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The Championship Race
By Gareth Hinton

Main Contenders

With the recent unfortunate injuries to Tai Woffinden and Greg Hancock, the World Championship race has been blown wide open.

With the likes of Krzysztof Kasprzak, Nicki Pedersen and Matej Zagar all gaining significant ground, it promises to be an exciting last two rounds of the GP series.

The current World Champion, Tai Woffinden, badly injured his hand riding for Wolverhampton in the British Elite League and subsequently missed round nine in Gorzow, Poland. That gave the American, Greg Hancock, the chance to build a good lead at the top of the standings.

Hancock, who then unfortunately had an horrific crash of his own, had to retire from the Grand Prix in Gorzow. Hancock had a stunning nine points out of nine and looked unstoppable, before getting his hand caught in the back of Niels Kristian Iversen's bike, that left both riders injured and out of the Grand Prix.

Hancock tried vigorously to compete in Denmark, but the American couldn't get fit in time to take his place. That ended an extraordinary run of competing in every Grand Prix since it's modern existence. The American, Hancock, had competed in all 177 Grand Prix events since 1995.

It was almost a role reversal for Hancock and Woffinden, as this time it was the Brit who was trying to gain points on his injured counterpart. Woffinden, who was still not 100%, produced a battling display and ended his night with seven points and closed the gap at the top from 14 points to seven.

The real gainers were the three riders directly behind the top two. Kasprzak who has had a new lease of life this season, closed the gap on Woffinden to just one point. The Polish star has now finished in a medal position three times in a row and is now a real title contender.

The same can be said for the Dane, Nicki Pedersen, who sits just three points behind Kasprzak. Pedersen will feel a little hard done by, after he felt he was controversially excluded from the semi-final and missed the chance of gaining more ground on the top-three. The Slovenian, Matej Zagar, is another who will be pushing all the way.

Although Zagar will be disappointed to have lost some ground on the riders above him, by only gaining six points in the Vojens Speedway Center.

It's not just the No. 1 spot that is being eagerly contested either. The battle for a top-eight position is heating up also, after Chris Holder, Troy Batchelor, Fredrik Lindgren, Darcy Ward and the Nordic Grand Prix winner - Andreas Johnson, are all separated by just six points.

The real losers are Darcy Ward, who is suspended indefinitely for failing an alcohol test on the morning of the Latvian Grand Prix and Niels Kristian Iversen who came out worse in his crash with Hancock in Poland and will miss the rest of the season.

That leaves anyone from Holder on 80 points to last years runner-up, Jaroslaw Hampel, who is on 66, a real chance of reaching the top eight.

Hopefully by the time the Scandinavian Grand Prix starts on Saturday, both Greg Hancock and Tai Woffinden will be fighting fit. It could go right down to the wire, with either of them not giving too much away.

The emergence of Krzysztof Kasprzak, Nicki Pedersen and Matej Zagar, makes it an enthralling five horse race. A few rounds ago it looked as if it was going to be either Hancock or Woffinden who would win the gold, but due to the unfortunate circumstances of injury, the race has now been blown wide open.

The Scandinavian Grand Prix, which takes place in Stockholm this weekend, will be one you won't want to miss and it could give us a real idea of the 2014 World Champion, in time for the last round in Torun, Poland.

 

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This article was first published on 23rd September 2014

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