Australian champion Max Fricke celebrated “one of those memories I will never forget” as he stormed to Orlen FIM Speedway GP of Poland – Warsaw glory in front of over 50,000 fans at PGE Narodowy on Saturday.
The Victorian racer topped the podium after a lightning start in the final saw him defeat runner-up Leon Madsen of Denmark and Swedish star Fredrik Lindgren in one of world speedway’s biggest events, which roared back into PGE Narodowy after a three-year break.
It was a night which saw fans in Warsaw display their solidarity with their Ukrainian neighbors as giant tifos of the Polish and Ukrainian flags flew proudly in the PGE Narodowy stands before racing. Over 100 Ukrainian visitors were also welcomed to the event, touring the stadium and meeting the riders during the afternoon.
But the night belonged to Fricke, who picked up his second Speedway GP win – a year and a half after his first at 2020 round seven in Torun.
The Mansfield-born racer was elated to celebrate the biggest win of his career in front of the sport’s biggest crowd.
“It’s unreal,” Fricke beamed. “It’s unreal to be able to say I have won a GP here in this amazing stadium in front of so many people. I really had to take a few moments, especially after the meeting, to really take in the atmosphere and the crowd. It’s definitely one of those memories I will never forget.
“I haven’t done a lot of time racing in indoor stadiums. I have ridden in them once or twice, but a long time ago. I knew it was going to be a little trickier tonight. I was just able to feel really comfortable with my bikes. My team did a really amazing job tonight and on Friday at Qualifying Practice to get me into this position and get me feeling good on the bike. Once I got out of the starts, I had plenty of speed.”
Fricke’s victory comes as the perfect tonic after he started the season with two points at the season-opening FIM Speedway GP of Croatia – Donji Kraljevec on April 30.
Fricke is the only 2022 Speedway GP rider who does not compete in Poland’s PGE Ekstraliga – the world’s biggest speedway league. Instead, he followed Zielona Gora into Poland’s First Division following their relegation last year.
He becomes the first rider not competing against the world’s best riders in Poland’s top flight to win a Speedway GP round in recent memory.
“I don’t know if it has been done, so it’s definitely something I can say I have done,” Fricke added.
“The most important thing was that I felt really good tonight, regardless of what league I race in. I have been pretty busy and I have been riding a lot, so it was good to bounce back after that first round in Croatia and have a good result.”
Runner-up Madsen was elated to overcome a recent bout of flu and storm to second place in Warsaw, where he topped the podium at the last PGE Narodowy event in 2019.
He is now on 30 championship points – two short of series leader Bartosz Zmarzlik, who exited at the semi-final stage with 12 points.
“It’s nice to finally start to feel a little bit better. It hard been hard for the last month with flu and stuff like that, but I am slowly getting my fitness back,” Madsen said.
“Tonight it was crazy and it is always crazy in these indoor meetings. The races go just like that – in such a short amount of time.
“You don’t always have time in the pits to affect your races, so it is really stressful and so crazy. I am happy to come second tonight and be up there at the top in the classification – second place and only two points short of the leader. It’s good to be back and I am happy about that.”
Third-placed Lindgren fell just short of the semi-finals in Croatia, so he was pleased to recover with 16 championship points in Warsaw.
“I really needed a decent result in Warsaw to bounce back and climb the ladder in the championship table. I am really happy with third tonight. It was a really tough night for me,” Lindgren explained.
“I had some really bad luck – I snapped a chain and crashed in one heat. I was fighting in every heat for every point and I got a bit lucky in the semi-final, to be honest. I was in the final to get on the podium, and that’s the way it is sometimes.”
Next up is the Prague FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic – Prague on Saturday, May 28. The highly-anticipated Marketa Stadium weekend also features the first-ever SGP2 round – the revamped FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship on Friday, May 27.
WARSAW CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS:
1 Max Fricke 20,
2 Leon Madsen 18,
3 Fredrik Lindgren 16,
4 Mikkel Michelsen 14,
5 Bartosz Zmarzlik 12,
6 Maciej Janowski 11,
7 Tai Woffinden 10,
8 Pawel Przedpelski 9,
9 Robert Lambert 8,
10 Jack Holder 7,
11 Jason Doyle 6,
12 Patryk Dudek 5,
13 Maksym Drabik 4,
14 Dan Bewley 3,
15 Martin Vaculik 2,
16 Anders Thomsen 1,
17 Jakub Miskowiak 0,
18 Vitalii Lysak DNR,
SPEEDWAY GP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:
1 Bartosz Zmarzlik 32,
2 Leon Madsen 30,
3 Mikkel Michelsen 30,
4 Maciej Janowski 29,
5 Fredrik Lindgren 24,
6 Max Fricke 22,
7 Robert Lambert 18,
8 Anders Thomsen 15,
9 Jason Doyle 15,
10 Tai Woffinden 14,
11 Matej Zagar 11,
12 Pawel Przedpelski
10, 13 Jack Holder 10,
14 Patryk Dudek 10,
15 Martin Vaculik 9,
16 Dan Bewley 9,
17 Maksym Drabik 4.