Slovak star Martin Vaculik admits meeting his heroes in Prague as a kid inspired him to become an FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic winner in 2022.

Vaculik sent the Marketa Stadium wild last May, when he topped the podium ahead of former Prague winners Tai Woffinden and Jason Doyle.

Given that no Czech rider has won Speedway GP’s longest-running round since it launched in 1997, Vaculik’s win was the closest the event has come to delivering a home winner, and an army of fans followed their hero across the border from neighbouring Slovakia to see him triumph.

Vaculik grew up watching the sport and eventually racing in Prague as he competed for his hometown club Zarnovica in the Czech league.

And he admits the chance to rub shoulders with the Speedway GP superstars in Prague once a year only made him hungrier to achieve his racing dreams.

Remembering his first Marketa Stadium SGP event, he revealed: “I think it was 2003, when I was 13 that I went there with my father for the Speedway GP. I remember having a picture with Greg Hancock, Tony Rickardsson, Tomasz Gollob and Jason Crump and all these stars.

“I remember standing on one side of the fence and Greg was on the other. But he took a picture with me – us and the fence!

“It was a good memory and when I was racing with him in Tarnow in Poland about a decade ago, I showed him this picture and we were laughing about that. I told him, ‘You see Greg! Dreams come true!’ Then we were racing together, and it was amazing.

“It’s amazing how all this stuff happens. It’s fantastic. We have spoken about that early meeting many times. It was a nice memory.”

Joining Hancock in the club of Prague winners was a special moment for Vaculik last season.

He added: “Winning the Prague Grand Prix is always something special. The Speedway GP there is simply special. I am very pleased I won the meeting there because it’s a very hard Grand Prix.

“That place is also really sentimental for me. Prague is one of my favourite places in the world. That win was like a launchpad for us for the rest of the season, with good results, a good setup and good equipment. It was a turning point for me.”