|World Championship leader Jason Doyle insists his 2016 FIM Speedway Grand Prix heartbreak taught him “a life lesson” as he pledged to take things round-by-round in his quest for gold.
The second half of an epic SGP series kicks off with the Teng Tools Swedish SGP in Malilla on Saturday, with everything still to play for in the title race.
Doyle leads the way on 78 points, but back-to-back SGP wins in Horsens and Cardiff have put Polish icon Maciej Janowski firmly in the hunt in second place on 75 – level with fellow countryman Patryk Dudek in third.
Swedish star Freddie Lindgren has some catching up to do on 58 in fourth place, but he has the perfect opportunity with this weekend’s contest on his Swedish Elitserien home track, where he races for Dackarna alongside Janowski and Dudek.
Despite holding a three-point lead, Doyle knows better than most not to take anything for granted with six rounds remaining. He held a five-point lead going into the penultimate round of the 2016 series in Torun, only to suffer a season-ending crash.
The Newcastle-born racer, who is still nursing a foot injury, admits that cruel blow has taught him to take things round-by-round in his quest to become Australia’s sixth world champion at the series-closing QBE Insurance Australian SGP at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on October 28.
He said: “I learnt a life lesson last year when I crashed out. We have to take each round as it comes. Three points is nothing in the title race.
“It all comes down to Melbourne. I just need to stay fit and healthy and get ready for the big one. I’ll go to Malilla on Saturday and try to score as many points as possible. It’s the points that are valuable at the end.”
Doyle may have reached all six SGP finals this year, but he has sometimes done it the hard way after making a few slow starts to rounds and qualifying for the semi-finals on eight points in Daugavpils, eight in Prague and nine in Cardiff. The Swindon, Zielona Gora and Rospiggarna racer is keen to hit the ground running in Malilla.
He said: “We need to make it a lot easier for ourselves. We need to make it into the semis quite early, and not leave everything until the last race.
“The ideal start to a Grand Prix would be to get three straight wins and go straight into the semis. But that doesn’t happen.
“It’s not easy – it’s probably the hardest field in many years. Any race can be won by any rider and there are no easy heats. That’s why it’s called Grand Prix racing. It’s hard and enjoyable.”
With his three nearest rivals racing on their Swedish home track, Doyle’s lead could be threatened by Janowski, Dudek and Lindgren. But he admits racing an SGP on your club circuit is no easy task.
He said: “It adds a little bit of pressure, knowing you ride there week in, week out and you’re expected to score good points because you are the home rider.
“It’s a track where you can either go really well, or have an average meeting. At this track there are a lot of race lines, so it’s not always down to the perfect start. It’s going to be an exciting Grand Prix and I’m sure there is going to be some great racing.
“I’m going in there as World Championship leader, so there’s no added pressure on me. I’m leading, but that means nothing at the halfway point.
“There are so many points in it. You just need to add them up and hopefully be there at the end.”
Lindgren admits he has been working hard to get his equipment back up to top speed for the second half of the series. He hopes Malilla will be kind to him as he seeks to close on the frontrunners and regain the form that saw him top the World Championship after the first two rounds.
He said: “We have been a little bit out with the equipment lately and haven’t been on top of things. I think my riding is still there. I showed it in my early heats in Cardiff.
“There’s no reason why I can’t get back to the top again. The pressure is on the boys at the top, but maybe I can sneak in with a good one.”
TENG TOOLS SWEDISH SGP LINE-UP (in ranking order with rider numbers): 84 Martin Smolinski (substitute for 45 Greg Hancock), 108 Tai Woffinden, 95 Bartosz Zmarzlik, 23 Chris Holder, 69 Jason Doyle, 777 Piotr Pawlicki, 85 Antonio Lindback, 88 Niels-Kristian Iversen, 55 Matej Zagar, 71 Maciej Janowski, 66 Fredrik Lindgren, 25 Peter Kildemand (substitute for 12 Nicki Pedersen), 692 Patryk Dudek, 54 Martin Vaculik, 89 Emil Sayfutdinov, 16 Linus Sundstrom, 17 Kim Nilsson, 18 Joel Kling.
FIM SPEEDWAY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Jason Doyle 78, 2 Maciej Janowski 75, 3 Patryk Dudek 75, 4 Fredrik Lindgren 58, 5 Emil Sayfutdinov 58, 6 Tai Woffinden 57, 7 Bartosz Zmarzlik 55, 8 Martin Vaculik 49, 9 Matej Zagar 48, 10 Greg Hancock 45, 11 Chris Holder 44, 12 Piotr Pawlicki 44, 13 Niels-Kristian Iversen 38, 14 Antonio Lindback 36, 15 Peter Kildemand 22, 16 Vaclav Milik 13, 17 Nicki Pedersen 8, 18 Maksims Bogdanovs 8, 19 Kenneth Bjerre 7, 20 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 3, 21 Craig Cook 2, 22 Josh Bates 2, Nick Skorja 1.