EUROPEAN PREVIEW - SGP Challenge / PGE Ekstraliga
Great Britain have three riders competing in this Saturday’s Grand Prix Challenge at Zarnovica.
Image courtesy of Steve Hone
British Champion Adam Ellis, runner-up Dan Bewley and current GP racer Robert Lambert are all just five rides away from qualifying for next year’s World Championship series, but they face one of the toughest meetings of the season in Slovakia.
The GP Challenge is always fiercely contested with a well-balanced line-up and only the rostrum finishers on the day making it through.
Mikkel Michelsen originally qualified for the meeting but was able to withdraw after winning the Speedway Euro Championship – a route that Lambert took to secure his place in this year’s GP.
He is currently tenth in the standings and can certainly challenge for selection next year, but he can also take that decision out of the organisers’ hands with a top three finish on Saturday.
Ellis and Bewley will both have high hopes as well, although Ellis was quickly brought down to earth after his British Final triumph when he crashed heavily at Plymouth in Heat 1 the following evening, and he missed his remaining meetings this week to have intensive treatment.
Bewley’s Ekstraliga displays for Wroclaw this season mean he too should be seen as a serious contender on Saturday.
But there is quality through the field including current GP rider Max Fricke, former World Champion Chris Holder, former World No.2 Patryk Dudek and fellow Polish stars Pawel Przedpelski, who has had a fine season, and Tobiasz Musielak.
Home favourite Martin Vaculik, who would have been one of the big contenders, is ruled out after his recent crash in the GP at Lublin, and he is replaced by Czech youngster Jan Kvech.
Meanwhile the final round of regular PGE Ekstraliga fixtures take place this weekend with all the focus on the bottom and the battle to avoid relegation.
The play-off teams are known, although the order behind leaders Wroclaw is to be confirmed, with Gorzow, Lublin and Leszno completing the top four.
But Torun, Zielona Gora and Grudziadz all go into Round 14 with the possibility of dropping out of the top flight, with the full structure for 2022 still to be confirmed.
Torun currently have seven points, Zielona Gora are on six, and Grudziadz have five and are left hoping at least one result goes their way before they race on Sunday.
That could well happen when Zielona Gora travel to Wroclaw on Friday with the home side looking to warm up for the play-offs and with Bewley and Tai Woffinden both in a full-strength line-up.
Defeat for ZG would ensure Torun’s survival but they must be hopeful of defeating an injury-hit Gorzow in any case, with the visitors set to be without both Szymon Wozniak and Martin Vaculik.
Lambert will again take the No.8 position in the final meeting of what has been a positive first campaign with their club, whose plans for ’22 should they be confirmed in the top flight are awaited with interest.
Play-off qualifiers Leszno and Lublin meet on Sunday afternoon, and of course could do again over the coming month – but the key fixture could well be the clash between Grudziadz and Czestochowa.
The home side only have one win and three draws this season, but their opening victory over Wroclaw when Woffinden crashed out could yet make a vital difference.
If Zielona Gora lose on Friday, then a Grudziadz victory will keep them up, and the massive boost for the home side is that Nicki Pedersen is available to race, with his DMU imposed suspension again put on hold via the appeals process.
The top four in Division Two will also be confirmed this weekend, with the battle for top spot to be resolved on Sunday. Leaders Opole (24) travel to Daugvapils (13), whilst Rawicz (23) are also away from home as they visit third placed Landshut.
The fourth play-off position could also be up for grabs in the Daugvapils/Opole fixture, as the Latvian side would need points if Rzeszow (11) defeat Poznan on Saturday and take the bonus point.
Should they finish level, Daugavpils would edge it as they took the head-to-head between the clubs earlier in the season by a single point.
There were only three fixtures completed in the Swedish Elitserien this week, with leaders Smederna thrashing Piraterna 60-30 to move six points clear at the top.
Vastervik hold second place after defeating Lejonen, who are fourth, 54-36 with Lambert scoring eight from five rides for the visitors.
Meanwhile Dackarna moved up to third on Thursday by defeating Rospiggarna 48-42.