Australian skipper Jason Doyle was delighted with how his team carried the burden of being qualification favourites as they won Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations Semi-Final 2 in Daugavpils on Saturday.
The Roos topped the score chart on 35 points to book their place at the Monster Energy SON Final in Manchester on October 16 and 17.
They are joined by tonight’s hosts Latvia and Final Qualifier winner France, as both countries prepare for their first-ever appearances in a world team championship final, where they join hosts Great Britain, plus Semi-Final 1 top trio Poland, Sweden and Denmark.
The Aussies went into Semi-Final 2 as red-hot favourites to triumph, which Doyle admits made their Daugavpils mission even tougher.
So he was pleased to take victory, with the 2017 world champion scoring 23 points from a possible 24, while Aussie champion Max Fricke added 12.
“That win takes a lot of pressure off,” Doyle said. “I hate going into a meeting as the favourite.
“I knew it was going to be tough. We had to work hard in the last couple of heats. Obviously, the Latvians are so good around here. It’s their home track.
“We worked our bums off to get to where we were. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy because of the riders that were here.
“We really needed to dig deep in the last couple of heats. Fricke did an amazing job to get us back in there. Getting the win and not having to worry about going through the Final Qualifier is a much easier way to qualify for the heart rate!”
Doyle now heads to Manchester with his Aussie side chasing their first world team title since they won the 2002 FIM Speedway World Cup.
But the Newcastle-born racer knows it will be no easy task in a competition where national pride is always at stake, ensuring riders raise their game to another level.
“We all love riding for our countries. I can speak for every rider here. If you get the opportunity to ride for your country, it means so much,” Doyle added.
“We don’t do it for a lot of money; we just do it for the race suit and we are honoured to do it. This showed for every rider. Everyone worked really hard.”
Latvian captain Andzejs Lebedevs is expecting a night of celebration across his home city Daugavpils. His team stormed into their maiden world team final by finishing second on 34 points – ensuring they avoided the dreaded Final Qualifier.
He said: “It’s amazing. We were very nervous about this meeting before because many people came to watch us.
“This is not just my home country. It’s my hometown. This is a small city and everyone knows everyone. My family are here and my friends are here.
“I am very happy to qualify straight through to the Final and make this history we dreamed of before come true. We have made a Final for Latvia and it is an historic Final.
“I have a day free tomorrow, so I think many people will come to the city centre and celebrate this great evening for Team Latvia.”
France skipper David Bellego was elated as he and partner Dimitri Berge held their nerve in the Final Qualifier against third-placed Germany, grabbing a 5-4 heat advantage to advance to Manchester.
They are the first French team to reach a world team final and Bellego insists his side heads to Great Britain next month with no pressure on their shoulders. He said: “I guess it is history for France to go through to the Speedway of Nations Final, so we are really happy.
“It was a hard job tonight, as everybody probably saw, but happy days! We are in the Final.
“We will go there with no pressure. We are happy to make the Final. We have all raced in Manchester before and we know what to expect.”
Before the Monster Energy SON Final takes place, all eyes turn to the FIM Speedway Grand Prix series, which concludes with the epic eWinner Torun SGP of Poland double-header on October 1 and 2.
SGP World Championship leader Artem Laguta and Bartosz Zmarzlik battle it out for the gold medal with just one point separating them ahead of two tense final rounds.
MONSTER ENERGY FIM SPEEDWAY OF NATIONS SEMI-FINAL 2 SCORES:
1 AUSTRALIA 35: 1 Jason Doyle 23, 2 Max Fricke 12, 3 Keynan Rew 0.
2 LATVIA 34: 1 Andzejs Lebedevs 18, 2 Olegs Mihailovs 14, 3 Francis Gusts 2.
3 FRANCE 30: 1 David Bellego 15, 2 Dimitri Berge 13, 3 Steven Goret 2.
4 GERMANY 27: 1 Kai Huckenbeck 22, 2 Valentin Grobauer 0, 3 Nick Blodorn 5.
5 MFR 25: 1 Sergei Logachev 10, 2 Vladimir Borodulin 13, 3 Mark Karion 2.
6 ITALY 19: 1 Nicolas Covatti 7, 2 Paco Castagna 12.
7 UKRAINE 19: 1 Aleksandr Loktaev 15, 2 Vitalii Lysak 0, 3 Marko Levishyn 4.