SPEEDWAY STAR NEWSDESK
SCOTLAND will host its first major international for close to half a century.
And fans will get their chance to see both the current world number one Tai Woffinden and defending World Champion Jason Doyle at Glasgow early next month. Woffinden, 20 points ahead of the field and on track to become the first Brit to ever win three individual world titles, can’t wait to get back into his Great Britain kevlars as the Lions’ take on Australia on Saturday, August 4, in the first official senior Test match since 2002!
He said: “I’m really happy to have another meeting in the UK and to have another chance to race in front of my British fans.
“We’ve just had Cardiff where I got so much support so it will be awesome to race for my country at home again and to go to a part of Britain I haven’t been to in so long.
“I raced at Glasgow a long, long time ago in my Premier League days but I haven’t been since they made all the changes and improvements to the track so I’m excited to go and check it out.
“I’ve heard a lot about how good the place is now and what a good job the owners have done so it’ll be cool to head up there and see it all for myself.
“One of the big things that the new management team wanted to do when they took over was to get GB racing a lot more and this is a really positive step, hopefully this is the first of many Test matches because you want to be racing together for more than just one week so it’s cool that we can get together again as a team.
“Obviously we had a really good Speedway of Nations and we want to keep the momentum going so we’re going there to win, 100 per cent.
“The Aussies will put out a good team but with the guys we’ve got we can definitely win and when we’re on the track that’s all we’ll be thinking about.”
It is the first senior international north of the border since the Lions lost 47-61 to Poland at Hampden Park on Friday, May 28, 1971, their only defeat in a six-match series.
Top scorer that night was Lions’ skipper Ivan Mauger while the Polish side included both Jerzy Szczakiel, who would go on to win the 1973 World Final, and Antonin Woryna, grandfather of Poole’s current teamster Kasper Woryna.
Other than in the Speedway of Nations and its predecessor Speedway World Cup, the Lions haven’t completed an official senior Test match since 2002 when a full-strength squad, including ex-World Champions Mark Loram and Gary Havelock went down 42-48 against a Tony Rickardson-led Swedish side at Poole.
Since then there has been a 2006 GB v Sweden international at Swindon that was abandoned after only one race; a five-match Premier League series against Australia in 2013; and a Great Britain v Rest of the World meeting that was run for the Speedway Riders’ Benevolent Fund at Leicester early in March, 2014.
But now internationals are being resurrected by new GB rightsholder Rob Painter who vowed to give supporters major events to follow when he took over the running of the national side.
And he is set to fulfil that promise at Ashfield after lengthy negotiations to ensure that both Woffinden and Doyle were available for selection.
GB will announce their six-rider squad over the next week and it is
Now for final
BRITISH bulldog Craig Cook declared “the next step is to make the final” after reaching his first Grand Prix semi in Cardiff on Saturday.
The Belle Vue and Glasgow man bounced back from a last place in his opener by reeling off three straight roof-raising victories at the Principality Stadium to rack up nine points.
His heats ended with a spectacular crash in Heat 20, which saw Cook lift violently at the start of lap two, before landing hard as his bike cleared the air-fence.
It rendered him unable to compete to his full potential in the semi-final, but the Cumbrian left Cardiff on a massive high after doubling his points tally for the season to 18.
And with five rounds remaining, he now has his sights set on reaching the top four. He said: “It would have been nice to do more, but for me, it’s about the progression we made this weekend. That means the most.
“The next step is to make the final or score more than nine points. We’re looking towards doing that.
“I’m going to Malilla now – I have never been there before. It’s a couple of weeks away, so I’ll keep making progress and see if I can mix it up again.”
There has been little wrong with Cook’s gating this year and his starts were certainly on point in Cardiff.
“I went to Trap City!” he smiled. “That was some unbelievable gating there. I showed glimpses of Craig Cook from a couple of years ago.
“I’ve had a lot of doubters and I just want to show people it’s still there in me. I’ve been lacking confidence.”
widely expected to be the strongest possible.
Glasgow’s joint owner Gerry Facenna, whose company Allied Mobility are the national team’s title sponsors, said: “You don’t get two bigger names than Tai and Jason. They are genuine superstars in our sport and we’re so lucky to have them racing here.
“Jason’s World Championship win last year was remarkable given the injuries he had to overcome and he’s one of the most exciting men you’ll see on a speedway bike.
“Tai has the potential to become Britain’s greatest-ever rider and he’s dominating the Grand Prix series, he’s undoubtedly the top rider in world speedway right now.
“We have a great relationship with those heading up Great Britain Speedway Team and we’re delighted to have been chosen to host the national side’s first full team meeting since the new management took over.”
Report: PETER OAKES
One for the team
CARDIFF winner Bartosz Zmarzlik is delighted to be producing his red-hot league form on the Speedway Grand Prix stage after racing to British SGP glory last Saturday.
The Pole picked up the third SGP win of his career after seeing off home hero Tai Woffinden, Maciej Janowski and Greg Hancock in the final.
It was Zmarzlik’s third Cardiff final in as many appearances at the Principality Stadium, so he was delighted to top the box after finishing third in 2016 and fourth last year.
He has now registered 32 points in the last two rounds. But Zmarzlik managed just 13 from the opening two SGP events, despite scoring heavily for Gorzow in Poland and Swedish side Vetlanda all season.
He said: “I feel so very good because I won my first GP in Cardiff and this is the third time I have won a GP.
“I’m very happy because my team has worked so very hard all year. They have worked for me and on Saturday we got a good result, and that’s for the team – not just for me. The whole team wanted it so badly.
“It has been hard all season for me. I had a little bit of a problem at the start of the GP series.
“The Polish league and Swedish league were no problem, but sometimes the engines are different for the GP. I didn’t have the right set-up. It can be very different with the set-up in the GP and I don’t know why. But all the time I am learning with every meeting I do.”
Zmarzlik is now fifth in the overall standings on 55 – just six short of Freddie Lindgren in second. He’s firmly in contention for at least a silver medal at the series’ halfway stage.
But the double Speedway World Cup winner isn’t looking too far ahead. He said: “I am only focused on scoring good points and we’ll see what happens after the last round.
“Saturday was a good day, but we must start preparing for the next round. I’m looking forward to Malilla.”
Zmarzlik clearly thrives in the Cardiff cauldron of noise and admitted he loves the atmosphere of Britain’s biggest speedway event after becoming its second straight Polish winner.
He said: “I love racing speedway when there are lots of people – it’s fun to race, but you have to focus when everyone is watching.”
The Poles weren’t short of support in the Welsh capital and Zmarzlik enjoyed seeing so many red and white flags. He said: “I have to say thank you very much to the Polish fans in Cardiff. There were a lot of people here. It always helps the Polish guys.”
Report: PAUL BURBIDGE
2 speedway star July 28, 2018