Polish star Krzysztof Kasprzak admits winning his battle with nerves has transformed his fortunes after claiming his maiden SGP victory in an epic Meridian Lifts European FIM Speedway Grand Prix final in Bydgoszcz.
Special KK was a popular winner in his homeland, after scything under Australian sensation Darcy Ward on the final turn to cap a speedy performance which puts him 11 points clear at the World Championship summit.
Kasprzak’s victory is even more astonishing after he failed to score a single point in five rides at Bydgoszcz in 2013.
The Leszno-born rider could not be happier with his engines and crew and is delighted with the part they’re playing in what has been a dramatic upsurge in fortunes.
But he admits enlisting the help of a psychologist is finally helping him conquer his battle with nerves in the SGP series.
He said: “My psychologist is making my head relaxed. I haven’t got too much pressure. When I was stressed before, my body tensed up and I couldn’t race properly.
“Everyone was writing me messages and telling me on Facebook ‘you’ll win, you’ll win’ this weekend. But I don’t like this. When people say this, it’s usually a bad meeting.
“But now I’m just thinking ‘it’s just a league meeting’ and this is good. I’ve got the best psychologist in the world. But I cannot say her name because she is so good.”
Kasprzak is pleased a year of dramatic changes is helping him make his mark on the SGP series.
He said: “Last year I was a different rider. I have different engines, a different team; everything is different.
“I sat down in the winter, thinking, ‘I’m nearly 30 years old, I have good technique, I’m a very good starter’, so I was wondering why I wasn’t winning races in the GP. We talked about this and made some changes. What we have done is working well for me.
“We have worked for this for 13 years from 2000 when I got a licence and my team is very good. My Dad, Peter Johns, Rafal Lewicki, Gordon Day, Wiktor Lewandowski, many people have helped me in my life. I’m very happy.”
Kasprzak admits his engines have played a key role in his success so far this year and paid tribute to tuner Peter Johns for giving him motors that are putting him streets ahead of the competition.
He said: “Peter Johns has helped me very much. The engine is so important in speedway today and I hope he helps me like this until the end of the season.
“The track went slicker and that was no good for me. I had a strong engine. But when I passed Andreas Jonsson in the semi, I knew we were fast. Even when rain fell from the sky, my brother Robert said ‘you will win Krzysztof. You have the fastest engine’, and I did win.”
Kasprzak tops the World Championship on 35 points – 11 clear of Nicki Pedersen in second. But he refuses to consider the prospect of mounting a title charge yet.
He added: “I don’t think about this. We will be working for 10 more rounds and that’s all I can do. I don’t want to say about places and where I will finish. I only want to be in the GP next year.”
Kasprzak admits he was also boosted by a good luck message from a man who rides Bydgoszcz better than anybody – 2010 world champ and local hero Tomasz Gollob.
He said: “I’m very happy because my manager talked with Tomasz Gollob on Saturday morning and he said ‘good luck to you Kris, I hope you get a good result because I’m not there.’ I’m very happy I got it.”
Runner-up Ward admits he was fortunate to take part in the Meridian Lifts European SGP as he continues his battle with the knee ligament damage he suffered at the New Zealand SGP.
Ward, who sat out Friday’s practice session, left with 16 points. He said: “I think I’m lucky I was in Bydgoszcz given that I couldn’t even put my foot down. There was some good racing and it was hard work. I had to keep battling because everyone was so quick.
“When the rain came, we had decisions to make and this definitely feels like a win for me.
“My knee is definitely pretty bad at the moment. But you can just pick your leg up and balance on the bike at Bydgoszcz.
“I got some good points and I didn’t realise how many I got. Obviously KK has an incredible lead after two rounds, but the rest of us are there. We’ve just got to push forward and try and catch this man.”
World No.2 Jaroslaw Hampel finished third ahead of American icon Greg Hancock and was pleased to bag a bronze medal on what he admits was an up-and-down night.
He said: “It was a pretty good meeting. I went well in one race and then worse in the next. But I tried to keep going until the end.
“I worked really hard in the pits because I had to change the setup for nearly every race. Then the rain came and I was thinking what I had to do with my bikes to keep the speed.
“Everything worked well nearly to the end. I made a good gate in the final, but I couldn’t build my speed on the straight and maybe I chose the wrong line. Maybe I should have gone a little bit more outside.”
It was a night to forget for British duo Tai Woffinden and Chris Harris. They scored five and two points respectively.
Next up for the world’s top riders is the inaugural Mitas Finnish FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Tampere on May 17.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Krzysztof Kasprzak 35, 2 Nicki Pedersen 24, 3 Jaroslaw Hampel 22, 4 Greg Hancock 22, 5 Chris Holder 22, 6 Martin Smolinski 22, 7 Darcy Ward 21, 8 Fredrik Lindgren 18, 9 Andreas Jonsson 17, 10 Niels-Kristian Iversen 16, 11 Kenneth Bjerre 15, 12 Tai Woffinden 12, 13 Matej Zagar 12, 14 Troy Batchelor 8, 15 Adrian Miedzinski, 16 Chris Harris, 17 Jason Bunyan.
BYDGOSZCZ SCORES: 1 Krzysztof Kasprzak 18, 2 Darcy Ward 16, 3 Jaroslaw Hampel 14, 4 Greg Hancock 16, 5 Chris Holder 11, 6 Andreas Jonsson 10, 7 Niels-Kristian Iversen 10, 8 Martin Smolinski 7, 9 Matej Zagar 6, 10 Adrian Miedzinski 5, 11 Tai Woffinden 5, 12 Nicki Pedersen 5, 13 Fredrik Lindgren 5, 14 Troy Batchelor 4, 15 Kenneth Bjerre 4, 16 Chris Harris 2, 17 Szymon Wozniak DNR, 18 Pawel Przedpelski DNR.