SWC SHAKE-UP FOR 2012
Sweden have been handed an automatic place in next year's FIM Speedway World Cup Final after rights holders BSI Speedway and the governing body, the FIM, announced an exciting shake-up ahead of the 2012 competition.
The Swedes will bid to win the Ove Fundin Trophy for the first time since 2004 when they stage the SWC decider at Malilla's G&B Arena on July 14, 2012.
But the battle to join Sweden in the meeting will be fiercer than ever as only the winner of next year's SWC Race-Off will earn a place in the last four, alongside the top sides from Events One and Two.
The SWC competition will be expanded from eight countries to nine and teams will track just four riders instead of five, strengthening each nation and allowing them to leave out their weaker links.
The change in team size will see each meeting staged over 20 heats.
The final stages of next season's SWC competition kick off at Bydgoszcz on July 7, where host nation Poland will launch their bid to win a fourth straight SWC crown against Denmark and Russia.
The winners of the second qualification round at Slovenian venue Ljubljana on May 5, which features Slovenia, Italy, Finland and the United States, will complete the field.
Team Great Britain get their campaign underway at King's Lynn on July 9 and take on Australia and the Czech Republic.
They will be joined by the winners of the first qualification meeting at German track Herxheim on April 22, where Germany meet France, Latvia and the Ukraine.
While the winners of Events One and Two join Sweden in the final, the second and third-placed teams from Bydgoszcz and King's Lynn collide in the Race-Off at Malilla on July 12.
In previous years, the top two nations from one of world speedway's most cutthroat meetings have progressed into the final.
But this year's Race-Off promises to be one of the most dramatic ever, as only the side finishing on top of the podium earns a shot at the Ove Fundin Trophy.
BSI Speedway managing director Paul Bellamy feels the changes to the SWC will make one of the most thrilling weeks in the world speedway calendar even more dramatic.
He said: "With each country picking just four riders, only the crème de la crème will make it into their national team and team managers will have quite a headache as they decide who to leave out.
"It will also give more nations a chance of fielding a strong team and making a push for the gold medals.
"I'm sure the Swedes will be delighted to see their team already assured of their place in the final. But the battle to join them should be incredible and with just one team qualifying from this year's Race-Off, that meeting will be extra special."
Roy Otto, director of the FIM CCP track racing commission, said: "I'm confident these changes will result in one of the most unpredictable SWC tournaments we have ever witnessed.
"The tournament has become one of the most hotly-anticipated events on the sport's global calendar and we are delighted to play our part in its continued development."
SWC FORMAT 2012:
SWC Qualifying Round 1Herxheim, Germany, April 22Germany v France v Ukraine v Latvia
SWC Qualifying Round 2Ljubljana, Slovenia, May 5Slovenia v Finland v Italy v USA
SWC Event 1Bydgoszcz, Poland, July 7Poland v Denmark v Russia v Winner QR 2
SWC Event 2King's Lynn, Great Britain, July 9Great Britain v Australia v Czech Republic v Winner QR 1
SWC Race-OffMalilla, Sweden, July 122nd and 3rd placed teams from Event 12nd and 3rd placed teams from Event 2
SWC FinalMalilla, Sweden, July 14Sweden v Winner Event 1 v Winner Event 2 v Winner Race-Off