I wasn’t sure if I could return in time for the next round, or whether I would be allowed to race because I had broken something in my chest. But there are a lot of muscles around it that could hold everything up, so I was a bit lucky. So I went to the next GP at Roden and I scored a maximum which put me back in the game.
“You can’t really plan anything like that,” said Smoli of his thrilling move. “I had a good gate, we came into the first corner and Dimitri took the short route and I took the long way. We all know how big the difference is in longtrack from the inside to the outside, I think I must have done 100 metres more by the time I came onto the straight, it’s a long way, especially on the first corner when I was completely on the outside.
“With a speed of maybe 140150 kmh, I hit the fence a little bit to pick up a bit more grip and that worked. My engine pulled me out of the corner and there was space out there on the fence, but not much. Maybe Dimitri thought he was on the fence, but there was some room and I just pulled away.
compatriot Michael Hartel. The accident had such energy that his machine flipped over the safety fence. While attempting to pass Bernd Diener, Smoli got into trouble and before he knew it he was bouncing off the barrier. From the footage, it looked as though it was pilot error but it could be attributed to poor illumination.
“It was a racing accident, it’s the World Championship, the same with Tai in Torun, you ride to the limit because you want to be World Champion,” he says. “But the problem we had was a little bit to do with the lights. If we go back to La Reole in 2019 and we have an evening meeting, then I’ll be checking the light quality in the corner because, where I crashed, the lighting was poor. It’s not good enough for a World Championship.
“It was unfortunate that there weren’t any cameras that could have filmed it from the back. I know I was nearly touching the fence in the corner and on the straights. At Muhldorf, we reach 190 kmh and I was maybe centimetres away from the airfence and then on my left I had someone who was trying to block me, so there wasn’t much room.
“I had some unlucky meetings, but at the end of the day that’s racing. So it was a good opportunity for everyone to see a last meeting decider, or as it turned out, a last heat decider. I think for the sport it was one of the best longtrack GP finals since we’ve had it as Grand Prix rounds.”
One of those unfortunate events was at La Reole, France, when he had a nasty crash with
“I wasn’t sure if I could return in time for the next round, or whether I would be allowed to race because I had broken something in my chest. But there are a lot of muscles around it that could hold everything up, so I was a bit lucky. So I went to the next GP at Roden and I scored a maximum which put me back in the game.”
Smolinski is no stranger to longtrack racing, having been runner-up in the championship in 2012, and he won three German titles before he concentrated on speedway. Part of the reason for that shift in focus was brought about because the longtrack championship’s profile had declined and it wasn’t providing him with the platform he required to market his sponsors. Happily, while there is still a way to go, things have improved.
“I must compliment the race director, Thierry Bouin, for what he has done in the sport,” praises Martin. “I’m a straight-talking person and I’d told them that I wasn’t happy with the longtrack Grand Prix – I told them to their faces that it had fallen behind.
“Thierry and I have not always been the best of friends, but in the end he had to agree with me. It was taking five hours to run a longtrack, now we’re back to two, or two-and-a-half hours, so after three everything is finished.
“I know for the fans watching on YouTube it might have looked bad because for some reason they weren’t allowed to show the sidecar racing in between. I don’t know why. For me personally, we have to work quickly in the pits. There isn’t much time for the riders in between races to get ready. But overall it’s going in the right direction now.”
For some time, longtrack has been more advanced than its shorter cousin. In the late 80s, it was the German longtrack tuners who were successfully transferring their knowledge to speedway; and when silencers were restricted in 2011, longtrack had already been using them and looked on with some amusement at speedway’s objections.
Unlike most shale-shifters, Smolinski is technically-minded and during the off-season he can be found restoring old racing machines for a local museum, so it’s not surprising that he’s excelled in this discipline. Yet what is startling is that he’s achieved his success on a Jawa – not least because he took the decision to circumvent his Jawa factory backing and switched to GM for speedway in the middle of last season.
“I decided to work with the factory just for the longtrack,” he says. “I’m always quite quick in Muhldorf, I like the 1,000-metre tracks, my Jawa factory engines, powered by Manfred Knappe, my engine tuner, he’s been working hard in the last few weeks leading up to Muhldorf to get the best engine we could and the best set-up. He’s doing a lot of other speedway engines and we’ve been working together on the longtrack for some time. So all the hard work paid off.
“On the longtrack, we’ve found the best set-up on the power station (dyno), biggest power and maximum speed. All the set-ups are done from the dyno. Together with Manfred, we set up every bike for every track for the longtrack GP. We decide what power-line we’re going to have, so I invest in a lot of time with my tuner, he knows me very well, I tell him what I need and what I want, and he does it.
“On a big track like Muhldorf, you need to have a super light bike, a good design, the gearbox
14 speedway star October 27, 2018