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Speedway of Nations 2019: Greg Hancock preview

Jul 172019

The 2019 Speedway of Nations championship takes place this weekend in Togliatti, Russia as seven teams go bar-to-bar in the ultimate test of team racing.

The reigning champions, Russia, have the honour of hosting the two-day tournament for the very first time and they’ll have the backing of a passionate home crowd as they try to retain their crown.

We caught up with four-time Speedway World Champion and USA legend Greg Hancock to get the lowdown on the teams, and we even managed to coax a prediction out of him too…

 

Australia

Team: Max Fricke, Jason Doyle, Jaimon Lidsey

Greg says: “I really think Australia could be the trump card. Jason’s form in the UK has been great and he seems to be piling in the points everywhere, and you know what you’re going to get from him. He fights right to the chequered flag and he always gives his all, while Fricke is getting more and more consistent every week it seems. He can be really fast and he’s improving a lot.

“Lidsey has a great chance to learn from those guys and to get some experience, riding with the Aussie flag on his chest could really lift him. It won’t be easy, but I think that the track could suit these guys down to the ground and for me they’re the team that could upset everybody. I rate Australia this year.”

 

Denmark:

Team: Leon Madsen, Niels-Kristian Iversen, Freddie Jakobsen

Greg says: “You can never underestimate Denmark, they always have a strong team. Niels has all of the experience you could want and Leon is having a heck of a run this year, he’s having a big season. The biggest test for them will be the mental side, if they can hold it together they will be a threat.

“Madsen could go really well at this track but it’s a neutral venue and could suit anybody, I’m just not sure Denmark have the depth to win it. Freddie Jakobsen has a huge future and I rate him highly but he’s jumping into a pack of wolves here – it’s a tough meeting. As a team, they have the potential on the day to upset anybody and win any race but I’m just not sure I can see them really pushing at the top to win.”

 

Germany

Team: Kai Huckenbeck, Erik Riss, Michael Hartel

Greg says: “I’m shocked that they aren’t using Martin Smolinski in their team but I like Huckenbeck – he could go far in the sport. It’s really cool to see Germany building again, they have some good young guys coming through too, but I don’t see them being medal contenders here.

“Making it to the final is a huge achievement for them and they can build on that for the future, it’ll be a massive learning curve for them.

“They are capable of pulling out some big races but they’ll find it tough to push the top guys.”

 

Great Britain

Team: Craig Cook, Chris Harris, Robert Lambert.

Greg says: “I think Great Britain are going to have a hard time without Tai (Woffinden). He really, really lifts the whole team heavily and I think you might see the difference without him there. They have good riders, but I just think Tai is the leader and the big-hitter and they’ll miss him so much.

“Robert is great, I rate him really highly and he is an awesome talent, but I just think it’ll be a really tough ask without Tai. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but I can’t see them replicating what they did last year when they scored the most points overall.”

Poland

 

Team: Maciej Janowski, Bartek Zmarzlik, Maksym Drabik

 

Greg says: “I am a little bit surprised that Patryk Dudek wasn’t included but Zmarzlik has been phenomenal this year and Magic (Janowski) has started to pick up the points after a tough start with injury.

 

“On form, this team should be unbeatable but it’s a world championship so you just don’t know. They have so much depth though, they could pick two or three teams and they would have a good chance to win! Drabik continues to get better and better and they have a great team manager in Marek Cieslak.

 

“With Poland, it’s just whether they can get their heads right. They have what it takes to win, for sure, and if they wake up with the right mentality and the right calmness, they will take it. They are super strong.”

 

 

Russia

 

Team: Emil Sayfutdinov, Artem Laguta, Gleb Chugunov

 

Greg says: “This is a really good team and both Emil and Artem have plenty of experience at Togliatti. This is massive for them, it’s the first world championship meeting in Russia and there will be a huge crowd willing them to win.

 

“There will be a bit of pressure on them this year, they will be at home and they’re reigning champions so it won’t be easy but they can rise to the occasion and their knowledge of this track could be vital. They are both capable of dominating races from the gate and if they make a good start they will be very hard to beat. It’s between them and Poland for me.”

 

 

Sweden

 

Team: Fredrik Lindgren, Peter Ljung, Filip Hjelmland

 

Greg says: “It’s a solid team, on his day Peter Ljung can be damn-near unbeatable and he has a lot of experience. Freddie has been a bit up and down this year and that’s surprised me because he had an awesome season last year, but this tournament could be a bit of a turning point for him. He’s hard as nails and will push all the way.


“Filip Hjelmland is another big talent, he could make a name for himself but either way it’ll be a great learning curve for him. I could see Sweden pushing for a medal but winning the whole thing might be difficult for them.”

 

 

Greg’s Prediction

 

1st: Russia

2nd: Poland

3rd: Australia

 

“I found it tough to decide between Russia and Poland, but I just think that Russia’s home knowledge could be the key. It’s a flat track, quite slick, and when I have raced there it has been a difficult place to pass on so the starts will be even more crucial than usual.

 

“It’s a fantastic facility and they’ll be two exciting meetings, but I just fancy that Russia could dominate from the starts and that will be the difference. I can’t wait to watch it.”

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