American great Greg Hancock is determined to continue making history, insisting “I’ve never put a timeframe on this game” after lifting FIM Speedway World Championship No.4 in Melbourne on Saturday.
The 46-year-old signed off another chapter in his storied career when he won heat four of the QBE Insurance Australian FIM Speedway Grand Prix at Etihad Stadium to clinch the sport’s biggest prize, with Great Britain star Tai Woffinden seeing off Bartosz Zmarzlik in the final to pip the Pole to World Championship silver.
Hancock is now one of the top six riders of all time in terms of world title wins, pulling level on four with New Zealand icon Barry Briggs and Danish team manager Hans Nielsen.
Hancock was elated to seal gold in his opening ride after winning a terrific tussle with Piotr Pawlicki. He said: “That first heat was exciting, nerve-wracking, emotional, everything.
“I realised after the first lap that the tyre was warm enough and the bike took off. I managed to reel in Pawlicki. I’m ecstatic. To look back now on the year I’ve had, I’m so, so amazed.
“It’s great to be on a list of names with these other four-time world champions. Those guys have all been heroes, icons or pillars in the sport. To join them in something like this, I feel honoured. I’m impressed and happy for myself. It’s a real, real honour to be in that company.”
Hancock was elated with the warm reception he received Down Under and paid tribute to the home fans and riders – meeting winner Chris Holder and the absent Jason Doyle.
“It was fantastic to win it here in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said. “The Australian people deserve a lot of credit. Obviously, they were missing Jason, which is a shame, but Chris won and what a great result.
“Chris’ year has been rough, so I’m just so happy for him. As it turned out, he worked hard from his first heat. He really, really worked hard.”
Hancock’s night ended after his third ride. He was disqualified from heat nine by the FIM Jury under rule 070.10.13, which states “A rider, who, having started in a heat does not make an honest attempt to ride to the best of their ability, as judged by the referee, shall be guilty of an offence, which may entail disqualification from the heat or a penalty.”
Following the decision, the Swedish-based rider elected to withdraw from the remainder of the meeting. The FIM Jury opted to take no further action.
While Hancock’s evening ended prematurely, Holder stormed his way into the final and blew the roof off Etihad Stadium with a breathtaking triumph over Tai Woffinden, Bartosz Zmarzlik and Antonio Lindback.
It was his first SGP victory in 43 rounds, with his last triumph coming at the British SGP in Cardiff on August 25, 2012. It also secured him fourth place in the final World Championship standings.
A delighted Holder said: “To be sitting here with the trophy in front of my home fans is amazing. It’s sweet. It’s something we dream about doing – all us Aussie guys. This is the best feeling in the world apart from being the champ.
“It has been a rough year off the bike, but on the bike, it has got better. I am looking forward to next year.”
As well as lifting the world title, Hancock booked his place in the 2017 SGP series along with fellow top-eight stars Woffinden, Zmarzlik, Holder, Doyle, Pawlicki, Lindback and Niels-Kristian Iversen.
They are joined by the top three from the GP Challenge in Vetlanda on September 3 – Patryk Dudek, Martin Vaculik and Fredrik Lindgren. The line-up for 2017 will be completed by four wild cards to be selected in due course by the SGP Commission.
FINAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:
1 Greg Hancock 139,
2 Tai Woffinden 130,
3 Bartosz Zmarzlik 128,
4 Chris Holder 126,
5 Jason Doyle 123,
6 Piotr Pawlicki 99,
7 Antonio Lindback 93,
8 Niels-Kristian Iversen 91,
9 Matej Zagar 90,
10 Maciej Janowski 90,
QBE INSURANCE AUSTRALIAN SGP SCORES:
1 Chris Holder 17
2 Tai Woffinden 15
3 Bartosz Zmarzlik 15
4 Antonio Lindback 14
5 Niels-Kristian Iversen 12
6 Matej Zagar 11
7 Michael Jepsen Jensen 10
8 Piotr Pawlicki 8
9 Andreas Jonsson 6
10 Fredrik Lindgren 6
11 Greg Hancock 5