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SPEEDWAY GRAND PRIX 2022

MIKKEL MICHELSEN ANISH racer Mikkel Michelsen says reaching the World Championship’s top six remains

DMichelsen roared into the series as 2021 European Champion and he started off in fine style by taking third place behind Bartosz Zmarzlik and Maciej Janowski.

his goal for 2022, but insisted “everyone wants to win” after reaching his first Speedway GP final on Saturday.

His early-season form with Polish Ekstraliga side Lublin and Danish team Slangerup has led pundits to suggest Michelsen could be in line for a medal this season.

The former Eastbourne man says securing automatic qualification for the 2023 series is his first priority. But after getting his first taste of the podium champagne in Croatia, Michelsen is thirsty for more success.

He said: “If you don’t have confidence in yourself and you don’t believe you can do it, there’s no point in being here.

“Obviously the realistic goal for this season is the top six. Everyone wants to finish in the top six. But we want to be the World Champion as well. That’s why we are here. Everyone wants to win and that’s my mindset as well.

“I come into every round to win the round and I go out on the track to win every race. I am going to do everything I can and we will see where we end up at the end of the series.

“I am going to put in the work that’s necessary and my boys are going to do that too. As long as we can continue doing that, they give 100 per cent in the pits and I give 100 per cent on the track, we stand where we do and we will see where it takes us.

“Like I said before the season, I know what I am capable of and I know what I can do when my head is in the right place and the team around me is in the right place too. We set up the bike properly and then it’s only me that decides where we need to be going.

“I feel like me and the team worked really well together on Saturday. We got the set-up pretty spot on. Maybe towards the end of the meeting we were struggling a little bit, but everyone was because it was so slick. At the end of the day, I have to be pretty happy with third place.”

Michelsen was delighted to pile up 16 championship points on a Donji Kraljevec track he admits has rarely been kind to him in the past.

He admitted: “With the results I have had here in the past, it is not one of my favourite tracks. It’s no lie. A lot of people know that I don’t like this track. I don’t know what it is, but we have always struggled here. Maybe it’s just me or the bikes – or a combination of everything.

“I feel like we hit it pretty good on Saturday and I was riding pretty well. There were a few mistakes here and there, but maybe that’s a few early-season nerves in the World Championship series.

“It was a great day and I am very satisfied. I scored a lot of important points in the championship and that’s always good.”

BARTOSZ ZMARZLIK

OUBLE World Champion Bartosz Zmarzlik was elated to end his first-round hoodoo as he opened Discovery’s new era of Speedway GP with a familiar result on Saturday.

DThe Polish icon topped the podium ahead of fellow countryman Maciej Janowski, firsttime finalist Mikkel Michelsen and Gorzow team-mate Anders Thomsen. Zmarzlik has never even reached the final of an opening Speedway GP round since he joined the series in 2016.

His chances were not helped by an overnight dash from northern Polish track Grudziadz, where he raced on Friday night, coupled with an aversion for Speedway Stadion Milenium’s tight turns.

But Zmarzlik prevailed to sound a chilling warning to his would-be title rivals. He said: “I am very happy because I have never won the first round.

“I am feeling nice, but a little bit tired because on Friday I had a meeting and I was feeling a little bit up and down.

“After the first few races, I didn’t have a very good feeling on the bike on this track. But after four races, I felt much better with set-ups and I felt much better on the bike. I am very happy I won.

“After my meeting on Friday, I went to Croatia and did a few practice laps. For me, it is a very small track and I didn’t have a very good feeling in the corners – it’s too small for me. But after more racing, I liked the track more.”

With Russian duo Artem Laguta and Emil Sayfutdinov suspended from the world stage due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Zmarzlik is viewed by many as a red-hot favourite in this season’s title race.

There’s no doubt he has become accustomed to handling the weight of expectation since winning back-to-back World Championships in 2019 and 2020. Zmarzlik is a man keen to focus on enjoying his racing, rather than concerning himself with rewards at the end of the season.

Asked about his title prospects, he replied: “I really don’t look at this because I love my job, my speedway. In my life, there is only family and speedway and that’s it. Of course, winning is important. But it’s not good for my head just to focus on that.”

• Top three Maciej Janowski, Mikkel MIchelsen and Bartosz Zmarzlik the second lap to snatch third, before Bewley showed serious composure for the final two laps to fend off his rival and secure second.

Zmarzlik found himself in another first-turn scrap in Heat 10 as he went bar-to-bar with Leon Madsen. This opened the door for British racer Robert Lambert to roar to the front, but only for a moment as the Dane rocketed down the back straight and dived under him going into turn three.

Despite finding himself at the back, Zmarzlik rounded Tai Woffinden for third on lap two, turn two. He then turned up the heat on Lambert,

forcing him wide going into the final lap to dive up the inside. Lambert hit back instantly, but Zmarzlik performed another sensational shift of weight to the back of the saddle and blazed through on the back straight for second spot.

If this is Zmarzlik racing tired, having also competed in the lunchtime qualifying practice session, his rivals should be worried. After a couple of races of having to settle for the minor places, normal

22 speedway star May 7, 2022

• Dan Bewley hits the front in Heat 5 against Bartosz Zmarzlik

(white), Jason Doyle (blue) and Mikkel Michelsen

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