CZECH MATE FOR FRICKE?

Aussie champion Max Fricke hopes some local knowledge can help him storm to Prague FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic glory on Saturday. The Victorian ace surged up to sixth in the Speedway GP World Championship after topping the podium at the Orlen FIM Speedway GP of Poland – Warsaw on May 14. This result saw his championship points tally rocket from two after the opening round in Croatia to 22 in one night, and he’s keen to maintain that momentum in the Czech capital. Fricke has assembled a strong pit crew around him, featuring Polish great Tomasz Gollob’s former manager Thomas Gaszynski. The team also includes Czech mechanics Pavel Fuksa and Lubos Vrtacek. With the duo from rival Czech speedway city Pardubice, they will be determined to help Fricke roar to back-to-back Speedway GP wins and pile up the points in Prague. The Belle Vue star said: “I have had good days there in the past. It’s a place where I enjoy racing. My mechanics are Czech, so it’s a big Grand Prix for us and the team. We always like to go there and put on a good show. Hopefully we can have another good result.” Prague is one of Speedway GP’s ultimate city breaks and Fricke always likes to find time to take in the sights when he isn’t getting sideways at Marketa Stadium. “I really enjoy Prague as a city,” he said. “I enjoy the speedway being so close to the city centre. It’s a great weekend away and one of my favourite ones on the calendar. “It would be nice to come away from here with a good result. If I can be victorious there, that would be unreal and a real feather in my cap.” Fricke’s Warsaw heroics have put him firmly back in the Speedway GP medal race and he is just 10 points behind series leader Bartosz Zmarzlik. The former World Under-21 champion has made steady steps forward since joining Speedway GP full-time in 2020 – finishing 10th in his debut season and then eighth last year. Asked if he can push for the podium this season, Fricke replied: “That’s my goal. I have never really been one to come on in leaps and bounds overnight. “I think it’s about steadily improving each year and that’s what we are after. We are after consistency and building on those results time and time again. It’s easier said than done, but we are always aiming to progress a little more each season. It’s great to get a win in Warsaw and that puts us a step in the right direction. “Hopefully we can carry it on, and it is easier said than done. But we are going out there each time, giving it our all and trying to get wins.”

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LESS TURBULENCE FOR THOMSEN?

Danish champion Anders Thomsen is hoping to enjoy a less turbulent Prague FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic on Saturday after taking some punishment on the way to the round-two semi-final in 2021. Thomsen managed just three points at the first round of the double-header in the Czech capital on July 16, before crashing hard with Gorzow team mate Martin Vaculik in his opening ride on July 17, before the racing was halted due to rain. When the meeting was restarted on Sunday, July 18, Thomsen fell again in his opening ride, but hit back to fight his way through to the semi-finals – even after looping his bike at the start line in his final heat. His nine-point haul was hard earned at Marketa Stadium and he’s hopeful of a much smoother ride this Saturday. He said: “Hopefully it will turn the other way around. That was a pretty bad meeting for me. I broke my finger. I got to the semi-final, but in the race before I flipped the bike because I couldn’t hold the clutch. At least I have had a few meetings in Prague before and I know the track is alright for me.” Thomsen is also glad to be racing one Speedway GP round per weekend once again. Friday/Saturday double-headers were scheduled in 2020 and 2021 as the pandemic compressed the calendar, but the Dane is pleased to see the events return to a more normal routine. Thomsen admitted: “Many times after the first Grand Prix night, I wanted to sleep, but it was really hard. All the adrenaline is pumping around your body. You needed to wake up the day after and be ready for another Grand Prix.” Thomsen is determined to bounce back after leaving the last round in Warsaw with just a single championship point. After starting his night by hitting the tapes, the Vojens and Gorzow star was unable to find some momentum. “That was bad!” he said. “I haven’t had that much experience on one-day tracks. I had only been on one or two in my life before Warsaw. Even on the practice, I didn’t really feel any speed. I was pretty slow in the times. “I actually called my friend to go to Denmark and pick up another engine from back home. That’s what I was riding on. He travelled with the engine all night. I didn’t find the setup – I didn’t find anything. It was just a bad night for me. In Warsaw, I was one of the slowest guys in qualifying. That also showed the day after in the Grand Prix. I didn’t have any speed on that track.” Despite things not going his way in the Polish capital, Thomsen is still very much enjoying Speedway GP life. He said: “I really love to be in the Grand Prix. I really enjoy being there and I take every single moment with a smile. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. That’s sport. But I take everything with a smile because I have fought so hard to get all the way up to the Grand Prix. I am just happy to be there.”

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GERMAN RACER LIEBMANN SET TO BECOME FIM SPEEDWAY’S FIRST FEMALE STAR

German history-maker Celina Liebmann says she relishes the challenge of competing in a male-dominated sport as she becomes the first female rider to race in an FIM Speedway final series. Liebmann, 20, has been handed the wild card for the Prague FIM SGP2 of Czech Republic at Marketa Stadium this Friday and cannot wait to take on the sport’s brightest young stars in the newly-revamped FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship. In a new era of FIM Speedway under new global promoter Discovery Sports Events, the championship has been rebranded as SGP2 and takes place on the same stage as the Prague FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic on Saturday. If staging the first-ever SGP2 round was not historic enough for the Prague club, they were also keen to give Liebmann the biggest chance of her career to date, inviting her to serve as their wild card. The Bavarian, who hails from Albaching – 50km east of Munich, scored a very solid six points at her SGP2 qualifier in Daugavpils, Latvia on May 7, beating a host of riders who race in Europe’s top leagues. Liebmann also competed in the Polish Second Division with Wittstock last season and races regularly in Germany’s many competitions. She no fears about testing herself against the SGP2 stars in the Czech capital. “I know all these guys and I have raced against all of them on the 250cc bikes,” she said. “I am really motivated for Prague. I am really looking forward to it. “When I heard the news about my call-up, I was shocked. I was completely over the moon. I never thought I would get the wild card. “My mum had bought tickets for a concert for me and her that weekend, but now I am going to Prague instead and it’s the biggest chance I have ever had.” Speedway lacks high-profile female-only events, but that hasn’t deterred Liebmann from mixing it with the sport’s male stars. “Maybe a women’s race sometimes would be nice,” she said. “But I want to race against boys. I can improve myself much more.” No female stars have reached such heights in the sport and a big performance in Prague will further cement Liebmann’s status as the First Lady of world speedway. “I have always wanted to be the No.1 girl in the world,” she said. “I see myself as the No.1 girl – I don’t know any others who have achieved the success I have. At the moment, I want to go as high as I can reach and do my best.” Despite her ambition, Liebmann is determined to enjoy the experience of racing in such illustrious company this Friday and pledged not to let the occasion get the better of her. She said: “I am always relaxed on the track and also on World Championship days. I am excited now, but on the day I will be relaxed. I will just listen to my favourite music and have fun with my friends. I want to have fun on the track. If I have fun, I score points.” Celina is the daughter of former German ice speedway international Jurgen Liebmann, who won FIM Team Ice Speedway World Championship bronze medals in 2001 and 2003. While she was only two years old when he retired from the ice, Celina admits it was her father who guided her on to the speedway stage as she took her first laps at Bavarian club Olching. She said: “My dad said ‘come, we will go to Olching and you can see the juniors’, and they said I could ride. I got on a bike and rode. I did it and my dad has since said ‘I never thought you’d ride for so long and be so successful.’ He is really proud.” François Ribeiro, head of Discovery Sports Events, is delighted to see Liebmann handed the chance of a lifetime as the group works to raise the profile of the sport’s young stars and give them more opportunities to shine on some of speedway’s biggest stages. He said: “We were already hugely excited for the first-ever SGP2 round and our excitement has only grown with the news that Celina will be racing in Prague. “With a fine performance in the qualifying rounds and in her league competitions, this opportunity is well deserved and we all look forward to seeing her race at one of the sport’s most iconic venues. “I wish Celina and her SGP2 rivals the very best of luck this Friday and we cannot wait to see the next generation of Speedway GP riders on track. “This season sees Discovery take the FIM Speedway Under-21 and Under-16 World Championships under the SGP umbrella for the very first time as SGP2 and SGP3. We also look forward to the launch of SGP4 in 2023 as six-time world champion and SGP global ambassador Tony Rickardsson develops a new bike and category to introduce our youngest riders to the sport.”

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GERMAN RACER HUCKENBECK HANDED TETEROW CALL-UP

German international Kai Huckenbeck will represent his country in the nation’s biggest speedway event after being named as wild card for the FIM Speedway GP of Germany – Teterow on June 4. Huckenbeck lines up in the famous No.16 race jacket for what will be his fourth Speedway GP appearance at the Bergring Arena. He has emerged as one of his country’s international stars in recent years and scored a huge 22 points from a possible 24 at FIM Speedway of Nations Semi-Final 2 in Daugavpils, Latvia last September, as well as winning the Final Qualifier heat. His last Speedway GP outing came at the 2019 FIM German Speedway GP, when he served as a track reserve, replacing fellow countryman Martin Smolinski for his final ride. He also served as wild card in the 2017 and 2018 Teterow events, scoring four points on his debut and two the following year. Huckenbeck has a busy league schedule across Europe, racing for the Landshut Devils – a German team that was promoted to Poland’s First Division last year. He also rides for Rospiggarna in Sweden’s Bauhaus Elitserien and Vojens team Sønderjylland Elite Speedway in Denmark. He is joined in Teterow by track reserves Norick Blodorn and Lukas Baumann, who line up at No.17 and No.18 respectively. They will compete if any of the main 16 stars are forced out of a race due to injury, illness, a starting offence or other reasons.

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ORLEN FIM WARSAW SPEEDWAY GP DELIVERS A RECORD 6.6 MILLION POLISH VIEWERS

New FIM Speedway global promoter Discovery Sports Events staged its first Polish round at the iconic PGE Narodowy on Saturday, May 14 – as the sport returned to the venue for the first time since 2019. While over 52,000 fans turned up at the stadium, the Orlen FIM Speedway GP of Poland – Warsaw coverage reached 6.6 million viewers over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday across the TVN Group's channels and platforms in the country.    The Orlen FIM Warsaw Speedway GP was televised live on free-to-air channel TTV in Poland, with an average live audience of 442,000 and more than 615,000 during the semi-finals, which makes it the most watched Speedway GP in Poland in almost 20 years.  There was also frequent coverage on TVN, the broadcaster's flagship generalist channel, including on the Good Morning TVN show and on news and weather bulletins.      François Ribeiro, head of Discovery Sports Events, commented: “Speedway GP has never benefited from such coverage in Poland.   “Across its free-to-air, cable and OTT network, TVN – Warner Bros. Discovery Poland brought an unmatched level of TV coverage for hardcore and casual speedway fans. We look forward to deploying similar domestic broadcast activation across TTV, TVN, TVN24, Eurosport and Eurosport Extra over the next Polish Speedway GP event in Gorzów on June 25.  “Until then, Eurosport Extra will offer live coverage of the next Speedway GP in Czech Republic on Saturday, as well as the Prague FIM SGP2 of Czech Republic this Friday. The FIM Speedway GP of Germany – Teterow follows a week later on June 4.”

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