CIERNIAK HONOURS GRANDFATHER’S MEMORY WITH PRAGUE FIM SGP2 TRIUMPH
Polish shooting star Mateusz Cierniak dedicated an unforgettable Prague FIM SGP2 of Czech Republic win to late grandfather Wladyslaw after defying a high-speed crash to top the Marketa Stadium podium on Friday.
The defending FIM SGP2 champion followed up his 2022 title triumph by leading a Polish one-two-three with fellow Tarnow-born rider Bartlomiej Kowalski in second and Damian Ratajczak in third.
Norwegian racer Mathias Pollestad stormed to an impressive fourth place as he made history – becoming Norway’s first rider to reach the top four in an FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship Final event since former Speedway GP world No.4 Rune Holta won world junior silver in 1994.
But the night belonged to Cierniak, who overcame a battle on and off the track to take victory. His grandfather Wladyslaw passed away a few days ago and the Lublin rider also had to bounce back from a high-speed crash in heat 20 tonight.
Cierniak admits he maintained a steely focus to deliver a victory in his grandfather’s memory.
He said: “Generally, I am very strong, and it wasn’t overthinking it. I focused on my practice session in Lublin and the practice in my hometown Tarnow going into the meeting. I didn’t have time to dwell on it.
“Death is a part of life. My grandfather must go to the other world now and I dedicate this win for him. I want to thank everyone for their support and for being with me. I want to thank my family, my team and my coach, who also helped me a lot today.”
Cierniak suffered a big impact after colliding with Sweden’s Philip Hellstrom-Bangs in heat 20 – an impact which saw his front wheel collapse, before he was thrown into the back-straight safety fence. But the Pole admits this hard knock proved a blessing in disguise.
He said: “Finally after a big crash I had to change my bike and after this, it was good. In the first and second heats, I made the start, but then I didn’t feel fast enough on the bike. This crash helped me a little to decide to change the bike – I had to change.
“Then my start in the final was very, very great – definitely the best start of the night for me. I was looking at the big screen on the first corner and watching what was happening behind me. I think it’s the best feeling for a speedway rider to be in front after a very difficult night.”
Cierniak has now won an incredible three out of four FIM SGP2 rounds since the series was taken under the FIM Speedway umbrella by global promoter Warner Bros. Discovery Sports in 2022.
Having lifted the FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship in 2022, he’s determined to repeat the feat and follow Emil Sayfutdinov and Darcy Ward in becoming a back-to-back winner of the competition, while Poland’s Maksym Drabik is also a two-time winner.
“And maybe me!” he enthused. “I will try and do it. In this meeting, I was very focused. Before the season, I was very focused on this competition. I prepared for it very hard, and I have one destination. My destination is to hopefully get the same result as last year. Now I am heading in the best way.”
Next up in the championship is the FIM SGP2 of Poland – Gorzow on Friday, June 23, with the series concluding at the FIM SGP2 of Denmark – Vojens on Friday, September 15.
“I like riding in Gorzow so much,” Cierniak said. “I like riding in Vojens too, but it’s a very long way to go until then. Now I am preparing for my league meeting on Sunday in Grudziadz, and then I must think about what I must do in Gorzow.”
Runner-up Kowalski underlined his title credentials by topping the heat score chart on 13 race points, before finishing second to Cierniak in the final to leave with 18 championship points.
He said: “I am very happy with the result in the first round of SGP2. I didn’t make a good start in the final, but I am very happy with the second place. It means a lot to me.
“The track was very good today. There were many lines to overtake, and I could make more moves on the track.
“After each grading break, there were a lot of changes with the track, and I had to be very focused to react to those changes with the bike.”
Third-placed Ratajczak recorded just one race point in his opening three heats, before producing an astonishing turnaround, winning his final two heats to reach the semi-finals on countback with seven.
He then followed Cierniak home in a lively semi-final two before clinching third place in the final. Ratajczak was pleased he found his form when it mattered most.
He said: “It was very difficult racing tonight. My rivals are the best riders in this category in the world.
“I had a problem with one bike and decided to change it. It wasn’t so good in the second heat, but I made some changes with the setup, and it all went well. It was perfect at the end, so I am very happy with the outcome tonight.”
The racing continues in the Czech capital as the sport’s senior stars take centre stage for the Prague FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic on Saturday night at 19:00 CET.