VICTORY IN VOJENS FOR AJ
Swedish racer Andreas Jonsson was elated to end three years of frustration in the FIM Speedway Grand Prix series after winning tonight’s Nordic SGP at Vojens to reignite his 2015 qualification hopes.
AJ has endured a rotten run in the World Championship and has been without a victory since finishing second overall in 2011 and winning SGP rounds in Terenzano, Torun and Gorican.
So he was ecstatic to bring his dry spell to an end by topping the rostrum in Denmark alongside wild card Peter Kildemand, who was second, and third-placed Krzysztof Kasprzak.
Jonsson had not reached an SGP final this season and faced the prospect of dropping out of the World Championship for the first time since he debuted in 2002. But he is now just five points adrift of the top-eight place needed to book automatic qualification for the 2015 series.
AJ has come under fire during his tough run of form, so he was delighted to silence his doubters and remind the speedway world of his class just two weeks before he goes for glory on home shale in the Tegera® Scandinavian SGP at Stockholm’s stunning Friends Arena.
He said: “This means a lot because it makes me angry when I know I’ve got the ability to ride well. When I’m not going well, it just feels terrible. I still feel I haven’t showed the best of myself yet.
“It has been a disaster. It has been a really, really tough couple of years. It has been really hard for me and I’ve struggled with pretty much everything.
"I haven’t felt comfortable and I haven’t felt I have competitive bikes sometimes. I haven’t felt I can make starts. When it’s not going well, it just sticks in your head. You change too much and in the end you don’t know what you are doing.
“Small things make the difference between being at the top and the bottom. If you’re not there and you don’t know what to change to get to the top position, the confidence goes down after a while.
“I haven’t forgotten how to ride speedway or make starts. I proved that tonight. It’s difficult. A couple of injuries can change a lot or a few bad meetings – then the confidence can go down. Suddenly then it’s a different story and it’s a long way back.
“It feels like all the goals I had for this season have just run away from me. It’s too late to get going now, but I’m happy I am going well. I just want to finish this season as well as I can, try to make good plans for the next one and hopefully not make too many mistakes.”
Jonsson is certain he can still surge into the top eight and refuses to contemplate the prospect of another wild card entry.
He said: “I still have the chance. People think too much about wild cards and this kind of stuff. I’m trying to focus on the meetings that are left and I’m trying to do as well as I can. Hopefully I will be in the top eight. If not, I will just have to wait and see what happens. It’s really tough. It’s tough with the points and I think it will go down to the last meeting and the last heats at Torun in October.”
AJ admits a speedy new engine made a big difference to his scoring at the Vojens Speedway Center, where he also triumphed in 2009.
He said: “I had the engine to test for practice yesterday and it felt awesome. It took me a while to set it up and I wasn’t sure about the changes I made because the track was different for practice and the engine was new for me.
“But in the restart of the semi-final, I changed the bike and I think I hit the setup right. We re-tuned it a little bit for the final, got a good gate position and that was it. The engine helped me make that little last step. I had the confidence and just believed I could do it again.”
Jonsson is keen to give his home fans even more reason to smile in Stockholm, but pledged not to let the nation’s biggest speedway occasion get the better of him.
He said: “It definitely feels like I can do well there. I’m going there with a little bit more confidence. It is definitely a big night. But I don’t want to think about that too much or I might get nervous!
“I just need to keep it cool there, do my best and focus on my riding – not too much on the fans and sponsors around me. If I do that, I’ll get too excited and probably screw up.”
Silver medallist Kildemand was delighted to reach his second final in as many SGP appearances this year in front of a packed house at the legendary Vojens.
Another podium finish in the GP Challenge at Italian circuit Lonigo next Saturday would see him become a full-time World Championship rider for 2015.
He said: “I’ve had two GPs and I’ve got into the final both times. Tonight was a great racing track and the crowd were awesome. I’m really pleased with it.
“I’m really looking forward to doing the GPs. The Challenge is what I am focused on now. It’s going to be a tough one – only the top three go through. I need to have a good day.”
Kasprzak made huge strides towards the World Championship summit with his useful 12-point haul. He is now third overall – just a point behind Britain’s Tai Woffinden in second. More importantly, he is only eight adrift of series leader Greg Hancock, who sat out the Nordic SGP with a broken hand.
Despite being buoyed by his surge towards the top, the Pole refuses to let thoughts of becoming Poland’s third world champion knock him off his stride.
He said: “I’ll score some points in the last two rounds and we’ll see what happens. I’m not thinking – I’m just racing. I don’t want to think too much and then it will be alright.”
World champion Woffinden raced through the pain of a broken left hand to score a handy seven points, halving Hancock’s pre-event 14-point advantage at the top.
With just two rounds to race in Stockholm on September 27 and Torun on October 11, there is everything to race for in the SGP series.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Greg Hancock 112, 2 Tai Woffinden 105, 3 Krzysztof Kasprzak 104, 4 Nicki Pedersen 101, 5 Matej Zagar 97, 6 Niels-Kristian Iversen 87, 7 Chris Holder 80, 8 Troy Batchelor 79, 9 Fredrik Lindgren 78, 10 Darcy Ward 75, 11 Andreas Jonsson 74, 12 Kenneth Bjerre 70, 13 Martin Smolinski 70, 14 Jaroslaw Hampel 66, 15 Chris Harris 40, 16 Michael Jepsen Jensen 38, 17 Peter Kildemand 33, 18 Bartosz Zmarzlik 17, 19 Kasts Puodzuks 10, 20 Peter Ljung 7, 21 Mikkel Bech Jensen 7, 22 Adrian Miedzinski 5, 23 Joonas Kylmakorpi 5, 24 Kauko Nieminen 4, 25 Andzejs Lebedevs 3, 26 Jason Bunyan 2, 27 Vaclav Milik 2, 28 Craig Cook 2, 29 Adrian Cyfer 2, 30 Lukasz Kaczmarek 2, 31 Lasse Bjerre 1.
VOJENS SCORERS: 1 Andreas Jonsson 15, 2 Peter Kildemand 18, 3 Krzysztof Kasprzak 12, 4 Troy Batchelor 13, 5 Kenneth Bjerre 10, 6 Chris Holder 10, 7 Fredrik Lindgren 9, 8 Nicki Pedersen 8, 9 Michael Jepsen Jensen 7, 10 Tai Woffinden 7, 11 Mikkel Bech Jensen 7, 12 Matej Zagar 6, 13 Martin Smolinski 6, 14 Chris Harris 5, 15 Jaroslaw Hampel 3, 16 Lasse Bjerre 1, 17 Nicolaj Busk Jakobsen 0.