European Champion Robert Lambert may be just 22 years of age – but he already boasts a proud and impressive list of titles and achievements.
In fact, Lambert’s first domestic crown was achieved way back in 2010 when at the age of 12 he became British Youth Champion at 250cc level.
The Norfolk-born rider was soon on the radar of clubs both in the UK and abroad, and after continuing his 500cc development in Germany he signed for his local club King’s Lynn midway through the 2013 season, shortly after turning 15.
He helped the Young Stars into the National League Grand Final before an instant elevation to the senior team at the Adrian Flux Arena to race in the Elite League in 2014.
Whilst the league as a whole introduced a Fast Track draft system to encourage youngsters to make the step up at reserve, Lambert’s talent was already such that he bypassed that system completely and moved straight into the Stars’ top five, making his senior debut just four days after his 16th birthday in a home win over Lakeside.
With a solid 5.32 average from that first season, Lambert was clearly on the right track, and things got even better in 2015 even though he frustratingly missed out on the British Under-19 title at Coventry despite scoring a 15-point maximum in the qualifiers.
His form for the Stars led to a first call-up for Great Britain, where he collected seven points on his home track as the hosts just missed out on an automatic place in the World Cup Final to Australia.
But it was during the subsequent Race-Off at Vojens that Lambert truly announced himself on the international stage as he scored eight points including two sensational wins – getting the better of future World Champion Bartosz Zmarzlik along the way.
Lambert was again frustrated in his bid for Under-21 honours in 2016, once more missing out on the domestic title after a 15-point maximum from his opening five rides this time at Sheffield, but he did compete in the World series for the first time and collected the bronze medal overall, defeating Jack Holder in a run-off for that third place.
He was also part of the GB team who took World Cup silver at Belle Vue, whilst his domestic average for King’s Lynn continued to rise, going up from 6.59 to 7.08 as he and Niels-Kristian Iversen led the Stars’ challenge.
By now, Lambert was attracting the attention of clubs in other senior European leagues, and 2016 saw him join Swedish Elitserien side Masarna, whilst the following year he began an association with Polish club Lublin as they rose through the lower leagues and back into the top flight.
Finally the wait for a British Under-21 title was ended in 2017 when Lambert defeated Adam Ellis and Josh Bates in the Final at Poole, and he went on to compete a hat-trick of titles at that level over the next two years.
World Under-21 glory eluded him, partly due to being brought down in the opening round of the 2017 series after making a flying start at Poznan, but there was another third place overall the following year in 2018 as an exciting rivalry with Polish duo Maksym Drabik and Bartosz Smektala continued.
2017 also saw Lambert take over as No.1 at King’s Lynn with a 7.38 average, which he then raised to a hugely impressive 9.13 during a 2018 campaign which appeared to see him on the verge of making the breakthrough to the very top level.
Another step forward for Lambert in 2018 was his participation in the Speedway Euro Championship for the first time, having clinched a double of European Under-19 and Under-21 titles the previous year.
After scoring six points in the SEC series-opener at Gniezno, Lambert stunned the established front-runners with a sensational victory in round two at Gustrow, and added a further rostrum finish in Daugavpils on the way to securing third place overall, behind only Leon Madsen and Jarek Hampel.
The senior British title had been missing from Lambert’s CV prior to that year, but that all changed at Belle Vue on June 11 where he won the Final ahead of Dan Bewley and Craig Cook, which also enabled him to appear in the British Grand Prix as a Wild Card.
That event was a rare down point in a stunning season as several issues and refereeing decisions conspired against him, but Lambert had already made his mark internationally as part of the three-man squad with Tai Woffinden and Cook in the inaugural Speedway of Nations.
Having come through the qualifier at Belle Vue, Woffinden and Lambert took the majority of rides in the two-day Wroclaw Final, and were the best combination almost throughout the weekend, finishing a point clear of Russia after 12 races apiece – only to miss out on gold in agonising fashion in the decider.
After such a brilliant season, it was perhaps inevitable that Lambert would suffer a bump in the road, and this proved to be the case as injuries badly affected his 2019 season.
He was involved in two serious crashes, firstly with his own team-mate Cook in the SoN at Togilatti, and then the following weekend in an SEC round at Torun, and the resultant damage effectively ended his hopes both in the SEC and the World Under-21 series – as well as ruling him out of a British Final title defence.
But he did produce a virtuoso showing in the World Under-21 Team Cup Final at Belle Vue, scoring 20 points from a possible 21 to help GB to silver medals overall behind winners Poland.
And his British average still stood up well at 7.81, behind only the dominant Swindon trio of Jason Doyle, Troy Batchelor and Rasmus Jensen, and Belle Vue’s Max Fricke, whilst despite the injuries he was able to take his place in eight of the 11 rounds of the Grand Prix series having been called up as reserve, gaining vital experience at the summit of the sport.
2020 proved to be a different season for everyone, with no domestic league racing in the UK so Lambert, who was set to line up for King’s Lynn once again, was based in Poland throughout the year with occasional trips to Sweden to race for Lejonen.
Having left Lublin over the winter, Lambert lined up for Ekstraliga newcomers Rybnik – and whilst the team struggled badly, he proved the bright spot with a string of high scores, often achieved from the No.8 position from where he was not able to pre-plan his racing schedule with any degree of certainty.
Highlights included a 14-point haul on his home debut against Zielona Gora, 15 against champions Leszno, and 13+1 against Gorzow in what turned to be Rybnik’s one and only win of the season.
Whilst the Silesian club drop back down to Division One for 2021, Lambert has been hot property amongst the Ekstraliga clubs and is certain to have a place in the top flight next year, which would have been the case regardless of the new rule ensuring clubs field an Under-24 rider in the main body of their team.
The revised arrangements in 2020 due to Covid also resulted in a much-changed SEC series, which took place over five rounds and all in Poland over a period of just under a month.
Lambert’s form made him one of the favourites for the title, and he was well-placed after the first round at Torun where he finished second to Madsen in the Final but held the joint points-lead with Nicki Pedersen on 14.
In Bydgoszcz, Lambert added 10 points as he missed out in the Last Chance race, and his hopes then took a dent on his home track at Rybnik as he scored 12 points in the qualifiers but suffered mechanical trouble at the start of the Last Chance and lost ground to Madsen, who established a six-point overall advantage.
But Lambert came roaring back on a tough track at Gniezno, winning the meeting with a bumper 17-point haul whilst Madsen was reduced to nine, leaving the series perfectly poised with a two-point lead for Lambert.
The decider back in Torun was a nerve-shredding meeting as Lambert cleared the first hurdle by beating Madsen in Heat 1 but followed up with two third places as the Dane appeared to be gaining in speed.
Lambert won his fourth outing but then faced a high-pressure Heat 19 where the wrong result would automatically have made Madsen champion – and he responded superbly with a win over Pawel Przedpelski, Kacper Woryna and Pedersen.
That put the onus back on Madsen to reach the meeting Final, which he did via the Last Chance, and the position heading into the decider was that Lambert could afford to finish one place behind Madsen to clinch the title – whilst defeat by two places would have meant a run-off.
And it turned out perfectly for the British rider as he dominated the Final as Madsen battled to overcome Timo Lahti and Kai Huckenbeck, which gave Lambert overall victory by a three-point margin, and made him the first British winner since Peter Collins in 1974 when the event formed part of the World Final qualifying process.
Crucially, it also meant Lambert was able to become the first rider to benefit from the new rule which hands an automatic place in the following season’s Grand Prix series to the SEC winner.
And so whilst there was no fairy-tale finish in the rain-soaked October SoN event at Lublin, Lambert can now look ahead to a massive 2021 season as a full-time SGP rider for the first time, as well as defending his SEC title.
He will also be set to play his part in what will hopefully be a far more ‘normal’ SoN contest with the Final expected to be as scheduled in 2020 in Manchester, and wherever his destinations prove to be for league competition, those clubs can be virtually certain of more high scores and progress.