EUROPEAN PREVIEW - SGP / Ekstraliga
Great Britain stars Tai Woffinden and Robert Lambert are ready to kick off the 2021 Grand Prix campaign in Prague this weekend.
Image courtesy of Taylor Lanning Photography
The 11-round series opens up with a double-header in the Czech Republic on Friday and Saturday, with Woffinden bidding for a fourth World title and Lambert entering the series full-time for the first time following his 2020 SEC victory.
Woffinden’s biggest challenge is to end the recent dominance of Bartosz Zmarzlik, who is looking to become the first rider to complete a hat-trick of titles since Ivan Mauger way back in 1970.
Zmarzlik collected back-to-back wins at the Marketa Stadium last September, with Woffinden runner-up on both occasions. Martin Vaculik and Jason Doyle were the other rostrum finishers.
Threats to the top two from last season could well come from Woffinden’s Wroclaw team-mates Maciej Janowski and Artem Laguta, with the former in particular having been in outstanding form this season.
The three Wroclaw riders have a home double-header later this month, before two rounds in Lublin, single events at Malilla, Togliatti and Vojens, and then a double-header finale at Torun in early October.
Lambert goes into the Grand Prix on top of his game having recorded the milestone of a first-ever PGE Ekstraliga maximum for Torun at Grudziadz on Tuesday.
Lambert swept to a full 15 in a 45-45 draw which was certainly a more useful result for his team than their hosts, who were held at home for the third time this season.
The match was marred by an horrific Heat 3 crash with Nicki Pedersen and Jack Holder both taken to hospital, whilst Kenneth Bjerre was rather peculiarly disqualified – and Grudziadz reserve Denis Zielinski was also hurt when he crashed in Heat 12 when on a 5-1 with team-mate Krzysztof Kasprzak and suffered arm and rib damage. The injuries may end his season, although he was also fortunate as his helmet was clipped by the following Karol Zupinski.
Torun move on to seven points with three matches remaining, whilst Zielona Gora have six and Grudziadz just five – and the bottom club have to travel to play-off contenders Leszno and Lublin before hosting Czestochowa in their final fixture.
Division One action takes centre stage following the GPs at Prague with the top fixture involving leaders Rybnik away at third-placed Ostrow on Sunday evening. Krosno can take over at the top prior to that if they win at Lodz, whilst Sunday’s other meeting sees Gdansk look to protect fourth place at home to Gnieszno, with Drew Kemp set to be involved for the home side.
On Saturday, point-less Tarnow host Bydgoszcz in a meeting which could take the visitors closer to the play-offs.
In Division Two, leaders Opole head to second-placed Rawicz on Sunday with the home side seven points behind but with two matches in hand. Elsewhere over the weekend, third-placed Daugavpils host Wittstock, and Landshut take on Poznan.
There is also a big weekend for three British youngsters in the European 250cc Championship in Torun, with Luke Harrison, Max James and Ace Pijper all competing.
The trio are involved in Friday’s two semi-finals, with Harrison riding in the first and James and Pijper in the second, as they look to secure places in Saturday’s Final.