CHAMPION LAGUTA: NOTHING TO DEFEND IN 2022

PAUL BURBIDGE

World champion Artem Laguta said “I am not here to protect my 2021 world title; I’m here to attack for the next one.”

Laguta became the first rider representing the Motorcycling Federation of Russia to be crowned world champion this year. The Bolshoy Kamen-born racer is also the sport’s first Asian-born world champion.

Only three riders have successfully defended an SGP world title since the series was launched in 1995.

Swedish great Tony Rickardsson achieved the feat twice in 1998 and 1999 and 2001 and 2002, before Nicki Pedersen topped the podium in 2007 and 2008 and Bartosz Zmarzlik made it a double in 2019 and 2020.

Laguta stopped Zmarzlik from making it three in a row this year and will be hoping to join this elite club of back-to-back winners in 2022.

Defending the World Championship is no easy task, so Laguta has decided to take a different mental approach.

He said: “When the first round starts, it’s a new challenge. There is really nothing to protect. My medal from 2021 is at home and it’ll be there forever. I don’t want to put this crown of world champion on my head all the time because it is heavy – it doesn’t help you to do good training sessions or win races. I’m leaving this crown at home and I know it will always be there.

“We have been working hard for this title as a team for a long time. It was a dream and the dream has come true now. But we have another season of hard work and a new challenge ahead.

“I have felt how victory and the champagne tastes at the end of the season. It’s a great feeling. Before you get it, you cannot imagine what it is like. But when you try it, it is something great and you desire it again.”

For 2022, Laguta becomes the first rider to wear the iconic No.1 race jacket since SGP 2013 champion Tai Woffinden took the number for 2014.

Since 2014, riders have had the option to choose a personal rider number in the SGP series, and Woffinden is the only champion who previously took up the option to line up at No.1 instead of picking his famous No.108.

Some may prefer to stick with their own number for branding purposes. Others may fear the No.1 puts a target on their back.

But Laguta was never going to turn down the chance to swap his No.222 for No.1. He said: “I’m not scared of taking No.1 when I am allowed to – you may only get this chance once! Hopefully not, but a lot of MX and Supercross riders in the US take No.1 as well.

“They can go back to their number at any time, but you are only allowed to be No.1 if you are world champion, so I’m taking it.

“Maybe some are worried because everyone wants to take the world title away, but I am not here to protect my 2021 world title; I’m here to attack for the next one.”

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