Courtesy of FIM Speedway Grand Prix
World champion Bartosz Zmarzlik insisted “I am not thinking I must – only I can” as he launches his bid for world title No.2 at Betard FIM Speedway Grand Prix rounds one and two in Wroclaw on Friday and Saturday.
The Pole is delighted to be back in SGP action after the series was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The action will now take place across eight epic rounds, staged over four double-header weekends.
The series starts at Wroclaw’s legendary Olympic Stadium this weekend, before switching to Gorzow on September 11 and 12, Prague on September 18 and 19 and Torun on October 2 and 3.
Zmarzlik has waited nearly 11 months to defend the sport’s biggest prize and has raced his way into fine form with Gorzow in Poland’s PGE Ekstraliga.
After a hectic winter in his homeland, which saw the 25-year-old win Przeglad Sportowy’s prestigious Polish Athlete of the Year award ahead of UEFA Champions League-winning footballer Robert Lewandowski, Zmarzlik insists he’s focused on the challenges ahead.
He could become only the third man to retain the world title in the SGP era, following in the footsteps of Tony Rickardsson and Nicki Pedersen. But the Szczecin-born star insists there’s no pressure on his shoulders to win back-to-back championships.
He said: “I am not thinking I must – only I can. I am not looking at the good job Tony and Nicki did. I have my own name and my own history. We will see what happens.
“In the winter, it was so crazy for me. Now it is a little bit easier for the head because I don’t think ‘I must do this’ only ‘I can do this.’ It’s a new season, new dreams and new racing.
“Now the GP is starting and it’s good for everyone. I really like racing in the GP because these meetings are a little bit different to the Polish or Swedish league. But I don’t treat this as a special weekend for me. It is the start of eight rounds and we will see what happens after the last one in Torun.”
The SGP calendar will have a very different look with six of the eight events taking place in Poland and two in Czech capital Prague.
Some will suggest this offers Zmarzlik an advantage. The Gorzow star said: “I hope so! We will see after these rounds in Poland.
“These are all good speedway tracks. I really like Wroclaw, Gorzow and Torun, but the GP is different. There are more heats than in a Polish meeting. The track changes more during the meetings and everything is different.
“The GPs are a little bit different this year – there’s no practice the day before or qualifying. The points are a little bit different after the rounds. We will see happens, but I am only looking at myself.
“I must always focus on the next race, the next round and the next track. With two rounds in one weekend, each one will be very important. I am waiting for Wroclaw and we will see what happens there.”
Like everyone else in the world, Zmarzlik was forced to stay at home when the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe.
He kept himself busy during his time in lockdown, but admits it was a strange situation after years of competing all over the world and racing weekly league matches in Poland and Sweden.
Zmarzlik said: “It wasn’t bad for me. I just had more time at home. I had more time for everything in the garden and workshop. But I like racing – I like racing in the Polish and Swedish leagues and in the GP. I like racing around the world, starting in March and stopping after the GP.
“This year there hasn’t been too much racing, but everyone knows what is happening in the world and this season has been a little bit different. All I can do now is be focused before each round and say ‘let’s go!’”
Wroclaw’s own Maciej Janowski can’t wait to take on the world’s top stars in his home city this weekend.
While he knows the locals will give him plenty of support at the Olympic Stadium, Magic admits one of the world’s best race tracks won’t hold any fears for his rivals.
He said: “It’s cool to be here. The stadium is nice and the track offers us lots of good racing lines. For sure it will be good fun. Of course my many friends from my home town will come and support me, so that’s awesome.
“But the Wroclaw track is pretty easy for all the GP riders. The most important thing will be to prepare a good setup and have good bikes for the race.
“Of course you have to be smart, choose the right lines during the meeting and be ready for everything. Many things need to come together for you to get good points. But I feel good. My bikes are prepared well. So hopefully this will be a good weekend.”
Zmarzlik and Janowski will be joined in flying the Polish flag by Patryk Dudek and this weekend’s wild card Gleb Chugunov, who dons the No.16 race jacket.
Great Britain star Tai Woffinden is also more than familiar with the Wroclaw track having raced there in the PGE Ekstraliga since 2013. Britain’s only triple world champion launches his quest for title No.4. Aussie star Max Fricke is also a Wroclaw regular.
WROCLAW LINE-UP (in FIM ranking order with riding numbers): 95 Bartosz Zmarzlik (Poland), 30 Leon Madsen (Denmark), 89 Emil Sayfutdinov (Russia), 66 Fredrik Lindgren (Sweden), 54 Martin Vaculik (Slovakia), 71 Maciej Janowski (Poland), 69 Jason Doyle (Australia), 692 Patryk Dudek (Poland), 55 Matej Zagar (Slovenia), 88 Niels-Kristian Iversen (Denmark), 222 Artem Laguta (Russia), 85 Antonio Lindback (Sweden), 108 Tai Woffinden (Great Britain), 46 Max Fricke (Australia), 155 Mikkel Michelsen (Denmark), 16 Gleb Chugunov (Poland – wild card), 17 Michal Curzytek (Poland – first track reserve), 18 Przemyslaw Liszka (Poland – second track reserve).