AUSSIE ACE FRICKE READY FOR ULTIMATE TEST OF TEAM RIDING IN MANCHESTER

08/07/2024

AUSSIE ACE FRICKE READY FOR ULTIMATE TEST OF TEAM RIDING IN MANCHESTERAUSSIE ACE FRICKE READY FOR ULTIMATE TEST OF TEAM RIDING IN MANCHESTER

Australian racer Max Fricke believes a fast and furious Manchester track will make for the ultimate test of team riding as the FIM Speedway of Nations launches at the National Speedway Stadium on Tuesday.

Fourteen countries battle it out across two epic Semi-Finals on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the top three from each advancing to Saturday’s FIM SON Final, where they join hosts Great Britain

The winner will be crowned FIM SON world champion for 2024, and Fricke’s Aussie side is hoping to defend the title it won at legendary Danish track Vojens in 2022.

The tournament gets underway with Semi-Final 1 on Tuesday, featuring Poland, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Ukraine. The Roos get their tournament started in Semi-Final 2 on Wednesday, when they face off with Denmark, Czech Republic, Latvia, USA, Slovenia and Norway. The sport's top eight under-21 teams also compete over a marathon 28 heats in FIM Speedway of Nations - SON2 for the FIM Team Speedway Under-21 World Championship.

Semi-Final 2 sees Fricke line up on the Manchester track, where he raced for Belle Vue for five seasons. He reunites with 2022 FIM SON gold medal-winning partner Jack Holder, with current Aces rider Brady Kurtz named at No.3 on his British home track.

The Roos are hopeful of repeating their Vojens heroics, which saw them end Australia’s 20-year wait for a world team title triumph. But Fricke knows better than most that it won’t be easy on a Manchester circuit, which features plenty of high-speed passes, making it tough to defend a lead. 

“I think it’s going to be a great competition,” Fricke said. “The track is fast. There are so many lines and different opportunities to pass. It’s going to be really tricky to be fast consistently. But it’s going to be a really great event. Hopefully everybody gets down there and gets involved.

“Vojens was a great event for us and Team Australia. It had been a long time since we had won a World Cup or an SON, so that was unreal. It was great to be part of the team and play a part in that.

“We have had a bit of a break from the SON since 2022, with the Speedway World Cup last year. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off.”

Fricke gets airborne in Vojens. PHOTO: Jarek PabijanFricke gets airborne in Vojens. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

Fricke hopes to make the most of his Manchester track knowledge. He added: “I have spent lots of time there. Not so much in recent years, but I will use my experience as much as I can.

“We have a pretty experienced team with Brady Kurtz riding here week in and week out and Jack, who is on fire at the moment. He’s doing really well and he’s in a great position in the Speedway GP World Championship – he’s second in the standings.

“I think we understand the game and work well together on the day. Belle Vue will be a tough track to team ride on because it is so big and so open. But we will give it our best shot.

“We will be trying our best to pick up another title. The fans had been waiting for a long time – 20 years –when we did it in 2022. Hopefully they won’t have to wait that long again.” 

Holder and Fricke go for gold again in Manchester. PHOTO: Jarek PabijanHolder and Fricke go for gold again in Manchester. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

The Aussies are tipped among the frontrunners to win gold again, along with 2021 winners Great Britain, who ended a 32-year wait for an FIM Speedway world team title with an unforgettable victory at the last FIM SON Final staged in Manchester in 2021.

Poland heads to the National Speedway Stadium seeking its first FIM SON world title after winning their ninth FIM Speedway World Cup crown in 2023, while Denmark and Sweden are also among the international heavyweights seeking to lift the trophy for the first time.

Fricke is expecting an open battle for the medals and Final places. He said: “With it being two-man teams and a reserve, it really opens it up and makes it a tight competition. Most countries have two very good riders or guys who can have exceptional days.

“Anyone can have a good day at the right time and potentially come out on top. It’s going to be a really tight competition. Everyone wants to win and it’s going to be a really busy week.” 

Paco Castagna leads the challenge for Italy. PHOTO: Jarek PabijanPaco Castagna leads the challenge for Italy. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

One nation bidding to make its mark in Semi-Final 1 on Tuesday is Italy, whose challenge is spearheaded by two former FIM SGP Challenge finalists, Paco Castagna and Nicolas Covatti.

Covatti endured a very difficult start to 2024, suffering multiple injuries in the Argentinian Championship in February, which delayed his start to the season.

But with Covatti now back on track with Plymouth in the Cab Direct Championship and Castagna thriving in his third season with rivals Edinburgh, the pair could fancy their chances of at least pushing for place in the Final Qualifier.

While the top two nations in each Semi-Final automatically progress to the Final, the Final Qualifier sees the third and fourth-placed sides battle it out in a winner-takes-all shoot-out for one last spot in Saturday’s title showdown.

Castagna is keen to keep a cool head but hopes he can bring his form to Manchester on Tuesday.

He said: “I am having the best season of my career so far. I am really enjoying my time in the UK. I have found some different setups that seem to be working. I have an engine that I hope will be working well in Manchester.

“Me and Nico are going to be there. We didn’t know until the last minute whether he was going to be there or not because of his fitness, but it seems like he is going to be fit for it and we can have a good meeting.

“There is a good feeling about the SON for us. The last time I raced in the SON was at Vojens in 2022. I had a fantastic meeting and scored 17 points. There’s a really good buzz around the SON. Hopefully I can have a good meeting again and Nico can back me up.

“Speedway is a difficult sport and I think we are in the toughest Semi-Final. But on the other side, it is quite interesting. It’s going to be fun. We have a very good chance. I hope we can take it with both hands.

“I have been working a lot with sports psychologists and I have got to the point where I realise it is just one meeting. I don’t want one meeting to put me off or take me to the stars. I just want to do my best, keep working and hopefully that’s going to mean taking Italy to the Final.” 

Poland won Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup gold in Wroclaw in 2023. PHOTO: Jarek PabijanPoland won Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup gold in Wroclaw in 2023. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

FIM SPEEDWAY OF NATIONS SEMI-FINAL STARTING LINE-UPS

SEMI-FINAL 1 – TUESDAY, JULY 9

Team A - FRANCE

1. David Bellego ©

2. Steven Goret

3. Mathias Trésarrieu

Team manager: Laurent Sambarrey

Team B - POLAND

1. Dominik Kubera

2. Bartosz Zmarzlik ©

3. Maciej Janowski

Team manager: Rafal Dobrucki

Team C - ITALY

1. Paco Castagna ©

2. Nicolas Covatti

3. Nicolas Vicentin

Team manager: Alessandro Dalla Valle

Team D - UKRAINE

1. Stanislav Melnychuk ©

2. Marko Levishyn

Team manager: Stanisław Burza

Team E - GERMANY

1. Kai Huckenbeck ©

2. Norick Blödorn

3. Erik Riss

Team manager: Mathias Bartz

Team F - SWEDEN

1. Fredrik Lindgren ©

2. Jacob Thorssell

3. Oliver Berntzon

Team manager: Morgan Andersson

Team G - FINLAND

1. Jesse Mustonen ©

2. Antti Vuolas

3. Otto Raak

Team manager: Aki-Pekka Mustonen

SEMI-FINAL 2 – WEDNESDAY, JULY 10

Team A - CZECH REPUBLIC

1. Vaclav Milik ©

2. Jan Kvech

3. Adam Bubba Bednar

Team manager: Ezven Erban

Team B - AUSTRALIA

1. Jack Holder ©

2. Max Fricke

3. Brady Kurtz

Team manager: Mark Lemon

Team C - NORWAY

1. Mathias Pollestad ©

2. Truls Kamhaug

3. Glenn Moi

Team manager: Kenneth Klipper Smith 

Team D - SLOVENIA

1. Anze Grmek

2. Matic Ivacic ©

3. Denis Stojs

Team manager: Gregor Arnsek

Team E - USA

1. Broc Nicol

2. Gino Manzares ©

3. Luke Becker

Team manager: Steve Evans

Team F - DENMARK

1. Mikkel Michelsen ©

2. Anders Thomsen

3. Rasmus Jensen

Team manager: Nicki Pedersen

Team G - LATVIA

1. Andzejs Lebedevs ©

2. Daniils Kolodinskis

3. Jevgenijs Kostigovs

Team manager: Vladimir Ribnikovs

Jack Holder ready to sign some autographs. PHOTO: Taylor LanningJack Holder ready to sign some autographs. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

FIM SON FANZONE

Fans heading to the National Speedway Stadium can enjoy a packed programme of entertainment on every day of the FIM Speedway of Nations, with the Manchester fanzone taking place on the sports pitches behind bends three and four.

The action gets underway at 3pm UK time on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, with an earlier start time of 2.30pm on Saturday.

Fans can grab autographs and selfies with all the sport’s international stars in our autograph sessions at 4.30pm on every day of the tournament.

The two-wheeled action gets underway early for Saturday’s FIM SON Final fanzone, which also features Extreme Mountain Bike action, with shows at 2.30pm, 4pm and 5.30pm. Saturday’s event also features an exclusive Q&A with some surprise VIP guests at 3.30pm.

FIM Speedway mascot Speedy teams up with Belle Vue’s Chase the Ace throughout the week to form the ultimate double act. There are also chances to win FIM Speedway prizes in our quizzes on the big screen.

Speedy meets the fans. PHOTO: Taylor LanningSpeedy meets the fans. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

PARKING AT NATIONAL SPEEDWAY STADIUM

For the FIM SON Final on Saturday, July 13, Kirkmanshulme Lane will have a partial road closure in place, which will mean there will be less on-street parking in front of the stadium.

This will be in place between Gate A (East Stand) and Gate D (Scarcroft Road) and is necessary to ensure the safe departure of fans following the event.

Official car parks for all four days of the FIM Speedway of Nations will be for reservations only, which must be purchased in advance. There will be no cash-operated car parks on the day and signage will be in place to direct cars to the correct car parks from the main roads.

Any car park labels purchased must be collected from the stadium in advance of the event. On event days, there is a pick-up point outside of the box office where vehicles can stop for a short duration to collect passes. Parking will not be available after 2pm on Saturday.​

WHERE TO WATCH THIS WEEK

Every round of the FIM Speedway of Nations is live on Max, discovery+ and Eurosport platforms in countries where these services are available.

Live, free-to-air coverage of the FIM SON Final is also available on TTV in Poland.