Speedway Returns – Ekstraliga Week One Review
Speedway finally made it’s long-awaited return on Friday night after Covid-19 had shut the season completely down as it spread across Europe. Poland’s governing body ensured that the appropriate safety measures were in place for a safe return to the shale; meetings are taking place behind closed doors and is currently not allowing riders to participate if they choose to “double up” in another country’s league (not that any are currently ongoing, of course).
Face masks are being worn by pit crews and riders not participating any ongoing race. Beyond that, it remains the high-octane, 500cc-engined, no-brake motorcycle racing watched around the world. Armed with a smorgasbord of Grand Prix talent on show, here’s how the opening weekend of the 2020 Ekstraliga went…
— Tai Woffinden (@TWoffinden) June 14, 2020
Sparta Wrocław 55-35 Lubin
2018 world champion Tai Woffinden inspired Wroclaw to a comprehensive 55-35 victory on Friday night over a poor Lubin side. Scunthorpe-born Woffinden wasn’t alone in his dominance however, with Maksym Drabik, Maciej Janowski and impressive reserve Gleb Chuganov – riding his first meeting since gaining Polish citizenship – all recording double-figure points hauls on the night, the latter of whom ending up the top scorer on the night with 12+1.
It was a far tougher night for fellow Brit Dan Bewley who only recorded a single point from his three rides, following in Janowski in heat ten for a bonus point having brilliant overtaken Wiktor Lampart on his outside. Rest assured, the talented youngster will have better nights this season.
One sour point for the hosts is that Woffinden will face a period of treatment before Friday night’s face-off with local rivals Leszno after an injury he sustained in heat 13, in which his foot became caught under his footrest on the opening lap.
Lubin’s inquest as to their poor showing can begin at a number of starting points. Maciej Kuciapa’s side amassed only five race wins all night, culminating in just two heat victories and three points from reserve in comparison to Wroclaw’s 16+3. But the real kicker here was the ten last-places they ran – far too many for a side hoping to challenge. The only bright light of sorts was Mikkel Michelsen who, aside from a last-place finish in heat seven, looked solid for the visitors, collecting almost a third of his team’s points.
Take nothing away from Wroclaw though; Dariusz Sledz’s team look to have real balance in their ranks. Top-class heat leaders throughout and a reserve capable of bagging double figures, they look – admittedly after only a single meeting – like a side that could go from being the proverbial bridesmaid into the blossoming bride.
Heat 1: Hampel, Fricke, Janowski, Laguta – 63.91s (3-3)
Heat 2: Chugunov, Liszka, Lampart, Trofimov – 63.14s (8-4)
Heat 3: Woffinden, Michelsen, Jamrog, Bewley – 62.39s (11-7)
Heat 4: Drabik, Liszka, Zagar, Lampart – 63.83s (16-8)
Heat 5: Janowski, Laguta, Zagar, Bewley – 62.90s (19-11)
Heat 6:Chugunov, Woffinden, Jamrog, Hampel – 63.28 (24-12)
Heat 7: Drabik, Trofimov, Fricke, Michelsen – 63.08s (28-14)
Heat 8: Woffinden, Laguta, Zagar, Liszka – 63.41s (31-17)
Heat 9: Drabik, Fricke, Jamrog, Hampel – 64.00s (36-18)
Heat 10: Michelsen, Janowski, Bewley, Lampart – 63.43s (39-21)
Heat 11: Hampel, Chugunov, Zagar, Fricke – 63.42s (41-25)
Heat 12: Janowski, Chugunov, Jamrog, Trofimov – 63.30s (46-26)
Heat 13: Drabik, Michelsen, Woffinden, Laguta – 63.71s (50-28)
Heat 14: Laguta, Chugunov, Janowski, Zagar – 63.48s (53-31)
Heat 15: Michelsen, Woffinden, Hampel,Drabik – 63.19s (55-35)
Referee: Krzysztof Meyze
Rybnik 36-53 Zielona Góra
A spirited 14-point showing from young British talent Robert Lambert wasn’t enough to stop Zielona Gora taking a big victory at Rybnik. Lambert wasn’t named in the original starting line-up, but was called into action after the drama that transpired in heat two. Kacper Klosok took a heavy fall in the first running but was allowed back into the re-run. After riding far behind the pack in the second staging, he spun again on the third lap and was too injured to clear the track. Having taken an early initiative in the second re-run, Tudziez got squeezed between Krakowiak and Tonder, whom he rode up the side of and was catapulted into the fence, his bike rebounding off the tip of his helmet as i settled. It was a truly horrendous spill which saw him leave the track in an ambulance.
Neither reserve would be fit to take any of their programmed rides. The subsequent 5-0 put the writing on the wall for the home side, who would only earn themselves a single heat victory all evening. This was a 5-1 in heat nine between young Lambert and Kacper Woryna, who himself enjoyed a good night’s working, bagging 12+1.
Despite only running seven heat wins on the night, the visitors were solid from top to bottom of their line-up; 13 points coming from the reserve positions is impressive in any circumstances. Piotr Protasiewicz continues to beimpressivee in the autumn years of his career; his 10+2 showed that there’s plenty of life in him yet, while GP regulars Patryk Dudek, Antonio Lindback and Martin Vaculik all left Rybnik with bonus points in their haul.
Rybnik go to Grudziądz on Friday night and you can be sure that, having left Grand Prix riders and legends of the sport trailing in his dust, there will be a re-shuffle in the line-up to accommodate Robert Lambert. As for Gora, they will look to build on this impressive start to the campaign as they host Czestochowa on Friday.
|M. Jepsen Jensen||2||1||3||2||2||10|
Heat 1: Milik, Jepsen Jensen, Vaculik, Miedzinski – 65.72s (3-3)
Heat 2: Tonder, Krakowiak, Klosok, Tudziez – 65.94s (3-8)
Heat 3: Woryna, Protasiewicz, Lindback, Szczepaniak – 64.35s (6-11)
Heat 4: Krakowiak, Dudek, Lebedevs, Klosok – 64.65s (7-16)
Heat 5: Dudek, Milik, Jepsen Jensen, Lambert – 64.83s (9-20)
Heat 6: Woryna, Vaculik, Lindback, Tudziez – 64.76s (12-23)
Heat 7: Lambert, Protasiewicz, Tonder, Lebedevs – 64.24s (15-26)
Heat 8: Jepsen Jensen, Dudek, Woryna, Klosok – 65.21s (16-31)
Heat 9: Lambert, Woryna, Lindback, Vaculik – 64.51s (21-32)
Heat 10: Krakowiak, Protasiewicz, Milik, Szczepaniak – 64.55s (22-37)
Heat 11: Lambert, Vaculik, Dudek, Miedzinski – 64.23s (25-40)
Heat 12: Lindback, Milik, Tonder, Tudziez – 64.94s (27-44)
Heat 13: Lambert, Jepsen Jensen, Protasiewicz, Woryna – 64.55s (30-47)
Heat 14: Protasiewicz, Lambert, Lebedevs, Krakowiak – 64.38s (33-50)
Heat 15: Woryna, Jepsen Jensen, Dudek, Milik – 65.05s (36-53)
Referee: Piotr Lis
Gorzów 41-49 Leszno
Six-time and reigning champions Leszno ground out a narrow 49-41 victory at the Edward Jancarz Stadium in Gorzow to begin the defence of their title. Spearheaded by Grand Prix riders Emil Sayfutdinov and Piotr Pawlicki, never outside the top two all night, the visitors took advantage of a pair of tapes exclusions at either end of the meeting to ensure they got their 2020 campaign off to a winning start.
The hosts were running a rider replacement option in place of Niels-Kristian Iversen after the Dane crashed in a practice race with would-be opponent Bartosz Zmarzlik last week, injuring his left shoulder in the process. Despite claims that he felt fine, Iversen was advised by his doctor to sit the meeting out to rest while the soreness and swelling subsides.
The aforementioned Pawlicki was in imperious form for the visitors, only beaten by world champion Bartosz Zmarlik in the most entertaining heat of the evening, heat seven. The two pair swapped the lead no less than four times through the course of the race; Pawlicki almost knocking Zmarzlik off his bike midway through lap three but the Gorzow number one would not be denied, pipping his compatriot on the final run to the line.
Despite having an 8+ point deficit for most of the night, Gorzow were always on the pace and set up a possible grandstand finish in heat 14, where the Wozniak/Zmarzlik combination was too strong for Kubera and Kolodziej. However, Krzysztof Kasprzak touched the tapes in the final race and for the second time in the evening, Rafal Karczmarz ran a last place following a tapes exclusion, allowing Pawlicki and Sayfutdinov to seal the victory.
Heat 1 (Re-run): Sayfutdinov, Kasprzak, Smektala, Karczmarz – 61.01s (2-4)
Zmarzlik – Tapes Exclusion
Heat 2 (Re-run): Szlauderbach, Karczmarz, Kubera, Bartkowiak – 61.41s (4-8)
Heat 3: Pawlicki, Thomsen, Kołodziej, Wozniak – 61.67s (6-12)
Heat 4: Kubera, Zmarzlik, Kurtz, Karczmarz – 61.35s (8-16)
Heat 5: Kasprzak, Kurtz, Wozniak, Smektala – 61.72s (12-18)
Heat 6: Thomsen, Sayfutdinov, Kołodziej, Karczmarz – 61.82s (15-21)
Heat 7: Zmarzlik, Pawlicki, Wozniak, Szlauderbach – 61.90s (19-23)
Heat 8: Thomsen, Kurtz, Smektala, Bartkowiak – 61.92s (22-26)
Heat 9: Sayfutdinov, Zmarzlik, Kołodziej, Thomsen – 61.98s (24-30)
Heat 10: Pawlicki, Kubera, Kasprzak, Zmarzlik – 62.05s (25-35)
Heat 11: Wozniak, Sayfutdinov, Zmarzlik, Kurtz – 62.17s (29-37)
Heat 12: Kołodziej, Karczmarz, Kasprzak, Szlauderbach (fell) – 62.23s (32-40)
Heat 13 (Re-run): Pawlicki, Kasprzak, Thomsen, Kubera – 62.41s (35-43)
Heat 14: Wozniak, Zmarzlik, Kubera, Kolodziej – 62.48s (40-44)
Heat 15: Pawlicki, Sayfutdinov, Thomsen, Karczmarz – 62.34s (41-49)
Kasprzak – Tapes Exclusion
Referee: Artur Kuśmierz
Częstochowa 53 – 37 Grudziądz
Following Friday night’s abandonment due to rain, Czestochowa got their 2020 season underway with a dominant 53-37 victory over Grudziadz at the Municipal Stadium.
In the latest meeting littered with Grand Prix riders, it was the home side that made the early running; Leon Madsen and Freddie Lindgren taking a 5-1 in the very first race of the night over Nicki Pedersen and Piotr Pawlicki followed by a 4-2 advantage in the reserves’ race. Further maximums in heats five and eight gave Czestochowa a 14-point lead at the halfway mark – a lead that Robert Kempinski’s side never looked like making inroads upon. Artem Laguta was the only positive for Grudziadz. The Russian was simply sublime right from the first turn of his wheel, going right through the card with six wins out of six. Their sole heat advantage came in heat 11 as Nicki Pedersen was able to keep Prem Przedpelski’s advances at bay for the final race point as Laguta continued on his majestic way.
Make no mistake about it, this meeting could have been even more one-sided for Marek Cieslak’s men were it not for Laguta’s brilliance. Ten points from the reserve positions without adding to their programmed workload is as impressive as any other in the league in the opening weekend, and Cieslak will hoping for more of the same in a mouth-watering clash with Czestochowa on Friday night. As for Grudziadz, they welcome Rybnik who may be buoyed by Robert Lambert’s performance on Sunday.
Heat 1: Madsen, Lindgren, Pedersen, Pawlicki – 65.05s (5-1)
Heat 2: Miskowiak, Turowski, Swidnicki, Lotarski – 64.96 s (9-3)
Heat 3: Laguta, Doyle, Przedpelski, Buczkowski – 63.98s (12-6)
Heat 4: Bjerre, Swidnicki, Holta, Turowski – 65.00s (15-9)
Heat 5 (Re-run): Przedpelski, Lindgren, Pawlicki, Bjerre – 64.40s (20-10)
Heat 6: Doyle, Buczkowski, Pedersen, Miskowiak – 65.15s (23-13)
Heat 7 (Re-run): Laguta, Madsen, Holta, Lotarski – 64.05s (26-16)
Heat 8: Swidnicki, Doyle, Pawlicki, Bjerre – 65.15s (31-17)
Heat 9: Madsen, Pedersen, Holta, Buczkowski – 64.14s (35-19)
Heat 10: Laguta, Lindgren, Przedpelski, Turowski – 63.90s (38-22)
Heat 11: Laguta, Madsen, Pedersen, Przedpelski – 64.04s (40-26)
Heat 12: Lindgren, Buczkowski, Miskowiak, Turowski – 64.19s (44-28)
Heat 13: Laguta, Holta, Doyle, Lakhbaum – 64.57s (47-31)
Heat 14 (Re-run): Pedersen, Doyle, Przedpelski, Buczkowski(Ex) – 65.25s (50-34)
Heat 15: Laguta, Madsen, Lindgren, Pedersen – 64.18s (53-37)
Referee: Pawel Slupski
Note: BP = Bonus Points, scored when following a team-mate over the finish line (Cannot be scored if finishing last in the race)
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