Motorsport: World champ springs to early lead

By Eric Thompson

Current World Speedway champion Greg Hancock. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Current World Speedway champion Greg Hancock. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The world of international solo speedway racing arrived in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time since 2002 and Western Springs turned on an afternoon not to be forgotten.

A packed out crowd witnessed speedway riding of the highest quality and after 23 races defending American world champion Greg Hancock grabbed the bragging honours at the opening round of the 2012 FIM Speedway Grand Prix season.

The 41-year-old two-time world champion played the long game and rode with his trademark precision to head to Europe leading the race for the title from Polish rider Jaroslaw Hampel and the Dane Nicki Pedersen.

"The anticipation from being crowned world champion last year and being here now has been nagging at me all winter," said Hancock.

"I wanted to have a great start to the season and we came here, worked hard and it paid off and I'm pretty happy right now.

"If you give us a stage to perform we will and this place [Western Springs] is one of the best we race at.

"We all want to win the world championship and this year is this year, not last year. I'm going for it and need every point I can get. Consistency is important and I've had a great start here.

"New Zealand is a beautiful country and I've had a lot of help since I arrived from the Wells family and it really helped with set up and getting organised. They've been a great help to me over the years."

Australasian hope for a win on trans Tasman soil, Jason Crump, has a pedigree any speedway rider would be proud off. He's a three-time world champion and has not finished outside the top five since 2000. Although he made the final, it wasn't his afternoon. "It was great to be able to race back on this side of the world and the event was great and hopefully we can come back in years to come," said Crump.

"It's a great stadium and what an atmosphere. Bill [Buckley] did a great job. It's been a real privilege to race here.

"This was my first meeting of the year and I haven't been back to Europe yet. We wanted to make a positive start to the season and making the final is good. I can't be too disappointed as it's a long way to go yet."

During the early heats riders were feeling each other out and trying to get back into a championship groove. By the time the last few heats came around the dancing had stopped and it was down to business.

By this stage the riders had gotten used to the track, and each other again, and the two semi finals had the eight best riders on show.

However, when the dust had settled one of the form riders of the afternoon, Tomasz Gollob, missed out on making the final unable to get past Nicki Pedersen.

The final was a little pedestrian but nothing could be taken away from the consummate precision riding of Hancock who had the measure of the other four.

- Herald on Sunday

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