Grand Prix Countries 2006
by Chris Seaward
The large, fast and wide Slovenian circuit can serve up some fantastic speedway racing. The permanent inclusion in the series of talented youngster Matej Zagar will undoubtedly swell the crowd at the Krsko stadium. Juggling the order of the series and switching Slovenia to the opening round is a shrewd marketing tactic and there is sure to be added media interest in the country. It will be considered a surprise if Zagar doesn't make the final, whilst former GP regular Matej Ferjan will be looking to make an impression after been handed the wild card slot. The Slovenian fans will have two riders to cheer and will hope Zagar can deliver a positive result.
Wroclaw - Poland|
(Picture by Andrew Davidson)
Gollob, Hampel and Protasiewicz will ensure Wroclaw and Bydgoscz attract very healthy and enthusiastic crowds. There are always rumours the sport is declining in Poland however attendances for league meetings and Grand Prix are still very impressive. A Polish world champion would be a phenomenal boost for the sport and the talented Jarek Hampel looks the obvious candidate. If prepared grippy the big Polish tracks serve up some fantastic action, however the tendency to keep the GP tracks slick often limits the amount of top quality racing.
Cardiff desperately needs a British winner to generate a wave of new enthusiasm. Every year the attendance gradually increases but BSI must be frustrated that the numbers aren't rising in larger quantities. Sadly the rise in ticket prices isn't going to create an influx of new spectators, combine this with the colossal Cardiff hotel prices and the enthusiasm level of five years ago begins to wither. A British winner would not just assist Cardiff's progression but temporarily provide the media with a real speedway success story. The new 'hip' television advertising campaign is a bold step in attempting to gather interest from the younger generation and it will be interesting to see if BSI continue to pursue this particular marketing tactic.
Last year's GP at Malilla was in my opinion speedway perfection, a smashing track that provided endless examples of priceless, exciting speedway racing. This combined with a sold out stadium and a group of well trained track staff who laughed in the face of adversity. That night our sport boldly raised its middle finger at the horrendous weather and displayed a fantastic tenacity to succeed. The most refreshing aspect of Malilla is the enhanced facilities the club will enjoy because of their partnership with SGP. This means the Luxo Stars and their fans will be able to reap the benefits of Benfield Sports' professionalism, now that's the way forward. Extra capacity, better lighting and many other improvements that will help raise the prestige of the club itself and also the Swedish elite league. Both Malila and Ekilstuna will enjoy healthy crowds and serve up good quality racing.
Daugavpils - Latvia|
(Picture by Andrejs Trabo)
The stadium in Latvia is a fantastic looking venue with a capacity of 10,000. It always fantastic to welcome a new Country to SGP and hopefully the weather will be kind to this inaugural event and allow speedway in Latvia to prosper.
The Parken stadium, like Cardiff, is a fantastic venue that creates a fantastic atmosphere. The crowd is usually healthy at around 25,000 but would benefit from a Danish victor. Nevertheless the round is usually exciting with good quality racing and is certainly a great advert for speedway. Will be interesting to see if Hans Andersen is handed the wild card placement after his controversial exclusion from this year's series.
Marketa - Czech Republic|
(Picture by Trev Picken)
The weather always determines the size of the crowd at Prague. There is always a strong contingent of passionate Polish supporters who make the trip to this beautiful city. One of the Dryml brothers will probably receive the wild card slot and the attendance will be around the 12,000 mark. A great race track that has in the past hosted some monumental contests.
The crowd for Lonigo in 2005 was around 6,500, not bad at all considering there isn't a prominent Italian speedway rider at the moment. The attendance may have been slightly hampered by party pooper Tony Rickardsson who had clinched the world championship at Bydgoscz two weeks previous to Lonigo.
The attendance will probably be similar in 2006, dependant on the form of Matej Zagar and how many Slovenians make the short trip across the border.
This article was first published on 20th April 2006
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