Speedway: Consistency puts points on the board

By Eric Thompson

Current speedway champ here for opening round of the world series World champ Tai Woffinden at Western Springs Speedway. Picture / Dean Purcell
Current speedway champ here for opening round of the world series World champ Tai Woffinden at Western Springs Speedway. Picture / Dean Purcell

When speedway Grand Prix rider Tai Woffinden arrived in New Zealand last year for the opening round of the world series he was a rank outsider for the title at 500-1.

Six months later in Poland at the Marian Rose Motorena, Torun, Woffinden was crowned champion despite winning only one round in the 12-event championship.

What he did do, though, was consistently score points in a star-studded field littered with former world champions including Nicki Pedersen, Chris Holder, Greg Hancock and Tomasz Gollob.

"I was looking at the title race last year as a long game," said Woffinden. "In some rounds I'd finish second on the podium but had more points overall.

"You have to be consistent and getting points every race and round is really important during the season. It all adds up at the end of the day and to get the main prize you have to have the most points.

"They say to win a second world title is much harder so it's another challenge for me. Only two riders [Tony Rickardsson and Nicki Pedersen in recent times] have ever defended their SGP titles - it's a massive challenge and one I'm looking forward to.

"To win a world title is like fitting a thousand pieces of a puzzle together. If I can fit all the pieces together again who's to say I can't win another world championship again this year."

Acknowledging the 15,000 fans who watched him race to glory, the first Brit in 13 years to be world champion, he honoured the debt he owed his family, saying his parents gave up everything so he could pursue his dream.

Woffinden was born in North Lincolnshire in 1990 and moved with his parents to Perth, Australia when he was 6. He started out as a motocross rider and after seeing a speedway bike switched codes.

His talent was soon showing through, prompting his parents to move back to the UK where they lived in a caravan for three years while the young fella found his feet in solo speedway.

In 2009 he'd arrived in the big leagues, racing for the Wolverhampton Wolves, with whom he still rides. The following year he qualified for the world series, but managed to finish only a disillusioned 14th, causing him to wonder if he really wanted to continue in the sport.

"That was a really tough year for me. My Dad passed away [cancer], I had a lot of problems with my engines and my management was being awkward. It was hard but you move forward and put all the bad stuff behind you and keep building.

"I worked hard after that to make it happen and that's what happened. It just went to prove that hard work pays off," he said.

Woffinden will be a hunted man at Western Springs on April 5, at the opening round of the Speedway Grand Prix championship, but he isn't bothered in the slightest.

In fact he's quite chuffed there is a target on his back as it is the number one plate.

"I can't wait to get back into it. I'm going to start this season as I finished the last one - if it isn't broken don't try and fix it. I'm really looking forward to getting started again and I feel really fit again.

"The mechanics and everyone have been working really hard and we're ready to get going. Being a bit of a target doesn't worry me as they'll all be trying to beat me and I'll be trying to beat them, so it'll be all good," said Woffinden.

With Woffinden winning the title last year, there's been a resurgence in interest in speedway in Britain, so let's hope the Kiwi wildcard rider for the weekend, Jason Bunyan, can step up to the plate and get a few points in the bag for the local fans.

"The support is crazy," said Bunyan. "I absolutely love it. It is the coolest event in the world and a lot of that is down to the fans and mentality of the New Zealand people.

"I'd love to win a couple more points this year. The line-up is as tough as ever, but I've got elbows as well and I'd love to put some smiles on Kiwi faces."

- NZ Herald

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