EUROPEAN PREVIEW - SGP Challenge
The first three places in the 2024 World Championship will be confirmed on Saturday when the FIM Grand Prix Challenge takes place at Gislaved.
Image courtesy of Taylor Lanning Photography
It’s a competitive line-up at the Swedish venue for what is always one of the most cut-throat meetings of the season with little room for error for any of the competitors.
But qualification could effectively go beyond the top three depending on the results of the current GP regulars who are also taking part.
Martin Vaculik and Jason Doyle are both enjoying strong GP campaigns and may well qualify with top six positions in this year’s series overall, which could open things up for others if they take top places in the Challenge.
For Great Britain’s Robert Lambert, it would represent a further opportunity to control his own destiny if he is called upon to step into the line-up as the FIM's first official substitute rider for Jack Holder if he is unable to take his place.
Amongst the former GP riders competing, Michael Jepsen Jensen, Piotr Pawlicki, Przemyslaw Pawlicki and Martin Smolinski will look to book a series return whilst the younger contingent includes Frederik Jakobsen, Jan Kvech and Luke Becker.
Lambert picked up a 10+1 score in Sweden in midweek as Eskilstuna overcame Ropsiggarna 46-44, although his side have failed to make the play-offs.
Elsewhere, Krzysztof Buczkowski scored a 15-point maximum for Indianerna in their abandoned 40-38 defeat at Piraterna, whilst 14 points from Bartosz Zmarzlik led Lejonen to a 47-43 win over Vastervik, with Tai Woffinden scoring 10+3 for the visitors.
There was no British representation in the latest round of U24 Ekstraliga fixtures, which featured wins for Krosno (58-32 against Czestochowa), Gorzow (57-32 against Lublin), Leszno (51-39 at Wroclaw) and Torun (49-41 against Grudziadz).
Attention now turns to the second leg of the Ekstraliga play-off quarter-finals on Sunday, with all of the home clubs in strong positions after away wins last week.
Woffinden and Dan Bewley are part of the Wroclaw side who hold a 48-42 advantage as they host Leszno – and after winning 52-38 in the equivalent league match back in April, they will be very confident of progression.
For Lambert it is a far tougher task as Torun trail by five points as they head to Lublin, although the incentive is still there even in the case of aggregate defeat as a semi-final place is still given to the ‘best losers.’
However they will need to improve substantially on a 59-31 defeat at the same venue in June, where Lambert himself endured a rare off-night as he scored just four.
The other quarter-final sees Czestochowa holding a 49-41 lead as they go into their second leg against Gorzow, with the visitors clearly weakened by Anders Thomsen’s injuries sustained in last weekend’s Latvian Grand Prix.
The Division One play-offs get underway on Sunday with runaway league leaders Zielona Gora visiting Gdnask, whilst Bydgoszcz travel to Landhsut. The remaining fixture sees Rybnik host Ostrow.
There are two Division Two league matches this weekend with Rzeszow hosting Rawicz on Friday, whilst on Saturday Opole, featuring Adam Ellis, take on Pila who include Dan Gilkes.