In the first FIM Speedway World Cup final to be held at Belle Vue’s new National Speedway Stadium, it was Poland that claimed gold, ahead of the hosts Great Britain, with last year’s winners Sweden coming third and Australia finishing in fourth.
Poland, who were captained by Piotr Pawlicki, won their seventh FIM Speedway World Cup on 39 points, seven ahead of Alun Rossiter’s Great Britain who claimed silver for the first time in twelve years.
It was a strong and consistent Polish performance from start to finish, leaving Krzysztof Kasprzak to take his fifth World Cup, Patryk Dudek to claim his second after their 2013 triumph, while skipper Pawlicki and upcoming star Bartosz Zmarzlik to claim their first gold.
It was a superb team effort on the night, with all four riders scoring eight or more points in Manchester.
And to lift the Ove Fundin Trophy into the Manchester night sky was a special moment for the Leszno-born skipper.
He said: “This is a big day for me because this is the first time I’ve raced in the Polish senior team and I was captain today. I have to say thank you to the guys. All the riders, Patryk Dudek, Bartosz Zmarzlik and Krzysztof Kasprzak, scored good points and we won.
“This a big night for Poland. This is our seventh gold medal and I am very happy.
“I say thank you to the coach because for many years, he has coached the Polish team. After Vojens, he said to me ‘you are the captain.’ So thank you to him for that.”
Pawlicki, who scored ten points on the night, will hope to take his World Cup form into the Grand Prix which returns on August 13 in Sweden.
He added: “The start of the season was no good this year. But I have worked all the time on my bikes and my engines. I have practised in Leszno many times and now I have good points and better speed. I had a good meeting in Cardiff and my head has been better since Cardiff. This was a good result too.
“I have half a season left and for every meeting, I will have full concentration. I want to have good points. This is speedway; sometimes it’s no good and sometimes it’s better. But now it’s much, much better and I am very happy.”
Despite Poland winning, it was an historic night for Great Britain too. Skipper, and current World Champion Tai Woffinden inspired the Lions to their first rostrum finish since 2014, with Woffy scoring an incredible 19 points in Manchester.
Woffinden said: “It was a good meeting. I said before the start, ‘let’s focus on getting a bronze medal, and when we’re in that position, we can focus on the silver, and then we can focus on the gold. There was a point when we were only two points behind, and I said ‘right boys, let’s give it to them as hard as we can and see where we’re at.’ It wasn’t meant to be, but silver is still great.
“We’ve been struggling to even make the Finals over the past … I don’t know how many years. To be here and get second place is nothing short of amazing for the team. I’m really happy.”
Despite picking up his first World Cup medal, the World Champion left Manchester without it after giving it to a young girl in the crowd, before offering her the chance to join the Lions on the podium.
He said: “A medal is a piece of metal and can sit on the wall for years. I picked a young girl out of the crowd, brought her down on to the podium with me and put the medal around her neck.
“It has probably made her happy for a couple of weeks and she’ll remember that for the rest of her life. That means more to me than taking it home and chucking it under the stairs with all the other ones.”
Woffinden carried his side, whilst the other three riders chipped in with five points each in Manchester.
Rossiter added; “I knew the boys were good enough to get a medal and if we’re being honest, before the meeting started we’d have been happy with bronze, but to finish in second and get a silver medal is an unbelievable effort and achievement.”
Sweden, who won last year’s event, were disappointed with their third placed finish, despite a fairly consistent team performance.
Skipper Andreas Jonsson said; “We just lost it. I thought we fought all the way through the meeting from the beginning until the end. But somewhere in the middle of the meeting, we just lost the setup.
“I can’t speak for the others but I know they worked as hard as they could. Everybody fought as much as they could. Personally, I didn’t feel fast enough.
“I still think it’s good we got a medal from this year’s SWC. I’m happy about that, even if we were looking for another gold medal.”
As for Australia, managed by Mark Lemon, it was also a disappointing effort, but the boss paid tribute to his side’s effort.
“It has been a hard World Cup. We were always up against it. I feel for the guys. They have put a lot of effort in, but for no reward. We’re gutted. It’s never nice to come last.”
MONSTER ENERGY SWC FINAL SCORES
POLAND 39: 1 Piotr Pawlicki 10, 2 Bartosz Zmarzlik 11, 3 Patryk Dudek 10, 4 Krzysztof Kasprzak 8, 5 Krystian Pieszczek DNR.
GREAT BRITAIN 32: 1 Craig Cook 5, 2 Tai Woffinden 19, 3 Danny King 5, 4 Robert Lambert 3, 5 Adam Ellis DNR.
SWEDEN 30: 1 Andreas Jonsson 8, 2 Antonio Lindback 6, 3 Peter Ljung 6, 4 Fredrik Lindgren 10, 5 Joel Andersson DNR.
AUSTRALIA 22: 1 Jason Doyle 7, 2 Josh Grajczonek 0, 3 Chris Holder 10, 4 Sam Masters 5, 5 Brady Kurtz DNR.