Speedway: Greg Hancock, still grinning, still winning‏

There’s any number of statistics you could use when talking about the career of speedway legend Greg Hancock, but none of them quite do him justice.You could mention the fact that he’s ridden in 195 out of 196 Speedway GP events, or that he’s not fallen out of the world top six since 2001, or perhaps even that he’s a triple world champion, but this isn’t a career that can be summarised through numbers alone.Greg Hancock is 46 years old and this weekend, he will take to the track in Cardiff’s Principality Stadium as the current leader of the Speedway GP series, with a lead of eight points. He is not just competing with guys half his age, he’s beating them. He is, quite simply, a sporting phenomenon.“I always get shocked when I hear the stats because I honestly never think about them! Some guys have targets of how many world titles they want to win or certain goals but that isn’t me, I don’t look at any of that. I just want to win every single time I get on the track. That’s all.”And that’s Greg Hancock in a nutshell, he just likes winning. But how does a man nearer 50 than 40 stay fit enough to throw a 500cc bike around an oval track at speeds of 60mph?“You know what, I feel as good as ever. Some guys hit the gym every morning, some go running or cycling but for me the most important thing is staying flexible. You don't need to be a muscle man to ride a speedway bike, you need to be elastic, you need to get the bike to where you want to take it.“I go running and I cycle but it’s about staying healthy and fresh. You need to eat well and sleep well, that’s crucial – eat the right food, get the right energy and sleep good. There’s no big secret to it, you’ve just got to live a good lifestyle.”Greg is the current leader of one of the youngest GP fields in memory with an influx of fresh faces definitely making him the group’s elder statesman. While they glance over at his pit bay with curiosity, he does the same to them. You’re never too old to stop learning.“These young guys really take care of themselves and they work so hard. They’re quick learners and pay close attention to what we’re doing, they look at us and pick up a lot of things but I do the same with them. I’m the old school and they’re the new school and you have to marry the two together, I can’t ride like they do but I can pick things up from them.“I can’t do what they can do, but I do what works for me. Sometimes I disagree with the way they do things and they disagree with the way I do things but that’s how it is, I’m from a different era. I’m probably the last of the old school really, there aren’t many of us still racing, so I’ve got to fit in with the younger guys and do my thing. I can’t just be seen as the old guy, I’ve got to have a young head too. I have my own style but you have to move with the times as well.”Ask anybody within speedway and they will tell you the same thing; Greg Hancock is the nicest man in the sport. If you see Greg and he isn’t smiling, it’ll only be a matter of seconds before he is – but don’t think that’s a weakness because there are few competitors as driven, or ruthless, than the Californian.He says: “I’m a nice guy by nature, that’s just the way I was brought up and I can’t really be a mean guy. I always try to see the good in everything, that can be a downfall sometimes because you realize that not everyone is a good person, sometimes things are bad, but that’s just how I am.“I’m all smiles on the inside but when my helmet goes on I just want to win. Sometimes I get angry or frustrated on the track but I take that as a challenge and a motivation to try and overcome it. Sometimes you disagree with something someone does on the track but then I just become more determined to win, but to win the right way.”Greg is a smart man. He has various business interests outside of his racing and watches, listens and learns from anybody he feels can teach him something, something that speedway would be crazy not to utilize when he eventually hangs up his kevlars.“I would love to stay involved with the sport, I know it well, probably too well, but I have stepped back a few times and tried to learn from other sports and people. What Monster Energy has done for speedway has been huge, having a big name behind our sport has made people really sit up and take notice and I’ve learned a lot from being around it.“The last five or six years I’ve spent a lot of time with Joe Parsons (Monster Energy Director of Special Projects across EMEA) and he’s taught me a ton about marketing and different ways of building a brand, so I’d love to take that into something when I finish. I’ve always tried to be different and to think outside the box, like when I started the team back in the 90’s with Billy Hamill, and I do it because I want to expand the sport. “I try to watch and learn from other sports and see how they do things, take a piece of this and a piece of that. What can we do? What can I do? For example, I currently sell each individual suit to different sponsors for each GP and that was just an idea I had in the shower one day, just trying to think outside the box. The speedway bubble is great but it could be bigger and that’s what I want to do, make it bigger.”So what motivates a man who has done it all? He’s won every individual and team honour there is to win, he’s made a nice living and at 46, is happy and healthy.“My love of the sport and my will to win is what inspires and drives me everyday. I ask myself, do I want to wake up and go racing or wake up and go to the office? It’s grueling, it’s a lot more hours than people realize, but I love it. I just want to win, that’s what drives me. I put my heart and soul into this and all my efforts go into achieving my dreams. That’s all I need to motivate me.”Greg heads into the fifth round of this year’s championship with a lead of eight points and looks in prime position to launch an all-out assault on the title, so what would it mean for him to win it for a fourth time?“As soon as you win one you want to win it again straight away, and when I won the first one I was thinking about winning again. Then when I won the second one I wanted the next one, and if I win a fourth one then I’ll want to win a fifth one and so on. Numbers don’t bother me, winning is all I care about.“People talk about guys like Ivan Mauger and Tony Rickardsson, who have both won six world titles, and I don’t ever think about joining them. I look up to them, but I never look at myself like that. It’s not about winning four, five, six, it’s just about winning for me. I don't know how far this tour is going to go but while I’m still on it I want to win, as long as I feel I can do that I’ll still be here giving it my all.”When the unthinkable eventually happens, which it will, Hancock will go down as one of the sport’s all-time greats but how does he want to be remembered when the kevlars do get hung up?“Do you know what, I am what I am. I’m a happy go lucky guy and my motto has always been ‘Grin to win’ – I have done it all with a smile. I don’t like to fail, and if I do fail I don't want it to be my fault. I don’t want to look for excuses, I want to do everything right and if it goes wrong either I screwed up and I fix it or it wasn’t for me. “Luckily, speedway is for me. I’m still creating memories and I’m not done yet.”