Courtesy of FIM Speedway Grand Prix
ROSCO HAILS SELFLESS LIONS
Great Britain team manager Alun Rossiter hailed the “camaraderie” in his Lions team as he shuffled his pack to reach the Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations Finals.
Rosco’s side won Race Off 2 in Manchester on Saturday night with 26 points, triumphing ahead of Australia and Denmark, who also secured their places at the Finals in Togliatti, Russia on July 20 and 21.
It was an impressive night for GB as triple world champion Tai Woffinden (12), Craig Cook (8) and Robert Lambert (6) all piled up the points.
Rossiter admits he made a brave move when he dropped the nation’s most successful speedway rider Woffinden from heat 10, with Lambert and Cook joining forces for a 5-1 over the USA.
But the Lions boss says Woffy took the decision well and praised his side for putting the team first as GB booked their tickets to Togliatti.
He said: “It was a positive night tonight – probably the most accomplished night for me as Great Britain manager of a team gelling together and getting on. Nothing was a problem; it wasn’t about individuals. It was just about the whole team.
“I’m sure everyone will be talking more about the race when I dropped the world champion. I was sat in the pits and all the eyes were staring at me, thinking ‘are you for real?’ Everybody just looked at me.
“I went over to Tai and he asked me ‘what gate?’ I told him ‘I’m going to give Robert a go.’ He said ‘oh, me and Robert?’ I said ‘No, Robert and Craig.’ He just said ‘you’re the manager – it’s your decision.’
“He said ‘it’s not about me; it’s about the team. If that’s how you feel, go with your feeling. You have to do what you have to do.’
“I am really pleased with the team effort by everybody. The camaraderie was second to none. Tai’s attitude at being dropped was great. It was a big decision, but sometimes you have to make them.”
Rossiter is keen to build on a big result at the National Speedway Stadium when his side heads to Russia.
GB claimed the silver medal at the 2018 Finals in Wroclaw, missing out on gold to Russia despite topping the scorechart over two days.
Rosco would love to get the better of the world champions on home shale and is delighted to be leading a side bursting with potential.
He said: “It would be nice to repay the compliment in their own back yard. I don’t think anyone expected us to beat the Poles in Wroclaw last year and it would be nice to go to Russia and beat them.
“I think we genuinely are contenders, but there are a lot of good nations. The track will be totally different. It’s not a standard European track – it has long straights and it’s tight.
“We’re confident. We’re not over-confident. But for the first time in a long time, we go there with the belief we can be genuine contenders.
“I think we were worthy winners in Manchester, but it wasn’t about winning. It was nice to win and put a marker down. But it was all about qualifying. We have done the job and done it in style.”
Australia booked the second automatic qualification berth in the Finals after finishing level on 22 points with Denmark, but out-ranking their rivals after Chris Holder and Max Fricke finished second and third behind Danish rider Leon Madsen when the teams met in heat 18.
Holder scored two points from his opening two rides, but hit back with a win and two seconds.
He said: “It wasn’t too bad. It was a tough night and it’s a tough place here – everybody can be fast here. It’s a big, wide-open track. The bike setup is pretty much everything.
“My first couple were terrible, but once we got it working well, it got better. Me and Max had a couple of good races.
“The name of the game was just to get through in the top two. We didn’t want to be in the knock-out heats. We managed to sneak in, so we’re happy with that.”
Denmark were forced to beat France in the final knock-out heat to earn their spot in Russia on a night plagued by bad luck.
Confusion at the start saw Leon Madsen stranded at the line in heat two, before Madsen was forced to shut off dramatically in heat 14 after Iversen drifted wide, not realising his partner was alongside him.
Iversen starred on 15 points, while Madsen recovered from a nightmare start to his evening to record a win and a second place, ending on five.
“We did it the hard way,” Iversen said. “It was difficult. We did have some bad luck and it cost us some points.
“I believe we could have won the meeting if things had gone our way in a few races. But we qualified and that’s the main thing.
“We really wanted to avoid the knock-out race at the end because you never know what’s going to happen in these races. We felt confident we were going to do it, but it is a little bit nerve-wracking. We had to do it the hard way, but we are through.”
Great Britain, Australia and Denmark are joined in the Finals by hosts Russia, Race Off 1 winners Sweden, Poland and Germany.
The next World Championships action sees the FIM Speedway Grand Prix series launch with the Boll Warsaw SGP of Poland this Saturday.
RACE OFF 2 RESULTS:
GREAT BRITAIN 26: Tai Woffinden 12, Craig Cook 8, Robert Lambert 6.
AUSTRALIA 22: Chris Holder 9, Max Fricke 12, Jaimon Lidsey 1.
DENMARK 22: Niels-Kristian Iversen 15, Leon Madsen 5, Frederik Jakobsen 2.
FRANCE 16: David Bellego 10, Dimitri Berge 6, Gaetan Stella 0.
USA 16: Austin Novratil 1, Luke Becker 11, Broc Nicol 4.
LATVIA 16: Andzejs Lebedevs 14, Jevgenijs Kostigovs 2, Olegs Mihailovs 0.
FINLAND 8: Jesse Mustonen 0, Tero Aarnio 8, Timo Salonen 0.