European Review

Tai Woffinden and Wroclaw face a fight to reach the Polish Ekstraliga play-offs after slipping up against rivals Czestochowa on Sunday.

Image courtesy of Darren Bott

The two sides either side of the top-four cut-off fought out a dramatic 45-45 draw at the Olympic Stadium, with a last-heat 5-1 from Leon Madsen and Fredrik Lindgren seeing the Lions avoid defeat at the venue for the first time since way back in 2009.

It was a meeting of mixed fortunes with Woffinden hitting back from an early 5-1 concession to defeat fellow GP star Leon Madsen in Heat 6, breaking the track record in the process. Although he then lost out to his former Wolverhampton colleague Fredrik Lindgren in Heat 8, Wroclaw moved into a six-point lead, and they were 42-36 up with two heats to go after a close scrap between Woffinden and Jason Doyle.

Doyle won Heat 14 ahead of Woffinden with Madsen third as a tactical substitute to set up the last-race decider, where the visiting pair defeated Maciej Janowski and Chris Holder.
Woffinden scored nine points from five rides, leaving him out of double figures for the first time since late-June, with Wroclaw two points off fourth place with a match in hand. That match comes on Monday with the re-arranged trip to Gorzow, meaning Woffinden faces another of his likely World title rivals, an in-form Bartosz Zmarzlik.

The Pole led his side to a third straight home win on Friday as they defeated bottom club Rybnik 52-38, dropping his only point to another GB rider, Robert Lambert. Speedway Euro Champion Lambert scored ten from six rides, his Heat 13 second place being ahead of Zmarzlik but behind Anders Thomsen, following on from a win in the previous race. Sergey Logachev (11+2) and Kacper Woryna (9+1) also scored well for the visitors, but Rybnik are now cut off at the foot of the table, five points adrift of Gorzow and are destined for relegation barring a freak series of results.

At the top of the table, there was a sensational outcome at Lublin as the hosts overpowered leaders Leszno 50-40 – coming from 11-19 to win with an inspirational display from Matej Zagar. The Slovenian raced to a stunning 18-point maximum to strengthen Lublin’s claims for a play-off place, as they inflicted Leszno’s heaviest defeat for over three years.

That result enabled in-form Zielona Gora to cut the gap at the top to just two points, as they held on to win 47-43 at Grudziadz. It was the second season running that the Mickey Mouse side had secured an away win in a close finish at the GKM Stadium, with Patryk Dudek’s best display of the season seeing him score 14 from five rides and defeat Nicki Pedersen and Artem Laguta in Heat 15.

Woffinden was also in action on Saturday at Torun, where Zmarzlik became the first rider to successfully defend the Ekstraliga Riders’ Championship in a dominant performance. The Pole dropped only one point from his qualifying outings, at the expense of Emil Sayfutdinov, before defeating Doyle, Madsen and Dudek in the Final. Woffinden’s 11 points made him fourth-highest scorer after Heat 20, but he went out in the semi-finals, second place to Dudek in that race not enough for progression as only the semi winners joined the top two on the night in the Final.

In Division Two, there was a milestone achievement for GB youngster Anders Rowe, who secured his first race win in Poland during Rawicz’s 56-34 win over Whittstock. Rowe, who scored five overall, made a good start in Heat 9 and also benefited from some mature riding from Bartosz Smektala who held back the initial challenge of the visitors.

Elsewhere, Adam Ellis collected 9+1 from six rides but Rzeszow slipped to a second away defeat as they lost 52-38 at Krosno. Ellis and Lambert now head back to Sweden for the third round of Elitserien fixtures, with Ellis racing at home for Piraterna against Masarna. Lambert, meanwhile, takes on his club of 2018-19 as Lejonen host Rospiggarna.

British Youth Champion Jordan Palin was the highest-placed British rider in the FIME European Under-19 Final, scoring seven points in a rain-affected meeting in Slovakia. Palin could take great credit for his result, where he scored in every ride and was one of five riders on an identical score just outside the top six. There was a dramatic finish to the meeting when the unbeaten Marcus Birkemose crashed in Heat 20 when trying to pass Mateusz Cierniak, when second place would have been enough for a run-off with Czech youngster Jan Kvech – whose 14 points therefore turned to be enough to take the title.

Drew Kemp was the other British rider to make the Final, having sailed through Friday’s qualifier at Pardubice. But he suffered an exclusion in his opening ride before collecting two second places and finishing on five points.