Nicki Pedersen wins Finnish Speedway Grand Prix
Triple world champ Nicki Pedersen admitted he was close to tears after toasting an emotional first FIM Speedway Grand Prix win since July 2012 at the Finnish SGP in Tampere on Saturday night.
Pedersen topped the rostrum after an electrifying start helped him triumph in the final ahead of British hero Tai Woffinden, who was second. Swedish star Andreas Jonsson was third and Polish hotshot Jaroslaw Hampel finished fourth.
The great Dane has endured a turbulent week, crashing hard with SGP rival Michael Jepsen Jensen at his Danish club Holsted on Wednesday, sustaining damage to his hip, ankles and neck.
Pedersen was lucky to walk away from that spill without more serious injuries, so he was elated to pick up his first SGP success since he won the Croatian SGP at Gorican on July 28, 2012.
The 38-year-old, who moved second in the World Championship on 19 points, said: “It was many years ago that I last won. That’s why I nearly felt the tears coming up under my eyes when I was about to get on the rostrum.
“It is nice to pick up a win sometimes. I was a little bit sick of hearing that it had been so many years ago.
“Of course, it comes down to how many points you score at the end of the season. I would have been happy with a rostrum today anyway. So to actually win this GP with so many things going on this week was good for me and good for the sponsors.
“Hard work pays off. I haven’t been happy with things for several years. It has been up and down, but tonight I really felt my bikes suited me. When you’ve got yourself and the bikes as one unit, you know it’s possible. But you still need to go out and do it.”
Pedersen is renowned as one of world speedway’s gating gurus. But that doesn’t stop him seeking perfection. Even when he won his semi-final, he felt there was room for improvement to ensure he came out on top.
He said: “I analysed the replays of my start in the semi-final a little bit. I made a mistake and didn’t make as good a start as I should have done. I analysed it and I made it better in the final. It’s nice when you can look at small things and get them working for the next race.
“I’ve changed my gating style a little bit over the last month and the way I work on the bike. That has really made a difference compared to the last couple of years. It works very well and that’s good.”
Pedersen watched as lightening-trapping rival Woffinden picked the inside red gate for the final. But rather than steer clear of him with his selection, the Dane was determined to win the starting struggle and chose blue. He said: “I knew Tai was getting faster and faster towards the end, but when he took gate one, I believed I could make a start on him. If he’d made it, he could have squeezed me out. But I believed I could make it and I did.
“I can’t wait for Prague now. I want to put some more points on the account.”
The SGP stars return to action next Saturday when Prague’s Marketa Stadium stages the Czech FIM Speedway Grand Prix.
Former world champ Woffinden has won the last two rounds staged in the Czech capital. And he goes there as World Championship leader on 22 points after powering through a testing end to the night.
Woffinden partially dislocated his shoulder in heat 18 and was clearly in some discomfort in the meeting’s latter stages. But he refused to let that deny him his second straight Finnish SGP silver medal.
He said: “In my last heat race, I went under Greg and was hanging on around the inside. The bike bucked. The shoulder just popped out a little bit. It did the exact same in the next race.
“I have a bit of a shoulder problem. I have had it for a few years. It hurt a little bit, but no excuses. I felt good for my last race. Nicki just made a great start from gate two. If you make starts, you win races.”
Looking ahead to Prague, Woffy would love to make it three on the bounce. He said: “It’s a track I enjoy. I’ll see if I can do the hat-trick, but I’ll take it one race at a time – that’s how I have always raced in my career. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Third-placed Andreas Jonsson defied his pre-meeting expectations with a bronze medal having spent nearly a month on the sidelines with a knee injury.
He said: “I’m happy with it. The track was really tricky and that was the hard thing when I’d had nearly a month off. I didn’t really expect to do that well. I’m surprised and happy. I’m really glad to be back on a bike and that’s the main thing.”
The next SGP round takes place this Saturday when the Czech Republic FIM Speedway Grand Prix returns to the famous Marketa Stadium in Prague. For ticket and event information, visit www.speedwaygp.com.
FIM Speedway Grand Prix Standings: 1 Tai Woffinden 22, 2 Nicki Pedersen 19, 3 Jaroslaw Hampel 18, 4 Andreas Jonsson 16, 5 Matej Zagar 15, 6 Jason Doyle 15, 7 Michael Jepsen Jensen 15, 8 Greg Hancock 14, 9 Krzysztof Kasprzak 13, 10 Niels-Kristian Iversen 13, 11 Chris Harris 13, 12 Tomas H Jonasson 8, 13 Chris Holder 7, 14 Troy Batchelor 7, 15 Maciej Janowski 5, 16 Tomasz Gollob 4, 17 Bartosz Zmarzlik 3, 18 Timo Lahti 3.
Finnish FIM Speedway Grand Prix Scores: 1 Nicki Pedersen 16, 2 Tai Woffinden 17, 3 Andreas Jonsson 12, 4 Jaroslaw Hampel 11, 5 Jason Doyle 11, 6 Krzysztof Kasprzak 10, 7 Michael Jepsen Jensen 10, 8 Greg Hancock 9, 9 Matej Zagar 7, 10 Troy Batchelor 7, 11 Chris Holder 7, 12 Chris Harris 6, 13 Niels-Kristian Iversen 6, 14 Tomas H Jonasson 4, 15 Timo Lahti 3, 16 Maciej Janowski 2, 17 Nike Lunna 0, 18 Jiri Nieminen 0.