LINDGREN: PRESSURE ON STAR-STUDDED LUBLIN SIDE

Swedish star Freddie Lindgren admits the pressure will be on a stellar Lublin side as the Polish club bids to defend the PGE Ekstraliga title following a winter transfer spree. Lublin won the first top-flight championship in their history in 2022 and made a statement of their intent during the off-season by prising triple world champion Bartosz Zmarzlik away from Gorzow to lead their title defence. The Pole isn’t their only blockbuster signing as Lindgren joins Lublin from Czestochowa, while Aussie ace Jack Holder makes the move from Torun, where he has raced his entire Polish career to date. With the Speedway GP trio teaming up with former world No.2 Jaroslaw Hampel, Polish international Dominik Kubera and SGP2 champion Mateusz Cierniak, the champions are being tipped among the 2023 title favourites. While many riders play down the weight of expectation on a team’s shoulders, Lindgren offered a refreshingly frank and honest appraisal of the pressure facing this highly-rated Lublin line-up. “There will be loads of pressure!” he enthused. “We are the defending champions and have signed the world champion from their country. It’s a big move and it means they want to win again. The pressure is going to be on for us to win again. “There are a lot of strong teams in the Ekstraliga, but I definitely feel that on paper we look one of the strongest. Having that on paper is one thing; you need to put it down on the track. It’s not going to happen by itself. We have to work hard and work together to win.” Lindgren has been spending some time with the group in recent weeks, getting to know everyone following his transfer from Czestochowa. He said: “We had one week in Calpe, Spain at a cycling camp together. Recently we have been in Croatia practising. I didn’t know all the guys well before, but I am starting to get to know them. “For me it was nice to get a few laps in, have a couple of days of riding with them and get my body back to riding speedway as we get ready to start racing.”

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FIM SPEEDWAY TOP 5 MOMENTS | MALILLA

As speedway toasts its 100th anniversary season, FIMSpeedway.com looks back at the top five moments celebrated at each of our 2023 FIM Speedway venues. Today, we feature the storied Skrotfrag Arena – stage for the FIM Speedway GP of Sweden – Malilla on July 15, as well as the FIM SGP3 Final on July 14.   1. ZMARZLIK ZOOMS TO NO.3 IN 2022 Polish icon Bartosz Zmarzlik wrote more Speedway GP history on September 17, 2022, as he celebrated his third world title in the forests of Malilla. With Zmarzlik and rival Leon Madsen both in the semi-finals, the Dane needed to progress from semi-final one to keep the title race alive. But when his engine gave up on him, it was game over – handing the Pole his third SGP crown in just four seasons. Camera crews rushed to Zmarzlik’s pit area as the team celebrated, but it was back to business within minutes as Zmarzlik cruised to victory in semi-final two, before capping off an unforgettable night by winning the FIM Swedish Speedway GP – his third Malilla win after victories in 2017 and 2021.   2. FAST FREDDIE’S HOME HEROICS IN 2019 Nothing raises the noise level in Malilla more than Freddie Lindgren in full flight in his home event. He truly was in full flight in heat six, when Polish rival Patryk Dudek crashed on the back straight, leaving man and machine prone across the circuit. Lindgren had nowhere to go but produced an Evil Knievel-style jump over Dudek’s stranded bike, rocketing over it before crashing into the third-bend fence. It was a fall that left Lindgren with a visible limp, but it didn’t slow him down on the bike. Not only did he spare the Pole from serious injury, he went on to win the final ahead of Leon Madsen, Maciej Janowski and Artem Laguta. It was an emotional win for Lindgren – seven years after his first home victory at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium in 2012. Few events bring out his best more than Malilla’s Speedway GP.   3. HANCOCK ENDS SWEDISH VICTORY SEARCH IN 2016 Having made his European home in Sweden with wife Jennie, the nation where they raised sons Wilbur, Bill and Karl, the country holds a special place in American legend Greg Hancock’s affections. But for some crazy reason, the Californian – who has raced more Speedway GPs than any other rider – had been unable to top the podium in his adopted homeland. That all changed on a glorious Sunday afternoon in 2016. The FIM Swedish Speedway GP was pushed back by a day due to rain, but the final was more than worth the wait. Hancock duelled with title rival Jason Doyle over first place, before getting the better of him to win his first Swedish round at the 36th attempt. Good things come to those who wait, and he wasn’t waiting long for his fourth world title after spraying the Malilla champagne.   4. AJ ON TOP IN 2006 The Malilla crowd loves a home winner, and it was Andreas Jonsson who delivered an unforgettable victory at the second Speedway GP round staged in Malilla in 2006. With six-time world champion Tony Rickardsson announcing his retirement halfway through the season, an expectant nation was looking for a new hero to keep the yellow and blue flag flying high. And it was Jonsson who stepped up to the mark, winning the Malilla final ahead of Hans Andersen, Leigh Adams and Jason Crump on his way to fourth place in the Speedway GP World Championship. That Malilla victory was the first of nine Speedway GP wins for a man who went on to win World Championship silver in 2011, and he remains one of Sweden’s heroes of the SGP era.   5. DANISH YOUNG GUNS FIRE IN 2012 FIM SWC Malilla hasn’t only hosted Speedway GP action – the 2012 FIM Speedway World Cup Race Off and Final came to the Skrotfrag Arena, with hosts Sweden facing off with Denmark, Russia and Australia. Danish boss Anders Secher took a sizeable gamble in naming talented but inexperienced duo Michael Jepsen Jensen and Mikkel Bech in his starting line-up, dropping Leon Madsen after the opening round in Vojens. But starring alongside Niels-Kristian Iversen and Nicki Pedersen, Denmark’s young guns fired – with MJJ matching NKI’s 11 points, Pedersen picking up nine and Bech bagging eight to seal a famous win. Australia fell three points short of gold in second spot, despite a 16-point salvo from eventual Speedway GP world champion Chris Holder. Meanwhile, Russia won their first FIM SWC medal in third.   Join us for more magical Malilla moments. Tickets covering entry to both the 2023 FIM Speedway GP of Sweden – Malilla on Saturday, July 15 and the FIM SGP3 Final for the sport’s brightest under-16 stars on Friday, July 14 are on sale now. Secure your spot at the Skrotfrag Arena here: https://secure.tickster.com/sv/27pj8wpgxzj1va9/selectproductgroup

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SGP QUIZ | WARSAW ROSTRUM RACERS

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VACULIK: POLISH LEAGUE ENOUGH FOR ME

Slovak star Martin Vaculik insists racing only in Poland’s PGE Ekstraliga alongside his Speedway GP commitments gives him all the track time he needs. Polish authorities relaxed the limit on the number of leagues PGE Ekstraliga riders can enter from two to three for 2023. The move has seen Great Britain ace Dan Bewley back in his home league at Belle Vue, while Aussie SGP stars Jason Doyle, Jack Holder and Max Fricke all continue racing in a league, which now boasts former world champion Nicki Pedersen and former world No.3 Emil Sayfutdinov this season. When his schedule was at its peak, riders like Pedersen raced in the Danish, Polish, Swedish and British top leagues alongside the Speedway GP series. But an increasing number prefer to stick to two leagues or even one. Vaculik has consistently limited himself to just racing for one league club – Polish giants Stal Gorzow, where he teams up with Speedway GP rival Anders Thomsen. And it’s a decision he does not regret, even with many of his rivals taking to the track much more regularly between Speedway GP rounds. “It’s just the Grand Prix and Poland for me,” he said. “I have doing it like that for the last five years, so I think this is okay for me. “Everybody is different. Some people need to have six meetings per week and somebody else needs two meetings per week. It’s very individual. I am happy with what I have, and I am happy with what I do and how I do it.”

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MAN CITY ICON LAPORTE FOLLOWS "CRAZY" BELLEGO'S CAREER

French racer David Bellego has revealed old friend and Manchester City football icon Aymeric Laporte follows his fortunes on the track, but thinks the Sheffield star is “crazy.” The pair went to school together in south west France, with Laporte now one of the Premier League’s top defenders for champions Man City, as well as representing the Spanish national side. Meanwhile, Bellego is breaking new ground in the speedway world for France after leading his country to their first-ever world team final in the 2021 FIM Speedway of Nations. He looks set to lead France into their first-ever FIM Speedway World Cup tournament in Wroclaw from July 25-29. While Laporte plies his trade at the Etihad Stadium, Bellego will be racing just across the Pennines at Sheffield’s Owlerton home in the SGB Premiership this summer. He admits Laporte may pay him a visit when he makes the trip to Manchester to face Belle Vue, and Bellego says the pair follow each other’s progress in two very different sports. He told Speedway Star: “Aymeric and I were at school together, so we have been friends for some time now. We were in the same class and year. We played football together a lot at school. “Obviously I’m doing my thing and he is doing his thing. But he actually follows what I do, and I see how he is getting on at Manchester City. “I have a very good mate who is his best friend. So he kept saying when I come to race in Manchester, he will come and watch. “So a couple of years ago I was at Belle Vue for Swindon and Aymeric came to watch. We went back to his house afterwards and we had some food. “He was meant to come back for the Speedway of Nations, but his schedule was too busy that weekend. I think he will come back to see me this season now. “Every time he watches me, he tells me that ‘you are crazy.’ But he also loves bikes. He’s a very humble guy. “I was good at football. I’m not going to say I could sign for a club, but I always wanted to race bikes!”

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