EUROPEAN REPORT - SEC Bydgoszcz
Danish racer Mikkel Michelsen is close to securing a place in the 2024 Grand Prix series as he leads the Speedway Euro Championship with one round to go.
Image courtesy of Steve Hone Photography
The SEC winner automatically gains a spot in the GP next year and for Michelsen it is his best opportunity to guarantee he will be back, as he is some way down the World Championship standings and will not finish in the top six.
But he has been hugely consistent in the SEC with three second places and scores of 15, 14 and 14, with another runners-up spot going his way at Bydgoszcz on Saturday.
Fellow two-time champion Leon Madsen got back on the winning track by making it three out of three at the venue, but he still trails Michelsen by eight points overall following his nightmare second round in Gustrow.
Dominik Kubera completed the podium in Round 3 whilst Janusz Kolodziej was edged out in the Final despite having won his first four races and gained first gate choice.
Michelsen leads the series with 43 points compared to Madsen’s 35, with Kolodziej a further four behind on 31 even though he missed the first round. Andzejs Lebedevs (28) and Patryk Dudek (27) complete the current top five which guarantees qualification for next year, but Kacper Woryna (25) and Kai Huckenbeck (23) are still strongly in contention.
Great Britain’s Adam Ellis sits on 18 points after three rounds having scored a very creditable six points on a Bydgoszcz circuit he was racing for the first time.
Ellis made several good starts and displayed plenty of speed, just being beaten on occasions by riders with far greater experience of the track.
But he can still chase a top ten finish overall when the series concludes at Pardubice on Friday September 22.
Meanwhile the PGE Ekstraliga play-off Final will be contested, as expected, between Wroclaw and Lublin – although the ways in which the top two made it through was totally different.
Lublin stormed to a massive 58-32 win over Czestochowa for an aggregate margin of 44 points – the biggest in history at this stage of the competition.
Bartosz Zmarzlik scored 14 points, although he did suffer one defeat to former World Under-21 Champion Jakub Miskowiak, whilst Fredrik Lindgren was unbeaten after a last place in his first ride as he scored 10+2.
The big surprise was the low returns for Michelsen (7) and Maksym Drabik (2) on their old home circuit having helped Lublin to the title last year.
Meanwhile Wroclaw defeated Torun 51-39 for a 12-point aggregate win, but now face major team selection issues for the Final after an extraordinary sequence of misfortune.
Already without the injured Tai Woffinden, Sparta lost Maciej Janowski in a freak Heat 6 incident when he suffered clutch failure sending him through the tapes and out of the meeting with an ankle injury.
Then Charles Wright, who had scored 2+2 in his opening two riders – taking points off Wiktor Lampart and Pawel Przedpelski – suffered a terrible-looking crash on the first bend of Heat 10 and was withdrawn, with a broken collarbone subsequently diagnosed.
But the Wroclaw juniors both gave heroic displays, with Dan Bewley leading from the front with 12+1 as Wroclaw reached their target victory. Bartlomiej Kowalski scored 11+1 and Grudziadz loanee, 16-year-old Kevin Malkiewicz, scored 7+2 in an outstanding display.
For Torun it was a meeting of real frustration and a missed opportunity. Patryk Dudek and Emil Sayfutdinov both scored 13 from six rides but Robert Lambert had a tougher day with four points, including a win in his second ride.
In the Division One play-offs, Ostrow looked set to pull off a shock result as they led Zielona Gora by ten points after Heat 8 and were in great shape for a first leg lead.
But the league leaders charged back strongly, inspired by Przemyslaw Pawlicki who completed a 16+2 paid maximum, and with Luke Becker (11+2) and Rasmus Jensen (11) scoring well – with a 5-1 from Pawlicki and Becker in Heat 15 over Oliver Berntzon and Francis Gusts completing a 47-42 comeback win.
The other semi-final is nicely poised with Rybnik leading Bydgoszcz 49-41 as the visitors did well to compensate for the absence of the injured Wiktor Przyjemski and with No.1 Kenneth Bjerre scoring just three points.
Brady Kurtz scored 15+1 for Rybnik with Patryk Wojdylo adding 14 and Matej Zagar scored 11+2. Mateusz Szczepaniak (12) and Andreas Lyager (11+1) led the Bydgoszcz scoring.
In the Division Two play-offs, both meetings resulted in away wins including a dramatic 46-44 victory for Gniezno in Opole, as they came back from eight points down to lead by four with one race to go.
Ellis scored seven points from five rides for the hosts, whilst the visitors’ strong comeback was led by Tim Sorensen with 14 from six rides and Sam Masters with 12+1.
Meanwhile Rzeszow won 51-38 in Tarnow after an incredible start which saw the away side record three 5-1s in the first three races.
And there was also a red card shown the way of the visitors’ Peter Kildemand, who clashed with Rene Bach in Heat 9 and hit the fence, before ending up on the centre-green and then returning to the track during the race, earning the displeasure of the referee.