Australian hotshot Chris Holder dedicated his FIM Fogo European Speedway Grand Prix win to Leszno legend Leigh Adams after winning a dramatic final at the Alfred Smoczyk Stadium on Saturday night.
While Polish pair Tomasz Gollob and Jaroslaw Hampel were locked in a titanic battle for the lead, Holder took full advantage to creep up the inside and hit the front.
He held on under immense pressure from Gollob on the last corner to top the rostrum ahead of the 2010 world champion and Leszno favourite Hampel. World No.2 Andreas Jonsson picked up fourth place.
The Sydneysider’s clever burst up the inside brought back memories of his compatriot Adams, who raced at the Alfred Smoczyk Stadium for 15 years in the Polish Ekstraliga.
Adams, who celebrated his 41st birthday on Saturday night, built his reputation on amazing track craft around the kerb. So Holder was quick to pay tribute to the 10-time Aussie champion, who is still recovering from the serious spinal damage he sustained while practicing for the Finke Desert Rally near Alice Springs last June.
Holder said: “I pulled a Leigh Adams pass on them and I’m stoked. I’ve got to say happy birthday to Leigh. That one is for him.”
Reflecting on one of the most epic SGP finals in recent years, Holder said: “It was mayhem. The four of us were just in and out of each other the whole time.
“It’s difficult when it’s like that. You’re trying to chase the guy in front, but you’ve got a guy beside you going everywhere as well. It’s hard to decide whether you keep charging or consolidate your position.
“I pretty much did. I dropped it on AJ and thought, ‘sweet, I’ve got the third.’ When I did, I made an awesome corner on the second lap. I caught up to Jarek when Tomasz moved him really wide. That opened it up.
“When I chased Tomasz in the heat race, even then I had a lot of speed on him. It was just a matter of getting it perfect because Tomasz doesn’t make mistakes. You’ve got to out-ride him a little bit.”
Holder went into his final heat race tied on seven points with five other riders in the battle for a semi-final berth. But the Poole-based man held his nerve and powered to victory ahead of Hans Andersen and Jonsson to qualify on 10 points.
He was last in his opening outing, so he was delighted to find the consistency needed to bounce back.
He added: “Going into my last race, there was a lot of pressure to make the semi because it was so difficult. This track is so good to race on, which means you can win a race and then be last in the next one. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be on the pace in every one. You’ve just got to try and be in the top two to get your points. That isn’t easy, but my meeting turned out well.
“When the pressure was on, I performed. I needed to make my two gate ones I had count and I did. I can’t ask for any more.
“My bike was so quick. Johnsy (tuner Peter Johns) has done an awesome job on that bike and the engine, so I’ve got to give him credit. We can all ride well – you need a good bike too.”
Holder has now won one Grand Prix every year since he made his World Championship debut in 2010.
His triumph was the perfect tonic after he managed just four points in the FIM Buckley Systems New Zealand SGP in Auckland on March 31.
That meeting, which took place hours after Holder’s partner Sealy gave birth to their son Max, was the rider’s worst SGP performance ever. But he is confident he can build on his Leszno success and find some consistency.
Asked whether he believes he can add more gold medals to his collection this year, Holder said: “Of course I can. New Zealand was no good and I’m not worried about that one now. Maybe Max being born that morning did something to me subconsciously. But this one was awesome and I can’t ask for much more. I was more serious in practice and it worked out.”
Gollob started his night with just one point from two races, but hit back with three heat wins before following Hampel home in the semi-finals and getting the better of the Lodz-born man in the medal race.
He said: “I was not happy with the engine after the first couple of heats and changed the setup. Then I had a very fast engine. Congratulations to Chris and commiserations to Jarek – this is a hard sport.”
Hampel also showed some serious speed towards the end of the meeting, but admits he needed to show more steel in the final.
He said: “In the end it was fine. My bike was fast in the last few races and I felt great on the track. I was really comfortable on the bike. At the beginning, I had some problems and couldn’t go so quick.
“I really wanted to win. I needed to be harder on the track and I know that now.”
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Jaroslaw Hampel 33, 2 Greg Hancock 31, 3 Tomasz Gollob 31, 4 Jason Crump 24, 5 Chris Holder 23, 6 Nicki Pedersen 23, 7 Andreas Jonsson 17, 8 Antonio Lindback 17, 9 Fredrik Lindgren 16, 10 Emil Sayfutdinov 15, 11 Kenneth Bjerre 12, 12 Hans Andersen 11, 13 Peter Ljung 10, 14 Bjarne Pedersen 9, 15 Chris Harris 8, 16 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 7, 17 Jason Bunyan 1.
FIM FOGO EUROPEAN SGP SCORES: 1 Chris Holder 19, 2 Tomasz Gollob 16, 3 Jaroslaw Hampel 15, 4 Andreas Jonsson 13, 5 Jason Crump 12, 6 Nicki Pedersen 10, 7 Greg Hancock 9, 8 Kenneth Bjerre 8, 9 Fredrik Lindgren 8, 10 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 7, 11 Emil Sayfutdinov 7, 12 Peter Ljung 6, 13 Hans Andersen 5, 14 Antonio Lindback 4, 15 Chris Harris 3, 16 Bjarne Pedersen 2.