Sweden have yet to find a replacement for legendary rider, Tony Rickardsson who retired from the sport in 2006 having achieved six World Championship titles.
So when SVEMO made its announcement on 5 March of who will has been chosen to represent the country in the qualifiers for the SGP and SEC series this year, they chose to look to the future and give riders who have had less experience at this level a shot at the big time.
Qualification to the Speedway GP Series
Currently the country's two permanent SGP riders are 35 year old Fredrik Lindgren and Antonio Lindbäck who has both appeared in the series almost every year since 2004. Lindgren's highest finish was 3rd in 2018 and for Lindbäck it was 7th in both 2012 and 2016.
But the only other rider who has had a permanent place in recent history is Andreas Jonsson, who was part of the SGP Series from 2002 to 2016. But "AJ" retired at the end of last season at the age of 39 yrs.
A number of riders, such as 2019 Swedish champion, Jacob Thorssell, have appeared a on several occasions as wildcards in the last five years, but without making a significant inroad in the sport at the highest level.
This year, 30 year old Pontus Aspgren is one of the SGP substitute riders and SVEMO are no doubt hoping he will get some racing experience as they have also selected him the 2021 SGP qualification race in Glasgow on 23 May. He will race alongside 27 year old Mattias Törnblom, who likewise have never raced a GP event before.
In the second and third qualification races to be held on the same day, but in different locations, SVEMO have chosen two riders who already have a handful of SGP races under their belt in Oliver Berntzon and Peter Ljung.
Ljung is the only rider over 30 who has been selected and Berntzon has been one of the best performing riders at the SGP level. For example, in Hallstavik in 2019 the 26 year old came first in Heat 20 beating no less than British champion Robert Lambert and the talented Russian duo of Emil Sayfutdinov and Artem Laguta.
In the 4th qualification race in Germany on 1 June they have played safe allowing Antonio Lindbäck the chance to participate to secure his place in the top tier of the sport. Otherwise reserves for the first two races are two riders who have had ongoing experience of the SGP over the last few years. For the first two races it is Linus Sundström and for the third and fourth races, Kim Nilsson.
Qualification to the Speedway European Championship
Antonio Lindbäck has been the main stay of Swedish success having participated in four of the last five SECs since his first appearance in 2015, where he came his career best third in the championship. That makes him the only Swede to medal in the competition at all since in moved from a one-day championship in 2012.
Otherwise, it is again Andreas Jonsson who has been the most prolific rider with three championships between 2014 and 2018 whilst Peter Ljung (2016) and Fredrik Lindgren (2015) have only one a piece.
In SVEMO's search for successors to the trio of thirty-somethings, they have picked some of the same names as in the SGP qualifications in the hope that increased exposure to the international arena will enable these younger riders take the next step up and eventually replace Lindgren-Lindbäck-Jonsson.
Therefore, Oliver Berntzon will race in Hungary (11 April), Mathias Törnblom and Linus Sundström in Ukraine (17 May) and Pontus Aspgren in Czech Republic (17 May). Joining Aspgren in Plzen will be the only rider who is not also going to be involved in the SGP series, 26 year old, Victor Palovaara. Reserve for the SEC qualifies is Ludwig Lindgren (29 yrs) and younger brother to Sweden's most successful current rider, Fredrik.
Not surprisingly, SVEMO have elected to take the top scoring Swedish riders in the Elitserien in 2019 and put them forward for the international events. Or more correctly, they have chosen 9 of the top 12 Swedish riders from last season. Apart from Jonsson who has retire, the missing names are Jacob Thorssell and Tomas Jonasson, who both scored more than Sundström and Palovaara over the season.
Thorssell rides in Sweden for Dackarna and the team's manager explained that the rider has decided to focus on league racing in Sweden, Poland and the UK rather than international meetings in 2020.
Whether it was because of age that 32 year Jonasson was not chosen is unclear, especially after an excellent debut season in the Nice 2 league where he was 5th on heat average and above riders of the talent of Australians Josh Grajczonek and Jaimon Lidsey and Frenchman, Dimtri Berge, whom is going to be a reserve for the SGP series in 2020 and raced in the SEC in 2019.
Photo shows Fredrik Lindgren (blue) ahead of Andreas Jonsson (red) at the Swedish SGP in Hallstavik in 2018.
Original article from SVEMO (in Swedish):