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…
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”