Latvian ace Andzejs Lebedevs believes racing full-time in Speedway GP in 2024 will be less stressful than serving as a series substitute.

The Daugavpils-born racer makes history as Latvia’s first-ever full-time Speedway GP rider this year, after being handed a permanent wild card for the series by the SGP Commission.

Lebedevs was among the standby stars in previous years, having been named as first reserve for the 2023 series and third substitute in 2022.

This meant he was called into a round if regular members of the championship were unavailable due to injury, illness or other reasons. But these call-ups sometimes come at the last moment – unless the rider being replaced is on the long-term injured list.

Lebedevs admits not knowing whether he would be needed for every round was a challenge, so he’s elated to start 2024 certain that he will be part of every Speedway GP event.

He said: “I am really honoured that the FIM and Warner Bros. Discovery nominated me to be a full-time Speedway GP rider. It’s a small step towards my dream.

“Now I know I will go to the next round for 100 percent. I can focus and build my team for a full season in the World Championship – not like when I was first reserve. Then you never know when you will race and even after racing a round, you don’t know if you will be going to the next one or not.

“It brings big stress. You want to take the chance and show your best. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself. I think this season will be easier for me mentally. I can prepare my head for a full season, just go full throttle and fight for the best place I can.”

Lebedevs would require a top-six finish to guarantee his Speedway GP spot for 2025, and competition is set to be fierce with 14 other riders also chasing the World Championship and qualification for next year. The Leszno signing is confident he can take the fight to the best riders in the world – if he wins his own mental battle.

“I always say the biggest opponent is in my head,” he said. 

“If I can fix this, I can beat everyone. I want to enjoy speedway and enjoy being part of Speedway GP. I also want to keep this place for next year.”

Lebedevs did not reach a Speedway GP semi-final in five appearances in 2023. He’s keen to put that right in 2024 and ensure he’s a regular fixture at the business end of SGP rounds.

“At every round I am fighting to be in the semi-final,” he said. “A new story starts in the semis, and anything can happen in the semis and final.

“I want to be in the semi-finals and then concentrate on the next step and make the final. Then the next step is to make the podium. The goal for the whole season is to consistently make the semis.”