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eWINNER1 - Ljung and Berntzon best in Round 1

The second division of Polish speedway finally got underway this weekend. All except one of the four matches had Swedes involved, meaning that a raft of Nordic riders were in action for the first time this season in competitive team racing.

Oliver Bernzton (pictured) was the top scorer for his team, CAR GWARANT START GNIEZNO, gaining 12 pts from 6 heats. But it was not enough for the visitors as they lost 55-35 at EWINNER APATOR TORUN.

Meanwhile, Peter Ljung put a disappointing run in the TAURON SEC behind him to also score 12pts from six for travelling UNIA TARNOW. They snatched a two point victory at ZDUNEK WYBRZEŻE GDAŃSK. And it was Ljung who scored those winning points with a second place in the final Heat 15 making him the team’s top scorer in the close fought match.

In other matches, LOKOMOTIV DAUGAVPILS may have lost, but everyone was glad to see Linus Sundström back on the bike again. He was involved in a horrific crash at the end of last season that left him wheelchair bound, though fortunately this was only a temporary stage of his recovery.

Whilst Ljung and Berntzon were the only Swedes to score in double figures in the eWinner 1 league, but no one will be losing sleep over that in these early days. Final individual scores were:

Linus Sundström, Daugavpils, 6 pts

Kim Nilsson, Tarnow, 6 pts

Jacob Thorssell, Gdansk, 4 pts

Pontus Aspgren, Daugavpils, 4 pts

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TAURON SEC: Madsen takes Round 2 & overall lead

Leon Madsen took the checkered flag first again as the TAURON SEC circus takes its whistle stop tour around Poland this July as the second round took place in Bydgoszcz tonight.

The 2018 European Champion again needed the Last Chance/ Semi Final heat to get through the last round. But once there he made no mistake to beat Russians Emil Sayfutdinov (4th) and Grigorij Laguta (3rd) as well as countryman, Mikkel Michelsen (2nd) to bag his second TAURON SEC win in five days. He also took the overall lead from Robert Lambert and Nicki Pedersen by just two points as both the Brit and veteran Danish rider failed to qualify for the final.

Round 3 will take place next Wednesday evening in Gniezno.

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TAURON SEC: Madsen wins Round 1 in Torun

The 2018 European Champion, Denmark's Leon Madsen, above, won the first Round of this year's TAURON SEC in Torun tonight.

The Dane did not qualify automatically for the final but had to go through the so called Last Chance Heat, a form of semi final where no points are scored, to decide who would meet three time world champion, Nicki Pedersen and British rider, Robert Lambert in today's final.

Madsen came second behind Bartosz Smektala in the Last Chance heat meaning that there were two Danes, a Brit and one person from the host nation where in the final.

The inside lane had been the clear favourite during the evening. But even though it was veteran Pedersen who had it, he was unable to secure victory. Taking the lead from the gate, he accelerated too hard as he came out of turn 2 and struggled to maintain control of the bike as he first wheeled and then slid out towards the fence. Lambert, who had started well in Gate 2 seemed to have been gifted a chance for the win, but somehow from Gate 4 Madsen came screaming around the outside, avoided the drifting Pedersen, to cut Lambert off and take the lead which he refused to let go off.

Madsen had previously won at Torun in the last SGP race of 2019, and showed why he is currently the highest scoring rider in the Ekstraliga with a great final performance.

Robert Lambert and Nicki Pedersen both lead the competition with 14 points after the first round, with the Brit being given the leader's Golden Bib by virtue of beating the 43 year old when they went head-to-head in tonight's race.

Round 2 will be in Bydgoszcz on Wednesday when no less than Emil Sayfutdinov will be the wildcard.

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INTERVIEW: Mateusz Swidnicki - Racing for the Lions is a dream come true

18-year-old Polish rider, Matteusz Swindicki is racing his first ever season in the Ekstraliga. And with the whole speedway world focusing in on the only league to be racing at the moment, the young Pole is even more in the limelight as he slots in at #6 or #7 on the ELTROX WLOKNIARZ Czestochowa team alongside fellow junior, Jakub Miskowiak.

After the first three rounds the team are in first place and Swindicki himself has clocked up an average of 1.556. That puts him above experienced riders, such as Swedish SGP rider, Antonio Lindbäck and well as older compatriots such as Krzysztof Kasprzak and Krzysztof Buczkowski.

Last year was his first in Nice 2 where he was racing with Wilki Krosno. “It was a really hard season, you had to fight hard for points and everyone has good motorcycles”, he says reflecting on 2019.

And whilst he finished the season with an average of 1.532, his highlight was actually the silver with Czestochowa in the Polish Junior Team Championship in September.

Understandably, this year is something extra special as he takes on first team duties with Wlokniarz, “riding with a lion on the plastron is a dream come true for me”, he says excitedly, “being in a team with Fredrik Lindgren or Jason Doyle is a unique experience,” he adds.

It seems that the 18-year-old is thriving in the big time. His team have scored at least 53 points in every game and Swidnicki is not just a bystander, he is a contributor. In the first match of the season he scored 6 points. He won Heat 8 and together with the Australian former World Champion, Jason Doyle. They took a 5-1 against no less than the talented duo of Kenneth Bjerre and Przemyslaw Pawlicki from MRGARDEN GKM Grudziadz.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, he is taking it one match at a time, focusing on getting as many points as he can. But he hints in the future that Sweden might be on the cards, “racing in the Swedish league is also my dream,” he says, “the tracks in Sweden aren’t easy, but thanks to that I can learn a lot,” he philosophises.

ELTROX WLOKNIARZ Czestochowa are making a serious bid to oust perennial favourite, FOGO UNIA Leszno from the top spot in Polish speedway. Whilst the club’s superstars, like Leon Madsen, might make the headlines, do not forget the important role of riders, like Swidnicki as he debuts at the top level of the sport.

Mattuesz is sponsored by Team Zuzelend and Five One Racing wants to thank them for making this interview possible. Read more at about Polish speedway at www.zuzelend.com

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Women riders and the SEC

In the 1980s, Katie Mason (now Kate McAuley) was the first women to ever sign a professional contract in British speedway when she raced for Hackney Hawks in London. Later she was a coach and whilst she’s never put the bike away, now she is more of a fan who watches from the stadium rather than racer on the track.

“I really love Torun, it’s a fantastic stadium and probably one of the best race tracks in the world”, she says with enthusiasm.

She’s been watching the SEC since One Sport took over the event in 2013 and her favourite series was in 2014 when then 25-year-old Russian Emil Sayfutdinov won in a close fought competition over Danes Nicki Pedersen and Peter Kildemand.

The Russian took home the victory by just six points. That winning margin, just two heat wins, was accumulated by faultless racing in the qualifying stages in Round 2 in Togliatti and in the final Round 4 at Czestochowa, where he did not lose a single heat - until the finals.

Winner that night in Poland was fellow Russian, Grigorji Laguta, who will also feature in this year’s line-up alongside 2016 SEC champion, Nicki Pedersen.

But as well speaking to the first British women’s rider to break into the sport, we also catch up with German, Sindy Weber. She made history as the first ever woman to ride in Poland’s Nice 2 league when she represented Polania Pila against Wanda Kraków in August last year, just two days after her 19th birthday. She was paired with Swede, Tomas Jonasson (pictured) in her first heat.

Weber is from a speedway family, “I grew up in a speedway stadium!” she laughs.

“I usually find the TAURON SEC much more interesting than the SGP races. There's a lot more action there and it's exciting to the end. And, I must say, One Sport is a very good organizer”, she says giving a rider’s understanding of what is needed to make these events work.

We ask her if she would like to appear at the SEC, “Of course! But I think it would be very difficult to ride in the SEC as a woman. I have no sponsors so we have to finance everything ourselves,” she says honestly.

McAuley and Weber have both been ground-breaking women in the sport of speedway. Right now, they can enjoy the SEC from the stands, but let’s hope that women like them will soon also compete against the men in this great competition.

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E-Speedway takes Sweden by storm

The speedway news over the last few months has been a depressing cocktail of delays, uncertainty and cancellations. But a chance meeting of eight speedway fans online has led to the launch of a Swedish E-Speedway league bringing a smile in the gloom to speedway fans across Europe.

We catch up with Chris Engren, team manager for Indianerna E Speedway, one of the new teams formed to take part in this E-sport league. It has been named Elitserien Speedway Challenge and is sponsored by Po-Bandzie, a Polish speedway portal, who in turn sponsor the game itself which is called Speedway Challenge.

Engren lives in Nyköping home of Griparna and his favourite Swedish rider is Oliver Berntzon (pictured) who featured in the club's championship winning campaign in Allsvenskan in 2019.

He met the other seven founders of the league after responding to an advert for riders on Facebook page Speedwayfans Sverige. The page's manager, Adam Holman, was looking for people to represent Sweden in a match against Poland at Czestochowa. The match was streamed live on You Tube with Polish commentary and has now had over 1400 viewings, giving you an idea of how popular E-Speedway has become in the Corona pandemic.

Sweden gave the hosts a shock before in the end losing narrowly, 47-43. But Engren was pleased with his performance, "you can always do better, of course, but to pick up 6+1 points wasn't bad," he reflects (see link below to watch the match in full).

From that point the eight Swedes hatched a plan to start a Swedish league but had no idea what was awaiting them around the corner - nearly 100 riders got in touch to say they wanted to be part of Elitserien and then chaos reigned as teammates fell out, arguments raged in chat groups, foreign riders threatened to boycott - all before the tapes had gone up for the first heat!

Now three rounds have gone and the six teams, with c 10 riders each, are going head to head in a more orderly fashion. The teams are named after the original speedway clubs in the real Elitserien - Dackarna, Indianerna, Lejonen, Masarna, Smederna and Västervik - who all race on their home tracks within the game.

"Being a captain and a rider can be tough sometimes, but it is mainly fun," he says. The club took their first win of the season in Round 3 away at Gislaved. But Engren is confident, "this is a team that can challenge for Gold," he said.

Just like their counterparts on the shale, E-speedway riders like Engren also have a busy international weekly schedule. He races in Sweden on Tuesdays and in Poland on Sundays with Unia Tarnow - WSCL. He races there with Indianerna's assistant captain, Edwin Lekander who was the first ever Sweden to be signed to a Polish Speedway Challenge team.

"Racing in Poland is completely different from Sweden," he says, "the quality of riders is really high."

And then there is the day to day running of the Eliserien to contend with.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to almost all sporting events, but for speedway fans in Sweden the Elitserien SC has been light in the Corona tunnel, a glint of freedom among restrictions - all from the comfort of your own sofa.

Check out the latest updates on their Facebook page- @elitserienSC - where posts reach out to over 2200 speedway fans.

Elitserien Speedway Challenge is run by Anton Carlsson, Chris Engren, Adam Holman, Felix Larsson, Gabbe Lu, Edwin Lekander, William Jarl Boiardt and Adrian Jervis.

They especially want to thank the league's sponsors, Po-Bandzie, and Indianerna E Speedway are sponsored by cre8ivedesignz design agency.

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British fans looking forward to the TAURON SEC

The TAURON SEC is not just an event for fans, but also for those who know the sport from the inside.

I talk with Daniel Broughton, who is a mechanic with British rider, Ryan Kinsley, who raced with Scunthorpe Scorpions in the UK Championship last year. Kinsley also came 11th in the U21 British Championships won by Robert Lambert (above) in April 2019.

“I live and breathe speedway, I’ve been a big fan it all my life and, of course, I’ve watched the SEC since it started. It’s another major championship with a host of top riders”.

Houghton’s local team are Kings Lynn Stars and he has had the chance to see Lambert develop since he was 16 years old. So, it comes as no surprise that his favourite moment in the TAURON SEC was seeing the Englishman win in Güstrow in 2018.

And Lambert will be representing Great Britain again this year in Poland.

Another British fan is Wolverhampton Wolves’ supporter, Darren Robinson. He’s another guy who has also worked inside the sport, as manager with German rider, Christian Hefenbrock.

Now 34 years old, Hefenbrock appeared in the U21 World Championship every year between 2004-2006. He also has participated in the SEC in 2006 and 2007 when it was a one-day event. In 2006 he finished on the podium in a well-deserved third - the only German to have medalled in the competition since it started in 2001. Something Kai Huckenbeck will be keen to change this year.

Robinson’s favourite TAURON SEC memory was being at the first Grand Finale in Chorzów in 2018, “The stadium was full, about 55,000 spectators. The atmosphere was amazing,” he reminisces.

That night Leon Madsen scored a maximum and took home the TAURON SEC trophy in impressive style. And after last year’s third-place, the Dane is one of the favourites to take home Gold in Torun on 25 July this year.

(Special thanks to Facebook groups Continental Speedway and Speedway Friends for help with this article).

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TAURON SEC will be 5 races in July

The TAURON Speedway European Championship 2020 will take place this year but has been completely re-organized in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the world’s elite riders already gathered in Poland for the Ekstraliga season, which is due to start on Friday, the TAURON SEC has made the smart decision to have all the events in the country but avoid Fridays and Sundays when the top league usually races.

All except the first Round will be on a Wednesday and the series will kick off on Saturday 4 July in Toruń where is will also finish just 25 days later.

15 riders will take part in this year’s event:

1. Mikkel Michelsen
2. Grigorij Laguta
3. Leon Madsen
4. Kacper Woryna
5. Bartosz Smektała
6. Andzejs Lebedevs
7. Nicki Pedersen
8. Vaclav Milik
9. Krzysztof Kasprzak
10. Michael Jepsen Jensen
11. Robert Lambert
12. Andrei Kudryashov
13. Kai Huckenbeck
14. David Bellego
15. Peter Ljung

Rounds:
Toruń (July 4th)
Bydgoszcz (July 8th)

Gniezno (July 15th)
Rybnik (July 22nd)
Toruń (July 29th).

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SWEDEN: 20 years since SGP last in Linköping

Today, 3 June 2020, marks 20 since the Speedway Grand Prix last made a visit to Linköpings Motorstadion in East Sweden.

The winner that night was Australian, Jason Crump, whilst in second was eventual World Champion for 2000, the Brit, Mark Coram.

Of great interest to the home fans was third place rider, Tony Rickardsson, pictured above on that night in Linköping. He who would also finish third at the end of the SGP season, collecting the Bronze medal.


This was the era of the Swede’s now legendary dominance in the sport. 2000 was the only year the Avesta born rider did not win the world championship in a five year period from 1998-2002.
Having already won it in 1984, when Rickardsson won the Championship for a final time in 2005 it would mark a record equaling six wins, a record he still holds with New Zealander, Ivan Mauger.

That night 20 years ago saw a 23 year old Dane called Nicki Pedersen receive a wildcard on the track where he had raced for Swedish club, Linköping Filbyterna in 1997 and 1998. It was the first year he would participate in the competition he would go on to win four times from 2003 and onwards.

However, whilst Pedersen is still racing today, he is unlikely to race again at Linköping. That is primarily due to economic issues around the air fence. The current one does not reach contemporary health and safety standards and the cost of upgrading it to modern requirements is out of reach for the now amateur Filbyterna, who nevertheless maintain the track to a high standard.

The sport as a whole is under financial pressure and last year Motala Piraterna nearly went bankrupt, the Elitserien club that is closest to Linköping. And with the Coronavirus affecting this year’s racing, the league has said it will not be able to run on TV revenue alone but will need people to come through the turnstiles to work economically. So whilst speedway will continue in Sweden after Corona, it seems unlikely that Linköping will see another World Championship for the foreseeable future.

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EUROPE: no speedway without fans

The last few weeks has seen a change in regulations across Europe, allowing for some sporting events to take place, with the German Bundsliga football one of the first to renew its' season.

In Sweden from 14 June the football season will finally start - although no fans will be present in the stadiums and the clubs will have to rely on TV and sponsor revenues.

However, for speedway this option is not economically viable. Both in Sweden and in Denmark, despite changes in the government's position, everyone is in agreement that the sport cannot run without supporters in the stands. Both the Elitserien and the Metal League have published announcements on their website that despite the changes, there will be no changes and the racing is still on hold.

In the UK, the SGP Premiership have not gone as far as saying that they cannot run without the fans in the grounds and has struck the "we're hopeful some racing will occur this year" line. But surely the reality is that the top division will be unable to run without money tickets sales.

It means that Polish leagues is probably the only club speedway we will see this summer and all eyes will be on the Ekstraliga, which starts a week on Friday, 12 June 2020, featuring Maciej Janowski, among others, in the yellow helmet above.

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