HANCOCK: LAGUTA WON MENTAL BATTLE

American great Greg Hancock believes Artem Laguta had the mental edge in his FIM Speedway Grand Prix title tussle with Bartosz Zmarzlik. Laguta and Zmarzlik produced one of the all-time great championship battles throughout 2021, winning an astonishing five SpeedwayGPs each. Despite Gorzow hero Zmarzlik racing to 189 championship points – the fourth highest total in the series’ history – Laguta beat him on 192, a tally bettered only by Tony Rickardsson and Nicki Pedersen’s record-breaking 196-point hauls in 2005 and 2007 respectively. Wroclaw coach Hancock worked closely with Laguta at the Polish club throughout 2021 and was hugely impressed with the Bydgoszcz-based racer’s historic triumph. While Grin knows all too well how good former SpeedwayGP rival Zmarzlik is, he believes Laguta’s mental steel just gave him the advantage this year. He said: “Bartosz is spectacular. When you see what he does on a motorcycle, there are no problems on the track for him – only solutions. He is just looking for every solution you can find. “Artem is another great rider I got to stand alongside in Wroclaw this year. As it got closer to the end, Artem beat Bartosz mentally for me. “He is so good on the bike and his starts are phenomenal. Watching how he is and how he works mentally is really, really fun. He’s so positive and so mind-strong. He is already so good and fast. “He doesn’t need to look for solutions because he gets to the first bend before he needs the solution. His solution is to make the start and get away. Most of the time he does and he’s not an easy guy for Bartosz to catch. He’s the only one who rattled Bartosz’s cage this year. That was pretty obvious.” Hancock, who retired in February 2019, admits he could only sit back and admire a title race that made him think twice about any prospect of making a racing comeback. He said: “It was extraordinary. I had been away from the competition for almost three years so to see what these guys have done over the last two years … “I was going to make a comeback after a year and a half out. I was confident I would have been right there with them, but after two years out and now going into the third year, you see how quickly you can lose something. You cannot afford to miss much time on the track. These guys are raising the bar constantly.”

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ZMARZLIK NOMINATED FOR POLISH ATHLETE OF 2021 PRIZE

Double world champion Bartosz Zmarzlik is in the running to win Przeglad Sportowy’s prestigious Polish Athlete of 2021 award, and he needs your votes. The Gorzow icon became only the second rider in the poll’s history to win the title in 2019 – following in the footsteps of his mentor Tomasz Gollob, who topped the vote in 1999. The Przeglad Sportowy prize is Poland’s equivalent of Britain’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year and, once again, Zmarzlik is up against a stellar field. His rivals include national football hero Robert Lewandowski, plus Olympic gold medal winners Dawid Tomala, Wojciech Nowicki, Anita Wlodarczyk and the mixed 4 x 400m relay team. Tennis stars Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz area also nominated. Zmarzlik enjoyed an incredible 2021 FIM Speedway Grand Prix season, winning five of the 11 rounds, only to fall just three points short of the SpeedwayGP World Championship after an incredible battle with Artem Laguta. He has now won five championship medals in six seasons – two golds, two silvers and a bronze. Brilliant Bartek also ended his wait for a first Polish Championship in 2021, winning this year’s Final in Leszno ahead of SpeedwayGP rival Maciej Janowski and Janusz Kolodziej. The 26-year-old inspired his country to FIM Speedway of Nations silver in Manchester, with Poland topping the SON Final scorechart over two days, only to lose out in the Grand Final to Great Britain. To vote for Zmarzlik, visit https://plebiscyt.przegladsportowy.pl/ - voting closes at 12:00 CET (11am UK) on December 31.

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BOMBER SIGNS FOR SLANGERUP

Triple British champion Chris Harris will line up in the Danish Speedwayligaen next year after agreeing terms with Slangerup. The Cornishman joins a squad also featuring double European champion Mikkel Michelsen and Michael Jepsen Jensen, plus the likes of Jonas Seifert-Salk, Andreas Lyager, Kenneth Hansen and Timi Salonen. The 39-year-old is already set to double up in the UK with SGB Premiership champions Peterborough and SGB Championship club Berwick. He also makes a return to Poland as part of Second Division club Poznan’s squad. Team leader Kenni Hansen told the club’s Facebook page: “We are super happy to have completed next year’s squad, and think it’s strong to close it with a rider of Chris’ calibre. “He's a disciplined gentleman who has always given his all in his career, and we hope to get a rider who can offer something, while performing at a high level. “Overall, we are really pleased to have Chris on board, and generally think we have gathered a strong squad, who in our eyes can be on top again next year.”

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PIOTR PAWLICKI SEALS VETLANDA SWITCH

Polish star Piotr Pawlicki is on the move in Sweden’s Bauhaus Elitserien after signing for Vetlanda for 2022. The former FIM Speedway Grand Prix star teams up with SpeedwayGP newcomer Pawel Przedpelski at the club. Pawlicki signs from Masarna, where he raced with his elder brother Przemyslaw, who will be staying with the Avesta side next season. As well as teaming up with Przedpelski in Vetlanda, Piotr Pawlicki links up with the likes of Polish rider Tomasz Gapinski, Sergey Logachev and Sweden's Filip Hjelmland.

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SUCCESSFUL SURGERY FOR LAGUTA

Artem Laguta’s manager Rafal Lewicki confirmed the FIM Speedway Grand Prix world champion is recovering well after undergoing surgery to remove metalwork from his collarbone. Laguta went under the knife in Wroclaw on Wednesday, posting images from the operating table on his Instagram page @Laguta222. He initially suffered the break at the Edward Jancarz Memorial meeting in Gorzow on March 31, 2019 and has raced with metalwork since then. But Lewicki says the rider was keen to have the plate removed ahead of his bid for title No.2 in 2022, as well as his meetings for Polish club Wroclaw and Swedish side Vastervik. He said: “The bone was plated and it was alright, but sometimes Artem was not 100 percent confident with a piece of metal in his body. Now everything is alright, it was time to take it out. All was well with the operation and he is already home.” Laguta has already been working hard in the gym ahead of the new season and the Bolshoy Kamen-born star is a regular on the motocross scene. Lewicki is hopeful the Bydgoszcz-based star will be back on two wheels soon. He said: “It’s hard to say how long he will need to rest, but I don’t think it is going to be too long. “When the stitches come out, he may be able to get back to some normal physio and then maybe in a few weeks get back to motocross as well. For sure everything will be back to normal very, very soon.”

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