Track Racing

Tai Woffinden

2018 FIM Speedway Grand Prix World Champion

Born on 10 August 1990 in Scunthorpe, Great Britain

WOOFY, WOOFY, WOOFY!

Tai Woffinden became the first British rider ever to be crowned as a three-time FIM Speedway World Champion and secure his status as a true legend of the sport at the final round of the 2018 season in Toruń, Poland.

After another strong and consistent campaign, ‘Woofy’ headed into a title showdown with Bartosz Zmarzlik in front of 20,000 passionate fans at the Pole’s home round in Toruń needing just twelve points to claim the title. However, Zmarzlik produced an inspired performance to take four straight heat victories and keep the pressure on the British rider, who looked like he might have cracked in heat 11 when he crashed and suffered a suspected broken metacarpal in his foot.

Woffinden rode through the pain barrier and after a victory in heat 20 he took second place in the semi-final to wrap up the championship. The gritty Brit then rode with the shackles off in the final to win his second Grand Prix in a row and top the podium, inflicting Artem Laguta’s sole loss of a sensational night.

The championship runner-up spot for Zmarzlik, upgrading the bronze medal he won in 2016 to silver, was just reward for a strong season that included a famous win at Woffinden’s home round in Cardiff, whilst Lindgren’s first ever World Championship medal was the ideal way to bounce back after his 2017 season was ended by a spinal injury.

Woffinden, who also took gold in 2013 and 2015, surpasses fellow countrymen Freddie Williams and Peter Craven on two world titles and has already set his sights on matching Ivan Mauger and Tony Rickardsson’s record haul of six. His more immediate target for next season, though, is to retain the title for the first time and become only the third rider to do so in the SGP era since 1995.

PALMARES

3 World titles – 2013, 2015, 2018

Martin Smolinski

2018 FIM Long Track World Champion

Born on 6 December 1984 in Münich, Germany

SMOLINSKI SMOKES THE FINAL SHOWDOWN

Martin Smolinski returned to the FIM Long Track World Championship as a full-time entrant in 2018 and claimed the crown he narrowly missed out on in 2012 in a sensational final round in Mühldorf that was only settled by the very last race of the series.

The five-round championship started and finished on home soil for the German, with the opening round taking place in Herxheim, where Dimitri Bergé marked his own return to Long Track with the win. The Frenchman led the series throughout, qualifying for every final except at Roden, and maintained a three-point lead after the penultimate round at Eenrum.

Smolinski, meanwhile, had won two of the rounds whilst defending champion Mathieu Tresarrieu claimed victory at La Réole, keeping his title hopes alive for an exciting finale around the 1000m sand track in Mühldorf.

The German fans turned out in their thousands in anticipation of home success and they weren’t to be disappointed. The draw dictated that Bergé met Smolinski twice in the first five races and the Frenchman had to give second best in both of them. By the end of the qualifying races Smolinski had equalled Bergé’s score and both riders entered the final on level points.

In the final Bergé scorched from the start to lead into the first bend but Smolinski made his move on the first lap and held the lead until the chequered flag, claiming the win and the title by a single point.

PALMARES

World title – 2018

Bartosz Smektała

2018 FIM Speedway Under 21 World Champion

Born on 22 August 1998 in Śrem, Poland

BARTOSZ BAGS THE TITLE

Bartosz Smektala gained revenge on his compatriot Maksym Drabik after another sensational battle for the FIM Speedway Under 21 World Championship, with the two Polish riders swapping their final championship positions from 2017 as Bartosz bagged the title at the final round in Pardubice in September.

After three qualifying rounds in the Czech Republic, Sweden and Poland in June, the first of three finals took place at the end of the month at the Daugavpils track in Latvia, where Drabik opened his defence by establishing a three-point advantage over Smektala and British youngster Robert Lambert, who briefly led the final before conceding to Drabik.

The defending champion then claimed an unbeaten 21-point haul in the second final on home soil at Leszno in July to establish a clear six-point advantage over Smektala, with Lambert a further five points back after being squeezed out in the semi-final. However, drama was to follow from the start in Pardubice, with Drabik taking only three points from his first two rides, having dropped only one point in the previous fourteen races in this competition.

Smektala looked like he would dominate on the superbly prepared track butDrabik recovered his composure to collect eleven points and reach the last race with a one-point lead overall. However, the Final was to prove his downfall after he was boxed out in a first-bend scramble and was unable to make any impression on Smektala, who cruised to the win ahead of Lambert and snatched the title by two points. 

PALMARES

World title – 2018

France

2018 FIM Team Long Track World Champion

Riders: Mathieu Trésarrieu, David Bellego, Dimitri Bergé, Stéphane Trésarrieu
Team Manage: Laurent Sambarrey

FRANCE TAKE FAMOUS HOME WIN

Riders from six countries did battle for the FIM Team Long Track World Championship in 2018, with France coming out on top of a thrilling event in front of their ecstatic home fans in Morizes. Teams of three riders, plus a reserve, over 15 heats to decide the destination of the Don Godden Trophy, with the French team living up to their billing as the pre-event favourites with a comfortable eight-point winning margin over Great Britain.

2017 winners Germany, who had won eight out of the eleven previous finals, had a significantly weakened team for this year with Martin Smolinski unavailable, Michael Härtel and David Pfeffer both injured and the out-of-form Stefan Katt giving his place to one of the younger riders. With Dimitri Bergé and Mathieu Trésarrieu both in contention for the individual championship it was easy to see why France were so well fancied and they did not disappoint, taking a crucial 10-5 win over the Brits when they met in Heat 2 and never looking likely to lose their lead.

Great Britain last won the competition in 2015 and their second place was well earned with both James Shanes and experienced captain Chris Harris scoring heavily, whilst the depleted German team were very happy with their bronze medal place after the selection problems that had surrounded Team Manager Josef Hukelmann.

The Netherlands also had injury problems with Romano Hummel and Henry Van der Steen both out, putting the pressure on Theo Pijper, whose 20 points were just not enough to lift them onto the podium as they finished four points adrift of third place.

Bern Ernst

2018 FIM Speedway Youth 250cc World Champion

Born on 1 June 2003 in Gustrow, Germany

BEN BLAZES TO GLORY

Ben Ernst was crowned FIM Speedway Youth World Champion after a sensational performance on a sunny evening in Torun in July. The young German from Gustrow qualified fifth from the first of two semi-finals that took place two days previously in Gdansk, when the top seven from each event were sent through to the final.

Sweden’s Philip Hellström-Bängs took the top position in the first semi-final with Mateusz Bartkowiak of Poland in second place, whilst Esben Hjerrild of Denmark topped the second event with a fifteen-point maximum, as Poland’s Karol Zupinski won the run-off for second place over Keynan Rew of Australia.

However, with nine nations represented in the final, the only thing that could stop Ernst in Torun was an engine failure whilst leading Heat 16, which caused his machine to catch fire and required the speedy attention of the efficient track staff. The teenager shrugged off the setback to win his remaining rides, including the semi-final and final, in impressive style.

The silver medal went to Bartkowiak who recovered after a slow start in his qualifying rides to win his semi-final and chased Ernst all the way in the final, whilst Hellström-Bängs was third for the second successive year. 

Ernst, who counts Chris Holder and Emil Sayfutdinov as his heroes, is now well on the way to following in their tyre tracks all the way to the top of the discipline.

PALMARES

World title – 2018

Jason Doyle

2017 FIM Speedway Grand Prix World Champion

Born on 6 October 1985 in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

DOYLE'S DATE WITH DESTINY

A little over twelve months ago, Jason Doyle was lying in a hospital bed watching the final round of the 2016 FIM World Speedway Championship in Melbourne. Having led the field for most of the series his hopes were dashed when a bone crushing crash in the penultimate round in Torun ended his title aspirations. Fast forward to October 2017 and the picture is very different. In front of his home supporters as well as his friends and family, the 32-year-old finally achieved his ambition and won the final round in Melbourne to take the title by a margin of 19 points.

Some doubted that Doyle would be capable of challenging again for the biggest prize in Speedway but the tough Australian silenced his critics with a strong performance in the opening round in Slovenia. After the third round he took the lead in the overall classification, which he never relinquished and set a new record by reaching the Final in ten out of the twelve Grand Prix rounds. It was this consistency through the season that gave him an edge over his fellow racers.

Even another injury in Torun, where he crashed whilst riding for his Polish League club and suffered a broken foot, could not disrupt his flow. Amazingly, with a plate in his foot and suffering great pain, he returned just six days later to score a remarkable 15 points in Denmark. Poland’s Patryk Dudek marked a remarkable debut season in the silver medalist position, whist two-time champion Tai Woffinden took third place after a late season surge.

PALMARES
World title – 2017

Maksym Drabik

2017 FIM Speedway Under 21 World Champion

Born on 22 February 1998 in Czestochowa, Poland

MAKSYM-UM POTENTIAL

Poland’s never ending pool of talent was evident again as it took the top two positions in the 2017 FIM Under 21 Speedway World Championship when the last round was completed in Pardubice in September. Raced over three rounds this competition provided some excellent racing from some of the best young riders around, with Maksym Drabik coming out on top of the pile ahead of compatriot Bartosz Smektala and last year's champion Max Fricke of Australia.

Drabik led the field throughout and entered the final round with a one-point cushion at the top of the table. Despite having suffered a serious shoulder injury in the Güstrow round, he maintained his advantage with a steady performance as his rivals gradually fell away and secured his championship crown with victory in the second semi-final. It was a fitting season’s end for a rider whose 2016 campaign had been ruined by a broken leg. Drabik is the son of former Polish champion and international rider Slawomir Drabik and has clearly inherited his father’s talent on the track.

Smektala took the silver medal after faltering in the qualifying races and only a battling last-to-first effort in his final qualifying race salvaged his chances, giving him just enough points to steal second place in the series from Fricke. The Aussie had himself made a gallant return from serious mid-season injury and fully deserved the consolation of a bronze medal after qualifying for the final despite some motor problems. 

PALMARES
World title – 2017

Jonas Knudsen

2017 FIM Speedway Youth 250cc World Champion

Born on 4 August 2001 in Denmark

JONAS BRINGS HOME THE BACON

For the first time in 2017 the Speedway Youth 250cc competition was given FIM World Championship status and was run in August as part of the FIM Training Camp in Prague. The event was voted a great success, with Greg Hancock in attendance throughout and visits also from former FIM World Champions Erik Gundersen and Jan O Pedersen as well as former rider and now FIM Track Racing Director Armando Castagna. 

The FIM Speedway Youth 250cc World Championship was held over two semifinals and a Final and saw 32 riders from thirteen countries compete in the inaugural running of this competition. A rain affected Final on Thursday saw Denmark’s Jonas Knudsen become the first rider to have his name engraved on the trophy with a 15-point maximum after the final race was abandoned following a heavy downpour. His win came much to the delight of Danish Youth boss Gundersen who, almost exactly 32 years before had won the World Championship in Bradford. Karol Zupinski from Poland was second with Sweden’s European Champion Philip Hellstrom-Bangs third.

Knudsen is a product of the 80cc speedway pioneered by Denmark and Sweden that has been feeding senior speedway in Scandinavia with a regular supply of fresh talent for many years. Knudsen is one of several emerging names from the area to keep an eye on as he prepares to make the step up to 500cc racing.

PALMARES
World title – 2017