Jarek Hampel wins NZ SGP as Aussie Darcy Ward stars
Polish rider, Jarek Hampel has swung back into Speedway Grand Prix competition in emphatic fashion by taking victory in a stunning Buckley Systems New Zealand Speedway Grand Prix from fellow Pole, Tomasz Gollob, Nicki Pedersen and Greg Hancock.
Hampel missed the back end of the World Championship last year with a broken foot and showed that he is back in world beating form. The red gate, which he chose for the final, was dominant throughout the Grand Prix, with 15 of the 23 races being won from the inside line.
Just two were won from the extreme outside – one of those being Hampel’s semi-final victory where he swung around Australian wunderkind, Darcy Ward and Nicki Pedersen to qualify for the Final.
Gollob put in a superb performance to annex second placing. He started the night in fine form with a victory in heat one and was solid right throughout. Inexplicably, the 2010 World Champion had first pick for the Final and chose the blue helmet colour, which he will look back on at the end of the season and rue.
Pedersen ended his first two rides staring down the barrell of missing the semi-finals. He scored zero points from his opening two races, but despite battling broken ribs, fired back with a trio of wins and a second placing in his semi-finals. It was round three that stuck the NZ SGP on its head with Pedersen’s fightback and another few guys faltering.
Ward justified the decision to make him a permanent Wildcard for 2013 – electrifying the capacity crowd in the very last heat charging from position three to beat Emil Sayfutdinov and Greg Hancock. He ended his first two rides undefeated – the only rider aside from defending NZ SGP Champion, Greg Hancock to do that.
He missed the start in his semi-final despite starting on gate one and ended up crossing the line third, however, his pointscore from the 20 heats sees him head back to Europe sitting fourth overall.
Ward’s fellow Australian, defending World Champion, Chris Holder pulled a solid nine points. He was the only rider to scrape into the semi’s on eight points. In the topsy-turvey third round, Holder had bike trouble scoring zero points and then struck back with a win in round four.
The much anticipated clash between the Poole and Torun heat leaders in heat seven fell the way of Ward, who used his superior start to draw first blood against Holder.
Other riders to be super impressive were Andreas Jonsson, Anglo-Australian Tai Woffinden and an uncharacteristically aggressive Fredrik Lindgren, who was unlucky not to make the semi-finals.
Local wildcard, Jason Bunyan delighted the home crowd with scoring his only point in round two. He was also involved in one of the controversial refereeing decisions of the night when he fell in heat 16. Krzysztof Kasprzak collided with the Kiwi on the back straight, with Bunyan hitting the deck.
Much to the disgust of the home crowd, Bunyan was ordered from the track as the cause of the stoppage.
The spoils though went the way of Hampel, who leaves New Zealand with the World Championship lead having won his third Grand Prix – and ending the stranglehold Hancock has on events in the Southern Hemisphere:
“It was a tremendous evening, I didn’t have the best start to the night (two points after his first two rides), but it just got better,” said Hampel – who was presented the winner’s trophy by Buckley Systems owner – and the driving force behind the NZ SGP – Bill Buckley.
“It was difficult to get away at the starts, I got away quick in the final though. When Tomasz took the second gate I had a good smile on my face.
“It’s great to come back after my injury last year in this way. Everything is working well now, this is very pleasing!”
The expected close nature of the field in 2013 came to fruition in the opening Grand Prix of the season. The thoughts of the Championship being the closest in history would appear to be absolutely correct.
The next round of the Speedway Grand Prix World Championship will be held on April 20.
F.I.M. Speedway Grand Prix World Championship Points after Round 1:
|4||#15||Darcy Ward (AUS)||12|
|7||#1||Chris Holder (AUS)||9|