|Swedish star Freddie Lindgren admits seeing his medal dream dashed in 2017 gave him “a different perspective on my racing and my life in general” ahead of the ANLAS Czech Republic FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Prague on Saturday.
The Orebro-born man leads the FIM Speedway World Championship on 16 points after finishing third in the BOLL Warsaw SGP of Poland on May 12, but top-scoring on the night.
The Czestochowa and Smederna star is in the form of his life this year. Lindgren has had to work hard to bounce back from a badly broken vertebra suffered in a crash during an SGB Premiership play-off semi-final in Manchester last September.
That cost Fast Freddie a shot at a World Championship medal and left him struggling to walk even short distances in the early stages of his recovery. But he is rapidly emerging as one of the favourites to claim gold this year. And Lindgren admits last year’s heartbreak is driving him to succeed.
He said: “I was having my best season ever before my crash and I was very close to winning a medal, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Hopefully that will have a positive impact on this year.
“I have worked very hard in the winter and have a little bit of a different perspective on my racing and my life in general because of the tough times I went through. Hopefully something good comes out of it.
“This is the position I have been working very hard to be in. I am very satisfied with the first round, but that’s history now and we go into Prague with a new focus and a new challenge.”
Lindgren only finished in the sport’s top eight for the second time in his career last year and has made rapid progress since securing a full-time return to the series for 2017.
But the Andorra-based ace insists achieving such red-hot form has taken years of hard work on both man and machines.
He said: “People see it as a surprise that I’m riding this well now. But if you look back three years ago, it has been a steady progression. I have become better and better.
“One big thing is I understand myself more and how I need to prepare myself before the races and meetings.
“A lot of it is the mental side of things, but it’s also how the bikes are working and how I want them to work, and how my mechanics work together with me. It’s a mixture of a lot of things.
“I have worked hard for a few years now and it looks like we’re starting to see the product of that now.”
Many fans and pundits on social media have debated the secrets of Lindgren’s success. But asked if he had found a magic formula with his bike setup, the rider insisted working on himself has been even more vital.
He said: “There has been a lot of talk – about my engines, about my frames, about a lot of things. The frames I’m using are the same ones I have used for a number of years now.
“There are a few small tweaks, but I think most riders have a few tweaks on the bike at this level. No-one’s bikes are exactly like the other riders’ bikes.
“Equipment is one thing, but mental and physical strength, how I approach myself and the racing are the more important things I believe.”
There are a number of SGP stars nursing injuries this weekend. A broken ankle keeps Slovak star Martin Vaculik out, with Niels-Kristian Iversen stepping in. The Dane is still struggling with the shoulder problem, which ended his 2017 season, and will undergo surgery after this weekend.
Triple world champion Nicki Pedersen is set to race on with a broken hand. Despite a tough night at the BOLL Warsaw SGP, he was buoyed by a 13-point haul for Tarnow in the PGE Ekstraliga on Sunday.
Russian racer Emil Sayfutdinov is another of the series’ walking wounded. He was left with a large haematoma on his hip after crashing with Krzysztof Kasprzak in Warsaw. But he returned to action in Torun last Friday and is looking forward to the ANLAS Czech SGP.
He said: “I am much better. I am preparing for the weekend and looking forward to it.
“Every day I have been Lodz and I’ve had some physio. I have spent a lot of time there. Last Friday I raced in the Polish league and it looked good. I am ready for the weekend.”
Sayfutdinov famously launched his SGP career at the Marketa Stadium in 2009, winning there on his World Championship debut. But an historic night remains just that for the Leszno man.
He said: “That’s in the past. I’m just looking at this year and concentrating on now. Speedway is all about now. We just have to concentrate on the practice and try to find a good setup for the meeting on Saturday.”
ANLAS CZECH SGP LINE-UP (in ranking order with rider numbers): 69 Jason Doyle, 692 Patryk Dudek, 108 Tai Woffinden, 71 Maciej Janowski, 95 Bartosz Zmarzlik, 89 Emil Sayfutdinov, 55 Matej Zagar, 66 Fredrik Lindgren, 88 Niels-Kristian Iversen (substitute for 54 Martin Vaculik), 23 Chris Holder, 45 Greg Hancock, 110 Nicki Pedersen, 59 Przemyslaw Pawlicki, 222 Artem Laguta, 111 Craig Cook, 16 Vaclav Milik, 17 Josef Franc, 18 Eduard Krcmar.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Fredrik Lindgren 16, 2 Tai Woffinden 15, 3 Maciej Janowski 13, 4 Artem Laguta 13, 5 Patryk Dudek 10, 6 Chris Holder 10, 7 Bartosz Zmarzlik 9, 8 Matej Zagar 9, 9 Emil Sayfutdinov 8, 10 Greg Hancock 8, 11 Krzysztof Kasprzak 7, 12 Jason Doyle 5, 13 Niels-Kristian Iversen 4, 14 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 3, 15 Nicki Pedersen 2, 16 Craig Cook 2, 17 Maksym Drabik 2, 18 Bartosz Smektala 2.