Iversen wins British Speedway GP
Danish champion Niels-Kristian Iversen insists the big races still bring the best out of him after he bounced back from his Monster Energy SWC heartbreak with Adrian Flux British FIM Speedway Grand Prix glory in Cardiff.
Iversen topped the rostrum in front of over 40,000 fans at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday night after scorching around Chris Holder on lap one to win the final in spectacular style.
His compatriot Peter Kildemand was third, while Britain’s World Championship leader Tai Woffinden must wait for his first home win after finishing fourth.
NKI’s triumph at world speedway’s biggest event underlines the incredible highs and lows of the sport.
Just three weeks ago, the Danish national team skipper suffered the agony of being excluded from heat 20 of the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final at Vojens on June 15, when he had a rush of blood and clattered Poland’s Przemyslaw Pawlicki in a last-heat decider for gold with Sweden.
Tonight his sublime swoop around Holder paid off big time. Even though he knows the Danish disappointment will take some getting over, Iversen was glad he delivered again when it mattered.
He said: “I haven’t done that many Grand Prix finals, but I’ve got four wins from eight. It just gives me that little bit extra when I get to one. It brings out the best in me. A big race brought a little bit too much out of me in the World Cup. I think that one will haunt me until the end of time!
“That’s the way it goes. You win some, you lose some. You have to do your best. This one worked for me and it’s a great feeling.
“I knew I had the speed after the semi-final when I came from last to second, and I put myself in a good position in the first corner. Then I had a chance.
“It was all or nothing. I would have been pleased to get to the podium after how the night went, so to win it was even better.
“I knew when I hit the front that I had it. The speed was there and I just had to keep it on. It was fantastic; a great feeling.”
Iversen’s triumph saw him jump from ninth to fourth in the World Championship standings. But he’s still 20 points adrift of top dog Woffinden and knows he needs even more consistency to reel the Brit in.
He said: “I’m in fourth position, but there are still eight rounds left. Only four have been done now. There’s such a long way to go.
“You have to put in performances in every meeting to be in contention when the season finishes. I don’t see myself as a favourite because I won this meeting. I need to be a bit more consistent and I need to up my game a little bit more if I’m really going to be in with a title shot.
“There are other riders who are more consistent than I am at the moment. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.
“Hopefully it can give me a bit of a boost confidence-wise. I know I have some bikes that are working quite well now and when you get that feeling you have the speed, pace and ability, things just happen a little bit easier. Hopefully this can push me a little bit on the way.”
Iversen is delighted to have bounced back from a dip in confidence at the start of the season after returning from the serious knee ligament damage which ended his 2014 campaign last August.
He said: “It was a tough one after the injury. I felt pretty good when I started the league meetings in March, but when it really mattered, I felt I’d lost a little bit of belief that I can really do it and feel good on a bike.
“That makes a huge difference in speedway. If you feel good, you ride well. If you feel 95 percent, then you’ll never make it when you come to this level.”
Runner-up Chris Holder was gutted he couldn’t grab what would have been his third Cardiff victory after hitting the front in the final. But after going into the event 13th in the standings with 13 points, storming to 18 out of a possible 21 has blasted him up to sixth on 31.
Having endured a confidence battle of his own following a spate of injuries over the last two years, Holder was elated to be back to his best.
He said: “I was sitting right down near the bottom. So getting a lot of points tonight was the plan, and to have a chance of winning is the ultimate.
“It just didn’t happen in the end. I managed a start in the final. But I was in two minds down the back straight as to what to do – go up to the fence or stay inside. I took the wrong option.
“Cardiff has been good to me. I’ve had two podiums and two wins, so it would have been awesome to get the win. I’m sure I’ll feel better about getting second tomorrow, but right now I’m not best pleased.
“After three rounds, I was nowhere near the top eight. One good round has put me straight back up there. It was tight, but being up in sixth place is better than sitting down in 13th.”
Third-placed Peter Kildemand was drafted into the meeting as a replacement for the injured Jaroslaw Hampel and starred with a swashbuckling display.
Despite missing the opening three rounds of the series, he’s determined to mount a push for the top eight automatic qualifying places for 2016 after reaching his third final in as many full SGP appearances.
He said: “It’s going to be tough to get into the top eight, but that’s my aim and I’ll do all I can. Cardiff was just amazing. I’ve never tried anything like this. I’m really pleased I was here and I’m really pleased to be in the final again.”
Woffinden did a partisan home crowd proud as he stormed into the semi-finals on 12 points, before winning his semi to reach the last four. But he missed the start in the medal race and couldn’t battle his way to what would have been a second straight rostrum appearance.
He said: “It doesn’t really matter too much about the final. I scored as many points as I needed to and extended my lead in the championship. It obviously would have been nice to win the meeting, but I did what I had to do – I scored plenty of points and points make prizes.
“I’ll take that forward now. I’m feeling good about things and I’m in a good position so I’ll just keep working hard and hopefully it will pay off at the end of the season.”
Woffinden also reserved special praise for the British supporters, who he says left him with “goosebumps” with their rapturous reception.
He added: “The reception I received was just amazing. It gave me goosebumps when I came out onto the track. Every single time I was out there the noise the fans made was just incredible, and it was an unbelievable feeling.”
Wild card Craig Cook blew the roof off the Millennium Stadium with a magnificent win in heat three, but fell just a point short of the semis on seven. Former Cardiff winner Chris Harris endured a tough night, exiting the event on five points.
Tickets for the 2016 British SGP go on general sale on Monday at 1pm (BST). But fans who subscribe to the SGP newsletter by entering their email address in the ‘e-news signup’ box on www.speedwaygp.com will get the chance to secure their tickets from 12pm.
The next FIM Speedway Grand Prix action is the Rietumu Bank Latvian FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Daugavpils on July 18.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1 Tai Woffinden 55, 2 Nicki Pedersen 43, 3 Greg Hancock 39, 4 Niels-Kristian Iversen 35, 5 Matej Zagar 34, 6 Chris Holder 31, 7 Jaroslaw Hampel 31, 8 Jason Doyle 29, 9 Michael Jepsen Jensen 27, 10 Andreas Jonsson 26, 11 Maciej Janowski 26, 12 Chris Harris 23, 13 Krzysztof Kasprzak 21, 14 Troy Batchelor 17, 15 Tomas H Jonasson 16, 16 Peter Kildemand 12, 17 Craig Cook 7, 18 Tomasz Gollob 4, 19 Bartosz Zmarzlik 3, 20 Timo Lahti 3, 21 Vaclav Milik 2, 22 Piotr Pawlicki 1, 23 Robert Lambert 1.
ADRIAN FLUX BRITISH SGP SCORES
1 Niels-Kristian Iversen 14, 2 Chris Holder 18, 3 Peter Kildemand 12, 4 Tai Woffinden 15, 5 Greg Hancock 12, 6 Matej Zagar 10, 7 Nicki Pedersen 9, 8 Michael Jepsen Jensen 8, 9 Craig Cook 7, 10 Jason Doyle 7, 11 Tomas H Jonasson 7, 12 Chris Harris 5, 13 Krzysztof Kasprzak 4, 14 Troy Batchelor 4, 15 Maciej Janowski 3, 16 Andreas Jonsson 2, 17 Robert Lambert 1, 18 Jason Garrity 0.