Greg Hancock on cusp of third title
Greg Hancock played down the prospect of making history as he stands 10 points from becoming the first ever American triple world champion at the Borygo Torun FIM Speedway Grand Prix of Poland on Saturday.
The World Championship leader goes into the series decider with a healthy 12-point lead over Polish hotshot Krzysztof Kasprzak. He is 15 clear of defending champ, Tai Woffinden of Great Britain, in third.
The 44-year-old became the sport’s oldest world champ when he won title No.2 in 2011 at age 41 and could eclipse his own record.
If he triumphs, Hancock would also surpass boyhood speedway hero Bruce Penhall’s two World Championships and cement his status as the USA’s undisputed all-time great.
But first the Californian has a job to do and talked down comparisons to Penhall – the 1981 and 1982 World Final winner from whom he inherited his iconic No.45.
Hancock said: “There is no bigger honour than to win the World Championship and I think Bruce would agree with me. It’s just the greatest feeling ever.
“But I’m not out to compare myself to anybody or be better than anyone else, except in the year I want to be world champ. That’s what I want to do.
“I’ve never set out in my career to break records – I set out to be the best and win as many championships as I could. I’m still going at it and there is still a lot left in me believe it or not.”
Hancock could also become the first rider to win the SGP series, having sat out a round. His legendary 177-SGP ever-present record came to an end last month when the multiple fractures he suffered to his left index finger in Gorzow, Poland kept him out of the Nordic SGP at Vojens, Denmark on September 13.
The Swedish-based racer had two long metal pins inserted to help the healing process and had them removed just days before storming to second place in his comeback meeting at the TEGERA® Scandinavian SGP in Stockholm on September 27.
With his clutch hand nicely on the mend, Hancock is delighted to have enjoyed a much less stressful warm-up for Torun.
He said: “I’m super, super happy I’m feeling much better again and I can ride to my ability once more. Four weeks off from riding was a killer. I just want to get back into the swing of it.
“I’m feeling pretty good. Of course my hand gets better and better every day. It’s going the right way. I had a weekend of riding in Poland last weekend with Tarnow. I practised on Friday and Saturday and did a lot of testing of new products and components of the bike ready for next year.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to use a little bit of that this weekend in Torun if it all plays well. I’m looking forward to the GP now.
“I continued all my treatments up until last Friday morning when I left for Poland. Since then, I’ve just been doing a lot of massaging and regular stretches of my fingers. It’s getting better and I’m really happy about that.”
While his hand is improving, Hancock knows his work is far from done. He is expecting a strong challenge from Kasprzak and Woffinden.
After watching Jaroslaw Hampel blitz to a 21-point maximum in Stockholm, he believes attacking the points is the best way of defending his lead.
He said: “There’s still another important meeting to go and I’m coming into it with the same thought process as all the other ones. It’s not about winning each individual meeting; it’s about taking points.
“There are still a lot of points to be had in Torun and I want to be the guy taking them. There’s a World Championship at stake and that’s what I am going for.
“I hope I can do what Jarek did. That would be my game plan. It would be awesome. I’d love to go to Torun and take 21 points. But I’ll take the best possible points I can and try to win the championship.”
The Borygo Torun SGP will also see the top eight riders secure their places in the 2015 World Championship. Top four Hancock, Kasprzak, Woffinden and Matej Zagar are already mathematically certain of finishing in the qualifying spots, while Nicki Pedersen only needs another two points to be safe.
Australian champion Chris Holder is well-placed in sixth on 93 points, but Saturday’s meeting will see an epic battle between Jaroslaw Hampel (87), Freddie Lindgren (87), Andreas Jonsson (86) and Troy Batchelor (85) as they fight for the final spots.
Danish champ Niels-Kristian Iversen misses the meeting due to injury and is set to drop out of the top eight. He is replaced in the line-up by compatriot Michael Jepsen Jensen, while 2015 SGP qualifier Maciej Janowski replaces the suspended Darcy Ward.
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WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Greg Hancock 127, 2 Krzysztof Kasprzak 115, 3 Tai Woffinden 112, 4 Matej Zagar 109, 5 Nicki Pedersen 107, 6 Chris Holder 93, 7 Jaroslaw Hampel 87, 8 Niels-Kristian Iversen 87, 9 Fredrik Lindgren 87, 10 Andreas Jonsson 86, 11 Troy Batchelor 85, 12 Martin Smolinski 77, 13 Darcy Ward 75, 14 Kenneth Bjerre 71, 15 Chris Harris 44, 16 Michael Jepsen Jensen 42, 17 Peter Kildemand 33, 18 Bartosz Zmarzlik 17, 19 Kasts Puodzuks 10, 20 Peter Ljung 7, 21 Mikkel Bech Jensen 7, 22 Tomas H Jonasson 7, 23 Adrian Miedzinski 5, 24 Joonas Kylmakorpi 5, 25 Kauko Nieminen 4, 26 Andzejs Lebedevs 3, 27 Kim Nilsson 3, 28 Jason Bunyan 2, 29 Vaclav Milik 2, 30 Craig Cook 2, 31 Adrian Cyfer 2, 32 Lukasz Kaczmarek 2, 33 Lasse Bjerre 1.