HANCOCK: LAGUTA WON MENTAL BATTLE
American great Greg Hancock believes Artem Laguta had the mental edge in his FIM Speedway Grand Prix title tussle with Bartosz Zmarzlik.
Laguta and Zmarzlik produced one of the all-time great championship battles throughout 2021, winning an astonishing five SpeedwayGPs each.
Despite Gorzow hero Zmarzlik racing to 189 championship points – the fourth highest total in the series’ history – Laguta beat him on 192, a tally bettered only by Tony Rickardsson and Nicki Pedersen’s record-breaking 196-point hauls in 2005 and 2007 respectively.
Wroclaw coach Hancock worked closely with Laguta at the Polish club throughout 2021 and was hugely impressed with the Bydgoszcz-based racer’s historic triumph.
While Grin knows all too well how good former SpeedwayGP rival Zmarzlik is, he believes Laguta’s mental steel just gave him the advantage this year. He said: “Bartosz is spectacular. When you see what he does on a motorcycle, there are no problems on the track for him – only solutions. He is just looking for every solution you can find.
“Artem is another great rider I got to stand alongside in Wroclaw this year. As it got closer to the end, Artem beat Bartosz mentally for me.
“He is so good on the bike and his starts are phenomenal. Watching how he is and how he works mentally is really, really fun. He’s so positive and so mind-strong. He is already so good and fast.
“He doesn’t need to look for solutions because he gets to the first bend before he needs the solution. His solution is to make the start and get away. Most of the time he does and he’s not an easy guy for Bartosz to catch. He’s the only one who rattled Bartosz’s cage this year. That was pretty obvious.”
Hancock, who retired in February 2019, admits he could only sit back and admire a title race that made him think twice about any prospect of making a racing comeback.
He said: “It was extraordinary. I had been away from the competition for almost three years so to see what these guys have done over the last two years …
“I was going to make a comeback after a year and a half out. I was confident I would have been right there with them, but after two years out and now going into the third year, you see how quickly you can lose something. You cannot afford to miss much time on the track. These guys are raising the bar constantly.”