At the age of 28, Polish icon Bartosz Zmarzlik is already one of the top 12 riders of all time with an astonishing 18 Speedway GP wins and three Speedway GP World Championships in the last four years.

Zmarzlik launches his quest for title No.4 at the Tehnix FIM Speedway GP of Croatia this Saturday.'s PAUL BURBIDGE caught up with him as part of our Stars of the Century series, celebrating the sport’s greats as speedway marks its 100th anniversary.


Firstly Bartek, who introduced you to speedway and how did your passion for the sport begin?

“I was shopping with my mother when I was a little kid, and we found a flyer saying there was a speedway in Wawrow for kids. I asked my dad if we could go there to see it and he agreed. I liked it so much and we decided to start riding because I loved bikes.”


Your family, especially your father Pawel senior and brother Pawel junior, play a key role in your racing. How much did they help you in your early years as a rider and how important are they in everything you do now?

“This sport is very expensive and having my dad as a mechanic at the beginning was blessing. He helped me a lot, and now they both do it, with Pawel junior as my manager. Things are easier for me, having him taking care of everything.”

Zmarzlik with young son Antek


Your brother Pawel also raced speedway but had a big crash at the Polish Golden Helmet in 2010 and later ended his career. Did it make you question whether you should continue racing?

“Our mother told me not to ride after the crash, but Pawel asked her not to punish me after his injury. This way I could ride again.”


Who were your speedway heroes when you were younger? Was it always Tomasz Gollob or did you have other favourite riders?

“Yeah, Tomasz Gollob is my biggest speedway hero, but I liked Tony Rickardsson very much too. These two speedway icons influenced my career.”


You raced with Tomasz in your early years at Gorzow. What advice did he give you and how much did he help you develop?

“I guess we're just as stubborn – I mean in a positive way in speedway terms. I wanted to learn, and I have always asked many questions. I think he knew that I really wanted to learn.”


After seeing everything that Tomasz achieved in the sport, did you ever dream that one day you would be Poland’s most successful speedway rider at the age of 28?

“I think we all write our own history. I always wanted to be a world champion, but I thought it would take more time to be honest. It’s very difficult to race at the highest level all the time, but as I said, it’s my life.”

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You made your Speedway GP debut at your boyhood club Gorzow aged just 17 in 2012. What were your first impressions of Speedway GP and were you nervous?

“It’s really hard to explain what I had in my mind that day. I was happy and scared at the same time. I was racing at home, and always dreamed about Speedway Grand Prix. I told myself that I had to do everything to ride very well.”


Two years later, you won the 2014 FIM Gorzow Speedway GP to become the youngest winner in SGP history at 19 years and 140 days old. What do you remember about that day and the emotions you experienced?

“There are not enough words to describe it. I heard fans screaming during this very long final. I was praying to reach the finish line, and you may remember the engine stopped after the race. I get shivers just thinking about it!”


Can you put into words what it meant to achieve your dream of becoming Speedway GP world champion in 2019, especially after such a close title race with Leon Madsen and Emil Sayfutdinov?

“I remember the semi-final in Torun. I had to start well to win and get into the final. I made a great start. I was watching on the screens in the stadium and saw Emil and Tai fighting each other. I was calm when I saw that. I knew I was so close, and I did it. WOW! I still feel it.”


You won your second Speedway GP world title in 2020 – the Covid-19 season. The whole eight-round series was raced over five weeks. How strange was the experience, and how did you keep focused on retaining your title with so much uncertainty in the world with the pandemic, Covid testing and lockdowns etc?

“I tried not to think about it. Maybe it helped me. I was focused on engines and bikes. This Covid-19 situation changed my view of everything in my life. I think all together I was strong enough to do it. This title tasted like a new hope.”


You came close to winning title No.3 in 2021 and just missed out by three points to Artem Laguta. In terms of points scored, it was your best-ever Speedway GP season. Are you sad that you missed out on the gold medal, or proud of an incredible year and five Speedway GP wins?

“You are right. It was my best year in Speedway Grand Prix ever and small mistakes made me lose this title. But don’t get me wrong, Artem was a great competitor, and he deserved the title.”


You lifted Speedway GP world title No.3 last season after three wins and an incredibly consistent year. Were you extra motivated for 2022 after just missing out on gold in 2021?

“I felt from the beginning that I really wanted to feel the taste of a new world title. I did everything to start the season very well to be sure that I was on the right way to third title.”


You led the 2022 Speedway GP World Championship all the way from round one in Croatia until the end. You admitted Croatia isn’t your favourite track. Did winning there give you extra confidence?

“After this win, I was sure that the new season would be interesting. But then I made mistakes in Warsaw and Prague. I had luck. Luckily, we got over our troubles and we won the title again.”


How important was it that you sealed the Speedway GP World Championship in Malilla last year? How much did it help you to win the title there, instead of having the extra pressure on your shoulders of racing for it at the final round in Torun? 

“I have always dreamed about it; being sure of victory one round before the end. It was one of my special dreams and it came true. In one second, I knew I had a third title, and I could focus on Polish league and all finals there.”

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You have now won six Speedway GP World Championship medals in seven seasons. What has been the secret to achieving that level of consistency?

I can’t share my secrets! But honestly, I really love this sport and I think this is the reason. I wake up with ideas, I live with speedway, and I go to sleep thinking about speedway. This is my life.”


Having achieved so much by the age of 28, what inspires you and keeps you motivated to try and win more world titles?

“I think this is who I am. I guess I was born this way.”


How many Speedway GP World Championships do you think you could win? Could you match the six won by Tony Rickardsson and Ivan Mauger, or maybe win seven?

“This is the thing that I hate to talk about. I have no idea. I can’t tell you. I do not know the future. All I know is that I have already written my history and with luck I can hopefully write some more.”


The Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup is back for 2023. It’s a very popular tournament for the Polish fans. How do you feel about the possibility of racing in the competition again?

“I have always liked this formula. I am happy this tournament is coming back.”


The FIM Speedway of Nations is raced with three-rider teams, but there are five riders in an SWC team. Does the SWC format suit Poland better and why?

“Maybe there is more room for mistakes when we are five rather than three. We’ll see this year in Wroclaw. All the teams will be very strong. Great Britain is strong, Denmark is strong, but I have good feelings about it.”


Poland stages the Monster Energy FIM SWC Final in Wroclaw this summer. As hosts, Poland will start as favourites to win gold. How can the team deal with the high expectations of the fans?

“All we need to do is start well and race fast. We have to do everything to win, and everything will be okay.”


Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Poland will only race in the Monster Energy FIM SWC Final after the other teams have competed in the Semi-Finals and Race Off in Wroclaw just days before?

“It doesn’t matter for me. We all know this track and it won’t be the same as for the Semi-Finals or Race Off. Probably something will change, and all of the teams will start from the same level.”


You have made a big change over the winter, swapping Gorzow for Lublin in the PGE Ekstraliga. There were high expectations at Lublin after their 2022 PGE Ekstraliga title win, and now they have signed the world champion. Does this put you under added pressure to perform, or do you enjoy racing at a club setting such high standards?

“I have huge expectations for myself, so all the other pressure is nothing that I work with every day. All I need to do is great job for my new club – for all the fans and sponsors.”


You raced for Gorzow for over a decade and grew up in the sport there. Do you leave with good memories, and would you consider racing there again one day in the future?

“My move to Lublin won’t erase Gorzow from my heart. This is the place where I grew up and I keep all those good memories in my heart. This always will be a special place for me.”

Thank you for talking to us, Bartek and all the best for the new Speedway GP season!

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