Double world champion Tai Woffinden collected the FIM Speedway World Championship trophy for the second time, and promptly set his sights on lifting it again next year at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on October 22, 2016, as the date was set for the return of World Speedway Down Under.
Outgoing champ Greg Hancock stormed to a sensational seven-ride maximum to win an epic DON Smallgoods Australian FIM Speedway Grand Prix and sealed World Championship silver.
Woffinden piled up 12 points in the heats but crashed out of his semi-final to miss out on victory in the country he was raised. But the Scunthorpe-born star wrapped up the SGP trophy in Torun three weeks ago and promptly picked himself up to enjoy the medal presentation.
The Vetlanda and Wroclaw man is only the 16th rider in history to win multiple world titles, and only the fifth rider to achieve the feat in the SGP era, joining Tony Rickardsson, Nicki Pedersen, Jason Crump and Hancock. Only Rickardsson and Pedersen have won two titles on the bounce and it’s a feat Woffinden would love to match.
He said: “Nicki said the hardest thing is to win it back to back. I’m always looking for something to help spur me on; another challenge in life.
“Hopefully this is another one I’ll knock straight down and I can keep trucking on. But I have so many more years at this, it’s unreal. I’ve won it twice in the last three years. I have established myself as a top rider who is going to be here for a long time. I’ll see how many of these we can get.”
The Etihad Stadium pulled a superb crowd in excess of 26,000 for a dramatic first speedway meeting, staged on a fantastic race track. Woffinden hopes the event can go from strength to strength and was elated to lift the trophy in the country he calls home.
He said: “It was absolutely unreal. The guys at the Etihad put on a really good show. It has been a long series. There have been some ups and downs for everybody, not just the riders.
“To see it all finish on a good note on a great track is fantastic. Hopefully every single person that was there tonight brings two people next year and we get this place full.
“It was great to clinch the championship in Torun, but to actually be given the trophy in Australia means so much to me. It has been an unbelievable year.”
Woffinden paid tribute to veteran title rivals Hancock and Pedersen. At 45 and 38 respectively, the duo may be the SGP series’ elder statesmen, but their pace continues to impress Woffy.
He joked: “Me and Greg agreed that I don’t call him old; I call him experienced. Nicki is also experienced. It’s amazing to see how dedicated these guys are at such an old age! It’s unreal racing against these guys and long may it continue.”
Woffinden plans to enjoy a well-earned break, before getting back down to work in his bid for No.3.
He said: “This summer I’m going to try and ride motocross twice a week and I’ll go out on my mates’ boats and go fishing. I’m going snorkelling and diving. I’m going to plan a wedding with my fiancée Faye. I’m going to party hard and celebrate with all my mates.
“I don’t need to say anything else about what I plan to do for next season because I don’t want these boys to do the same.
“All I know is I’ll be working twice as hard as anyone in the series – you’ll see that next year.”
Hancock may have been deflated by missing out on his fourth SGP title. But he’s determined to keep learning and bounce back in 2016.
He said: “We all come here to win this thing. The truth of the game is second place is the first loser. But it’s a medal and shows the determination we all have.
“Winning is everything, but there are building blocks along the way. I’m learning all the time and I learned a heck of a lot from this. I love what I do. Speedway is what I have been doing since I was a kid and there’s nothing better than getting sideways. If I’m going to do it, I want to be the best.”
Pedersen also has no desire to slow down and is ready to go back to the workshop and test track to find the consistency needed to dethrone Woffinden.
He said: “Against those guys it’s hard to become the world champion. I gave it a shot. I have a few things I could do better and improve. I’ve won three rounds and I hadn’t won any rounds for a few years. You need to win GPs before you become world champion.
“Halfway through the season, we were struggling with a lack of speed. We got that sorted towards the end. This winter I will improve upon small things here and there. We all start on zero points next season. We’ll see what happens.”
Hancock won the Melbourne final ahead of Niels-Kristian Iversen and Maciej Janowski. But that race was marred by a nasty-looking crash for Australian champion Jason Doyle, who was briefly knocked unconscious after a first-bend tangle with Hancock.
After being ruled out of the re-run of the final, he was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital for treatment, but is said to be conscious and breathing unaided.
Tickets for the 2016 Australian FIM Speedway Grand Prix on October 22 go on sale at 12pm local time on Monday.
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