|FIM Speedway World Championship leader Patryk Dudek insisted “I don’t have more pressure now” despite leading the standings for the first time in his career ahead of the Mitas Czech Republic SGP in Prague on Saturday.
With just eight points separating the top eight riders, Dudek on 38 will have to be at his best to leave the Czech capital in top spot, especially with in-form Aussie ace Jason Doyle and Swedish star Fredrik Lindgren just a point behind him in second and third on 37.
Polish international Maciej Janowski is also close behind on 35, with Martin Vaculik on 34 and Piotr Pawlicki – winner of the Rietumu Bank Latvian SGP last time out – sixth on 32.
Russian racer Emil Sayfutdinov returns to the scene of his first ever SGP win in 2009 with 31 points, while double world champion Tai Woffinden of Great Britain has 30 as he bids to add to the hat-trick of victories he achieved at Prague’s Marketa Stadium between 2013 and 2015.
With what’s being dubbed the strongest field in SGP history chasing him down, you could forgive Dudek for being a little nervous in his first ever World Championship season.
But after years of mixing it with the best for Zielona Gora in the Polish Ekstraliga and Swedish side Dackarna, he insists he doesn’t feel the heat.
He said: “I am first now in the World Championship, so that’s perfect. I’m happy. It is very important to score well every time in every Grand Prix. You need 10 or 11 points every time for it to be good at the end. We’ve only had three rounds, so we have only just started. The season is long.
“I may be in first place, but I don’t have more pressure now. I have pressure all the time in the Polish league, Swedish league and the Grand Prix. It’s all good – this is my work.
“I know what the Grand Prix and the Polish league are like, so I don’t feel pressure too much. It’s just important for me that when I start on the track, I always have a good feeling.”
After starting the SGP series in red-hot form with second place in Krsko and victory in Warsaw, Lindgren’s progress has been slowed by a knee ligament injury suffered at Wolverhampton on May 22.
It badly hampered him in Daugavpils as he managed just five points. But Fast Freddie is delighted with his recovery after undergoing intense physio on the problem since racing in Latvia.
He said: “Since battling through the pain with my injured knee at the last SGP in Latvia, I have now had almost two weeks of intense rehabilitation training to be able to come back to racing in the best possible condition as fast as possible.
“It has been a tough battle, it has been hard at times, but I have been fighting every day doing my exercises with great help from professional people around me.
“On Wednesday, I met up with my physiotherapist yet again at the Swedish Elite Sports Complex in Bosön, Stockholm, to do some final tests with my knee before this weekend’s SGP, checking and measuring my strength and mobility.
“We were very satisfied with the outcome of these tests. My physiotherapist has given me a great thumbs up. I am still not exactly 100 percent but I am not far off now. Let’s go racing!!!”
Woffinden heads to Prague with the opportunity to become the first four-time winner of the Czech SGP. But he’s determined to put his three previous wins out of his mind for now.
“It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past; it’s all about the present,” he said. “I didn’t make the final last year so my last SGP there wasn’t so good. That’s why I’m just concentrating on now.”
MITAS CZECH REPUBLIC SGP LINE-UP (in ranking order with rider numbers): 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 Vaclav Milik, 17 Josef Franc, 18 Matej Kus.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Patryk Dudek 38, 2 Jason Doyle 37, 3 Fredrik Lindgren 37, 4 Maciej Janowski 35, 5 Martin Vaculik 34, 6 Piotr Pawlicki 32, 7 Emil Sayfutdinov 31, 8 Tai Woffinden 30, 9 Niels-Kristian Iversen 25, 10 Bartosz Zmarzlik 24, 11 Matej Zagar 21, 12 Greg Hancock 20, 13 Chris Holder 16, 14 Antonio Lindback 12, 15 Nicki Pedersen 8, 16 Maksims Bogdanovs 8, 17 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 3, 18 Peter Kildemand 1, 19 Nick Skorja 1.