Poles rise against gritty Poms in SWC Race-Off
The Polish team have staved off a spirited challenge from Great Britain to annex the final spot in the Monster Energy Speedway World Cup through the Race-Off at a sun-bathed Vojens in Denmark.
The injury depleted Poland,who were without Captain, Jaroslaw Hampel after Event One when he broke his leg, looked as though they were well on the way to guaranteeing their place in the final until Heat 12.
Alun Rossiter’s Team GB took the opportunity to run its double point Joker Card as soon as the deficit to the lead nation was the requisite six points – and it paid off.
Bringing forward in-form 2013 World Champion Tai Woffinden as a tactical substitution with the Joker proved crucial as he turned the three points for the win into six.
He had the double bonus of levelling the scores as Polish rider Przemyslaw Pawlicki was excluded after colliding with his Russian competitor at the second bend.
From there, the two nations remained locked in a thrilling contest right to the end, the Poles getting the nod in the end by five points – 48 to 43. They pulled well clear of a spirited USA team (22 points) and the Russians who embarrassingly fronted with just three riders (11 points).
Woffinden was the star of the Race-Off securing a maximum of 21 points – surrounding him was the unheralded Robert Lambert on eight points (stunning with his first heat win), along with Daniel King and an unusually quiet Chris Harris who both scored seven.
Maciej “Magic” Janowski was the best Polish rider with 14,Krzysztof Buczkowski scored 13 points with Pawlicki (11) and Bartosz Zmarzlik scoring 10.
World Champion Greg Hancock was the USA talisman with 12 points while Vitaly Belousov was the depleted Russian’s best with 5 points.
Stand-in Captain, Pawlicki paid tribute to their fallen comrade – who gave the team a pep talk before the Race-Off:
“Jarek (Hampel) called before the meeting when we were walking the track. He called and said ‘boys, I’m watching the TV and keeping my fingers crossed,” he said.
“I’m sure he was happy with us. It was such a good night for the Polish team. It wasn’t so easy, but everyone in the team did some good work. Every rider scored points and we won.”
Poland advances to the Final where they will take on the host nation – Denmark; Event One winners Sweden and a spirited Australian squad – buoyed by a storming performance at Kings Lynn earlier this week to advance to the final.
The Poles will have the advantage of racing on the Vojens track in the lead-up to the event, however home ground advantage will sway heavily towards Denmark.
Chris Holder’s men are confident after such a dominant performance, particularly with youngster, Nick Morris stepping up on the international stage.
The Final to decide the winner of the Ove Fundin Trophy will take place on Saturday night Danish time (3am AEST Sunday in Australia).
VIDEO: MONSTER ENERGY SPEEDWAY WORLD CUP RACE-OFF HIGHLIGHTS: