens – triumphing ahead of 1993 champion Sam Ermolenko and TR.
With a nine-point lead going into the title decider at the British SGP in Hackney, East London, Nielsen just needed to qualify for the B Final to guarantee the 12 points he needed to become world champion.
He delivered. Nielsen finished second in that race to register 14 and write a piece of SGP history that can never be taken away from him. He may not have repeated his victory, but he still finished second in 1996 and third in 1999 – the year he retired from the shale.
It brought a storied career to an end, but Nielsen returned to the speedway scene in 2016 as Danish national team manager, guiding them to fourth place at the inaugural Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations in Wroclaw last summer.
If Nielsen can infuse his charges with the knowledge that inspired him to four individual titles, seven World Pairs gold medals and 11 World Cup wins, Denmark’s glory years could soon return.