Speedway

Denmark And Australia Top FIM Speedway of Nations Semi-Final 2 Qualification

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Photo of FIM Speedway of Nations rider Jack Holder
Aussie duo Jack Holder and Brady Kurtz in full flight. Photo: Jarek Pabijan

Danish team manager Nicki Pedersen is expecting an FIM Speedway of Nations Final thriller after his side booked its place in Saturday’s showdown with victory at Semi-Final 2 in Manchester on Wednesday.

The Danes topped the score chart with 40 points to secure automatic Final qualification alongside runners-up Australia, who registered 34 points. They join hosts Great Britain, and Semi-Final 1 winners Sweden, Poland and Germany. The last qualification place was secured by Latvia, who emerged as shock winners of the Final Qualifier.

Pedersen tracked all three of his Danish stars on a wet Manchester track, with double Danish champion Anders Thomsen topping the score chart on 17 points, Rasmus Jensen racing to 14 and skipper Mikkel Michelsen notching nine.

Team Denmark emerged victorious tonight. Photo: Taylor Lanning

While the triple Speedway GP world champion knows his side faces a tougher test in the Final, Pedersen has the podium in his sights as seven nations go wheel to wheel in the ultimate test of team riding.

“We can definitely expect some great speedway,” Pedersen predicted. “People were racing 110 percent today. They know it’s tough when they race for their country, and I can be proud of my boys. Mikkel was behind in the first couple of races, and he never gave up for four laps. It gave us extra points when he passed people.

“I am proud of them, and anything can happen on Saturday. We are definitely going for the rostrum. If you are on the rostrum, anything can happen. Let’s see how it goes.”

Pedersen had no qualms about giving all three of his riders a run-out in Semi-Final 2 to ensure they are in race shape for Saturday, adding, “We wanted everyone to be in action. Now we are in the Final and we know everyone needs to step up. The team spirit was fantastic. The riders were talking together all night.

“Now we will look at the programme for the Final, have a think and see what we do. It’s going to be tough. But we can’t wait.”

While Michelsen contested just three of Denmark’s six heats, he was supportive of Pedersen’s call to make use of all three riders.

“We needed to get all of the guys going and, at the end of the day, we only had one mission. The only focus was to get the job done as a team. We had three good riders – why not use them?” Michelsen said.

“We didn’t want to get through the meeting with two guys and then just throw someone in at the deep end in the Final. Tonight was about getting all of the guys firing and going into Saturday with some confidence.

“The team spirit was great. All three of us grew up racing together in all of the classes – 50cc, 80cc and now 500cc. The spirit was high.

Photo of FIM Speedway of Nations rider Jan Kvech and Mikkel Michelsen
Czech racer Jan Kvech and Denmark’s Mikkel Michelsen battle it out. Photo: Taylor Lanning

“We worked well together, and Nicki was well prepared as well. All in all, it was a great night. Now we have a few days off to recover and focus on Saturday.”

Aussie boss Mark Lemon leads his side into Saturday’s Final, bidding to retain the FIM SON world title they won at Danish track Vojens in 2022 – ending the country’s 20-year wait for a world team championship.

Belle Vue Aces favourite Brady Kurtz – competing on his home track in Manchester – topped the Aussie scoreboard with 13 points, with Max Fricke adding 11 and skipper Jack Holder tallying 10.

Lemon is backing his side to raise their game again for the Final. “The boys gelled and worked really well in the pits. We executed the plan, and it worked quite well. But we know Saturday night will be another level.” Lemon said.

“We anticipate that with great excitement and expectation to try and deliver what we did in Vojens two years ago. Manchester is a great stadium and a great racetrack. It’s going to be a great Final.

“We go into Saturday with a job to do. We have the talent to do it. Everyone needs a bit of luck. It’s just a competition, but it’s a strong competition and the boys will have to do the basics at world championship level.”

Despite Czech Republic finishing third on the score chart after 21 heats on 30 points – three ahead of the Latvians on 27 – the sides faced off in one head-to-head shoot-out for a spot in Saturday’s Final.

Latvia’s Speedway GP star Andzejs Lebedevs hit the front with Czech duo Jan Kvech and Vaclav Milik holding the all-important second and third places, which would have been enough for a 5-4 heat advantage.

But disaster struck when Kvech clipped the fence at the end of lap three and crashed, allowing Latvia’s Daniils Kolodinskis through for third place, as a Latvian 6-3 earned them qualification for only their second FIM Speedway world team final – three years on from their first, which also came in Manchester in October 2021.

Elated skipper Lebedevs admits his side had some good fortune. He said: “You need to keep going for all four laps and my teammate did his job. Jan Kvech made a mistake, and we were lucky today. I am very happy to join this super line-up for the Final. It is just our second Final for Latvia. Last time we did it was in 2021 and now we are back there. I am really happy and super excited for Saturday night and what we can show the speedway world.

“Track conditions were not what our guys are used to. Daniils hasn’t got much experience of racing in track conditions like this. But he did a very good job from the beginning. I have to say thank you to my teammates. They always let me use the best gates. I always chose what gate I went from and that showed huge respect from my teammates to give me that chance.

“It was a big night for me. I came back from one month without racing after an injury. I had one practice before this meeting, so I am really happy with the speedway I showed today.”

The sport’s top eight under-21 sides take centre stage on Friday night, as Manchester stages FIM Speedway of Nations – SON2 – the FIM Team Speedway Under-21 World Championship.

FIM SPEEDWAY OF NATIONS SEMI-FINAL 2 SCORES

  1. DENMARK 40: 1 Mikkel Michelsen 9, 2 Anders Thomsen 17, 3 Rasmus Jensen 14.
  2. AUSTRALIA 34: 1 Jack Holder 10, 2 Max Fricke 11, 3 Brady Kurtz 13.
  3. LATVIA 27: 1 Andzejs Lebedevs 18, 2 Daniils Kolodinskis 7, 3 Jevgenijs Kostigovs 2.
  4. CZECH REPUBLIC 30: 1 Vaclav Milik 12, 2 Jan Kvech 18, 3 Adam Bubba Bednar DNR.
  5. SLOVENIA 20: 1 Anze Grmek 11, 2 Matic Ivacic 9, 3 Denis Stojs DNR.
  6. USA 20: 1 Broc Nicol 0, 2 Gino Manzares 0, 3 Luke Becker 20.
  7. NORWAY 18: 1 Mathias Pollestad 14, 2 Truls Kamhaug 0, 3 Glenn Moi 4.

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