Jaroslaw Hampel wins Stockholm Speedway GP
Jaroslaw Hampel refused to let his nightmare run of form break him after transforming his season with an unforgettable 21-point maximum to win the Scandinavian FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Stockholm.
The Polish racer managed just 12 points in the previous four rounds, including a shock zero in his homeland at Gorzow.
But he ended one of the most difficult spells of his career in spectacular style, romping to a sensational seven wins at the Friends Arena to record the first SGP maximum since compatriot Tomasz Gollob went through the card unbeaten in the 2010 Nordic SGP at Vojens.
Hampel triumphed in the final ahead of World Championship leader Greg Hancock, who is now just a maximum of 10 points away from becoming a triple world champion after taking a 12-point advantage at the top.
Polish star Krzysztof Kasprzak leapfrogged Britain’s defending world champ Tai Woffinden for second place in the standings after finishing third, while Australian No.1 Chris Holder was fourth in Stockholm.
But the night belonged to Hampel. The rider was elated to end his crisis of confidence and rocket from 14th to seventh in the World Championship, putting himself on course for automatic qualification for the 2015 series.
While Hampel admits he doubted himself for a while, he was delighted he didn’t let his troubles beat him.
He said: “A few weeks ago, I was thinking I wasn’t good enough to race speedway because I was totally down. It’s so hard to race if you are not 100 percent sure when you sit on your bike. It’s really tough to fix all of your problems in one day or one moment.
“After so many bad races, I’ve been working really hard on myself to find a reason and find the problem that was causing me to go so badly. It’s not that easy. Sometimes you need to take one step back to make two steps forward. I feel like I did that.
“I’ve had some trouble with the bikes of course, but when I’ve been out on the track, I haven’t believed in myself. I’m not broken, though. I tried to think positive and I learnt a lot day by day about myself; I figured out the best thing for me to do and how to enjoy it again. I feel much better now.
“Sometimes it’s so hard to find the right way out straight away. If you race for so many years at a good level and then suddenly everything dives very deep with your performances, it’s so hard to get back to a good level. But I’ve learned so much and this has opened my eyes to the people around me – who is with me and who is not.
“I can sit on my bike and enjoy it again. This is most important. I felt that on the track today and I hopefully I can feel it until the end of the year, and next year of course.”
Hampel has been on the wrong end of some negative headlines in his homeland. So he was delighted to give his media critics the ideal response in Stockholm.
He said: “On the internet and in the papers, there were so many things written about me that weren’t just negative – they were untrue. I don’t know who wrote these things.
“But I don’t want to fight it. I want to stay above this and concentrate on what I need to do to get back. This was the perfect answer to it, of course.”
Hancock has endured a torrid month after suffering multiple fractures of his left index finger in Gorzow on August 30. The 44-year-old had two pins removed from the digit this week to get himself back on track for the Friends Arena event.
Despite starting with a last place, he piled up a fantastic 15 points in his final six outings and admits his heroic performance was beyond his comeback expectations.
He said: “I set my goals high and I definitely exceeded what I expected. I’m pretty excited right now. I hadn’t ridden for almost a month and I had a couple of laps of practice on Thursday night. I had some on Friday too.
“I feel great. That second place in Stockholm was a massive achievement for me personally in terms of my confidence and belief. It’s nice all the hard work we put into this still pays off.”
Hancock could seal his third World Championship with a double-figure return in the Torun FIM Speedway Grand Prix of Poland on October 11, and that target will be reduced with every point surrendered by title rivals Kasprzak and Woffinden.
But the cool Californian isn’t letting thoughts of lifting the SGP trophy enter his mind. He said: “We don’t want to talk about that! I just want to do the best I can and I want to be world champion too.”
Kasprzak is 12 points short of Hancock after his third straight SGP bronze medal. Despite starting off with two stunning wins, the Gorzow hero only just made it into the semis on eight points. So he was content to leave Stockholm with 11.
He said: “It was a very hard meeting for me. I tried two bikes and they didn’t work. I was very fast in the first two races and then I had some problems.
“I picked my third bike for the semi-final and it was 50-50 as to what would happen. But it worked really well. I made the engine a little bit flatter for the final and that was a mistake. But I scored 11 points – that was the plan before the meeting. I wanted 10 or 11 points.
“I’d like to say congratulations to Jarek. In the last couple of weeks, they have written many untrue things about him. Now everyone can see how he races when he has good form – 21 points.”
Like Hancock, Kasprzak declined to be drawn on any title talk. He simply said: “My plan before the season was the top eight. Now I’m in the top three and I’m very happy. Whatever God gives me in Torun, I will be very happy. If it’s a medal, it will be my dream – a dream come true.”
Woffinden dropped down to third in the standings after exiting the TEGERA® Scandinavian SGP on seven points. He now trails Kasprzak by three points and Hancock by 15, leaving him a mountain to climb to cling on to his world title in Torun.
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.
STOCKHOLM SCORES: 1 Jaroslaw Hampel 21, 2 Greg Hancock 15, 3 Krzysztof Kasprzak 11, 4 Chris Holder 13, 5 Matej Zagar 12, 6 Andreas Jonsson 12, 7 Fredrik Lindgren 9, 8 Tai Woffinden 7, 9 Martin Smolinski 7, 10 Tomas H Jonasson 7, 11 Troy Batchelor 6, 12 Nicki Pedersen 6, 13 Michael Jepsen Jensen 4, 14 Chris Harris 4, 15 Kim Nilsson 3, 16 Kenneth Bjerre 1, 17 Oliver Berntzon DNR, 18 Jacob Thorssell DNR.