2022 SPEEDWAY GP GUIDE | GORICAN

As the countdown continues to the 2022 FIM Speedway Grand Prix series, FIMSpeeedway.com looks ahead to the action – starting with the FIM Speedway GP of Croatia – Gorican. As the first round of the brand-new Discovery Sports Events era, history will be made when the sport’s top stars return to the Speedway Stadion Milenium after a 10-year absence on April 30. Located in the countryside of Međimurje County near the town of Čakovec, Croatia’s one and only speedway track is situated just a few kilometres from the Hungarian border, with Slovenia and Austria also not far away. Capital city Zagreb is just 75 minutes away by road; with Hungarian capital Budapest a two-and-half-hour drive to the north east. Built by former Yugoslavian champion Zvonomir Pavlic and run by the whole family, the Speedway Stadion Milenium has emerged as one of the sport’s go-to venues for FIM events, staging the GP Challenge in 2012, 2019 and 2020, as well as Speedway European Championship rounds. It was also the circuit where Aussie icon Darcy Ward won the first of his FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championships in 2009. Gorican may not have staged an FIM Croatian Speedway GP since Nicki Pedersen topped the podium there on July 28, 2012, but the stadium has already taken its place in World Championship history. The first-ever FIM Croatian Speedway GP on August 29, 2010 was won by American icon Greg Hancock – a result which arrested a shock slide in form, which threatened his place on the sport’s biggest stage. It was the start of something extraordinary as Hancock returned to Gorican 13 months later to seal his second Speedway GP World Championship with a second place behind Andreas Jonsson on September 24, 2011. Hancock’s victory shattered the history books as he became the sport’s oldest-ever world champion at 41 – a record he has broken twice since in 2014 and 2016. He also doubled Peter Craven’s record for the longest gap between world-title wins. Seven years separated the Brit’s two title triumphs in 1955 and 1962; Hancock lifted his first championship 14 years previously in 1997. Some magical moments have taken place on the unique Gorican circuit, with its unique sandy surface that can prove a real leveller when speedway’s elite visit. Who will be this year’s FIM Croatian Speedway GP winner and start the new Speedway GP era in style? Tickets for the FIM Croatian Speedway GP are on sale now. Secure your spot in Gorican and book here now: https://bit.ly/3rL8jDQ. For more details about the event, click here: https://www.cms.fimspeedway.com/events/gorican/

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SPEEDWAY GP QUIZ | WORLD U21 CHAMPIONS

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DUDEK'S NEW CHALLENGE

Polish star Patryk Dudek hopes leaving boyhood club Zielona Gora for a new challenge with Torun will help him find his best form in 2022. Dudek first raced for Falubaz in 2009 and has been part of three PGE Ekstraliga title-winning squads. But the club has been relegated into the Polish First Division for this year, prompting No.692 to move on. The switch sees him join forces with FIM Speedway Grand Prix rivals Emil Sayfutdinov, Pawel Przedpelski and Robert Lambert, plus Speedway GP first reserve Jack Holder. Dudek had the option to remain with Zielona Gora in Poland’s second tier, but opted to continue his career in the world’s biggest speedway league. It’s the first time Dudek has changed clubs in Poland, but he hopes the move will bring the best out of him as he makes his Speedway GP comeback after a year away from the series. Reflecting on his Zielona Gora exit, he told Przeglad Sportowy: “Maybe it was hard for me at the beginning, but it was leaving my comfort zone that allowed me to fuel myself for the new challenge that awaited me. I am very curious about this season. I'm excited because it's the first time I have been in this situation. “It's nice to hear that the fans from Torun have been waiting for me, which is an additional stimulus for me. I do not want to disappoint them.” Dudek may not have raced a meeting for the club yet, but he admits he has already been getting to know the Torun locals. He said: “Maybe I'm not often in Torun, but when I’m approaching the traffic lights, some cars stop alongside me and the drivers look around, honk or nod, so I have already had some contact with the fans.” Born in nearby Bydgoszcz, Dudek revealed that he originally expected to start his career in Torun. So he’s pleased to finally get the chance to wear their colours. He added: “You can say I have come full circle because I have been associated with Torun since the beginning of my career. “I was supposed to start racing there, but it turned out that I started in Zielona Gora. This is my second club that I will represent in Poland and I am glad that it’s Torun.”

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COACH HANCOCK'S DREAM DEBUT

FIM Speedway Grand Prix legend Greg Hancock is glad he took his first steps into coaching with Polish PGE Ekstraliga champions Wroclaw after admitting he nearly turned down an Olympic Stadium return. After two seasons away from the sport, the Californian took his place on the club’s coaching team for the 2021 season, joining forces with manager Dariusz Sledz – his former Wroclaw team mate. Hancock admits he initially declined the opportunity when it came his way in late 2020. But after further talks, he’s delighted he took the chance to work with a stellar side, featuring world champion Artem Laguta, triple world champion Tai Woffinden, local hero Maciej Janowski, and FIM Speedway of Nations winners Dan Bewley and Gleb Chugunov. Hancock was elated to help the club to its first PGE Ekstraliga title since 2006: He said: “It was phenomenal. When they made the phone call, we had negotiations earlier in the winter and it didn’t work out. I said no. But then they came back to me at the last minute in February last year and started this conversation again. “I know the club very well; they are so professional – the most professional team in Poland for sure. Looking at the group of riders, it was a no-brainer. As long as everybody was on the same page, I knew we would be able to do big things. “When I got there and started working with these guys, I knew there was only so much I could do for some of the top dudes. But you can shape and mould some of the mid-range and younger guys if you get hold of them early. “I am not there to change anything. I am just there to form the way a little bit, give them the advice if they are open to it and answer any questions they may have.” Despite enjoying a dream start to his coaching career as Wroclaw ended their 15-year title drought, a modest Hancock insisted: “I can’t take too much credit. I am not that kind of guy. “I just picked the guys I felt I could do a lot for and gave them as much advice as I could, without overloading them or trying to be myself through them.”

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VACULIK: RIGHT CALL TO WITHDRAW FROM TORUN

Slovak star Martin Vaculik is pleased to have put his shoulder problems behind him after being forced out of last year’s FIM Speedway Grand Prix finale in Torun. Vaculik suffered a broken collarbone and shoulder blade when he crashed at round six in Lublin on August 7 – forcing him out of the following two rounds in Malilla and Togliatti. His season then ended prematurely when he damaged his other shoulder in a clash with Anders Thomsen at round 10 in Torun on October 1. Despite staying on the bike, the impact forced Vaculik to withdraw from the rest of the double-header, with series reserve Jaimon Lidsey replacing him for round 11 the next day. While the incident didn’t result in a crash, Vaculik says he later discovered that he made the right call in ending his weekend early. He said: “Never in my life have I had a problem with my shoulders – I had never dislocated it or torn any ligaments. "But when Anders hit me, I felt my shoulder go out and go back in a second. “At that time, I had more to lose than I could gain in continuing to race. If someone had hit me or I crashed, the ligaments and muscles around the shoulder were not 100 percent. There was a big risk that my shoulder would come out completely and that was the problem. “So I made the decision I didn’t want to risk it and continue to race the next day. At the end of the day, it was the best decision I could make. “A couple of days after it happened, I had an MRI scan of the shoulder and ligaments, and one of the ligaments was half broken. So thank God I didn’t continue. “Everything has healed together very well and my shoulder is in the same condition it was before. I am training completely normally for the new season. I do not feel any discomfort. It feels pretty good.” Vaculik finished 12th in the Speedway GP World Championship with 54 points, meaning he needed a permanent wild card from the SGP Commission to retain his spot in the series. His hopes of reaching the top six had already been ended by a hard fall in Lublin. “I broke my collarbone in so many places,” Vaculik said. “I think it was five places or something like that. It was a very big one. When my doctor saw the scans for the first time, he said ‘okay, this will be hard work.’ “That collarbone had also been broken before, so it’s always a little bit complicated to fix. But I had a very good doctor and for him, nothing is impossible. We put it together no problem. I know people who have broken their collarbones five or six times, so this is normal for speedway. But I hope I won’t do it anymore. “I also broke my shoulder blade in that crash and probably one or more of my ribs. It was pretty big. After a month or so, I came back and slowly, step by step and meeting by meeting, I came back better and better.”

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