Polish racer Krzysztof Kasprzak admits engine tuner Peter Johns has “changed my career” after powering to his second SGP success of 2014 in the Rietumu Bank Latvian FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Daugavpils.
Special KK completed an extraordinary week, which saw him become Polish champ for the first time at Zielona Gora on Thursday, by rocketing around Greg Hancock on the first lap of the final. This was after battling through the pain of a leg injury suffered in a horrifying opening-heat crash.
The 30-year-old topped the rostrum ahead of Nicki Pedersen, who passed the American for second spot, while Hancock moved into a five-point lead over Tai Woffinden at the World Championship summit with third place and a superb 16 points.
Kasprzak started the season with third place in Auckland and the first SGP win of his career at Bydgoszcz in April.
He tore the cruciate ligament in his left knee in May and this dashed his title hopes. But he cannot fault his engines and admits they have transformed him into a top contender in the SGP series.
Kasprzak, who is now fifth in the World Championship on 76 points, said: “I won my second Grand Prix of the year. I’m very happy and thank you to Peter Johns. I must say this man has changed my career.
“We talk a lot. I have contact with him every day. I have to say ‘thank you, Peter. You are the best in the world at the moment.’ He just gives me fast engines.
“When I feel fast, I can win races like that. Nobody passes Hancock like I did on bend four. When I touched the grip, this bike was very fast.”
Asked about his ambitions for the rest of 2014, KK was coy about his medal chances, despite standing only 10 points behind triple world champion Nicki Pedersen in third place. He said: “I just want to get a good position and have no more crashes. Can I make the podium? We will see.”
KK had what he hopes will be his last spill of the season in heat three, after being given a hard knock by Chris Holder in bend one. The Gorzow and Vastervik rider straightened up, tangled with Britain’s Chris Harris and the pair were buried in the air fence at high speed.
While Harris walked away unscathed, KK spent the rest of the meeting nursing damage to his right leg. He was relieved to walk away without more serious injuries and bounce back in the best way possible.
Kasprzak, who requires cruciate ligament surgery on his left knee at the end of the season, said: “When Holder crashed me, I didn’t break anything. It was a big crash and I’m very happy I’m fit. My right leg is a problem and my thumb. I think it will hurt big time tomorrow. But we will see what happens.
“Holder hit me in the middle of the track. I straightened up, hit Harris and I went straight into the fence. Thank God I stood up.
“I started the meeting with just my left leg hurting. Now it’s both legs and my finger. I’ll try and be ready for next Sunday in Poland.”
Daugavpils runner-up Nicki Pedersen is determined to cement his place in the World Championship’s top three after edging into third spot by top-scoring on 18 at the Lokomotiv Stadium.
Pedersen, who has reached the final on all five of his SGP appearances in Daugavpils, said: “It’s very important for me to finish in the top three. I haven’t had the best of years, but I’m still fighting for it and we’ll have to see what we can get out of the season.
“Daugavpils is not a track I like, but it obviously suits me. I wasn’t just making gates; I was making moves and passing the boys. I scored the points and I’m very happy with that.
“I was last a couple of times through the heats and even in the final I was in last. I pulled it back today – I won a second place; I didn’t lose first. I’m happy with my score.”
Hancock went into the event three points behind pre-meeting World Championship leader Woffinden and left five in front of the 24-year-old. But he was gutted not to land his fourth Daugavpils gold medal and admits riding defensively in the final cost him dearly.
He said: “I pretty much gave that one away. I think I rode a little bit more defensively than I should have done, rather than just going out to win. The track was changing quite a lot and I was trying to be clever and ride a different line. If I’d just gone for glory, it would have been another story.
“But Krzysztof rode a great line and produced a good corner. I still got some points and I’m feeling good about it.”
Hancock refuses to get too excited about his slender advantage at the top of the standings in what’s shaping up to be an epic title race with world champion Woffinden, who was knocked out of the meeting at the semi-final stages with eight points.
The Californian said: “Anytime you can get a lead at the top of the World Championship, it’s good.
“Everybody keeps talking about whether it will go this way or that way. All that matters is me being one point in front at the end.”
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Greg Hancock 103, 2 Tai Woffinden 98, 3 Nicki Pedersen 86, 4 Niels-Kristian Iversen 81, 5 Krzysztof Kasprzak 76, 6 Matej Zagar 75, 7 Darcy Ward 75, 8 Jaroslaw Hampel 63, 9 Fredrik Lindgren 63, 10 Chris Holder 61, 11 Martin Smolinski 59, 12 Troy Batchelor 57, 13 Andreas Jonsson 55, 14 Kenneth Bjerre 50, 15 Chris Harris 29, 16 Michael Jepsen Jensen 17, 17 Peter Kildemand 15, 18 Kasts Puodzuks 10, 19 Peter Ljung 7, 20 Adrian Miedzinski 5, 21 Joonas Kylmakorpi 5, 22 Kauko Nieminen 4, 23 Andzejs Lebedevs 3, 24 Jason Bunyan 2, 25 Vaclav Milik 2, 26 Craig Cook 2.
DAUGAVPILS SCORES: 1 Krzysztof Kasprzak 17, 2 Nicki Pedersen 18, 3 Greg Hancock 16, 4 Kenneth Bjerre 11, 5 Kasts Puodzuks 10, 6 Matej Zagar 9, 7 Tai Woffinden 8, 8 Troy Batchelor 8, 9 Niels-Kristian Iversen 7, 10 Fredrik Lindgren 6, 11 Chris Holder 6, 12 Andreas Jonsson 6, 13 Martin Smolinski 6, 14 Jaroslaw Hampel 4, 15 Chris Harris 3, 16 Andzejs Lebedevs 3, 17 Darcy Ward DQ, 18 Vjaceslavs Giruckis DNR.