Speedway

Line-up For 2024 FIM Speedway GP World Championship Challenge Decided

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2024 FIM SGP World Championship Qualifying Round. Photo: Jesper Veldhuizen

The final eight riders progressing to the 2024 FIM Speedway GP World Championship Challenge were decided today following the last pair of Qualifying rounds – staged in Žarnovica in Slovakia and Lonigo in Italy – to determine the starting line-up at Pardubice in the Czech Republic on 4 October.

At stake in the autumn will be four invaluable full-time positions behind the tapes for the 2025 FIM Speedway Grand Prix World Championship (SGP) and with such a glittering prize awaiting them in Pardubice it was no surprise that competitors at both Qualifying rounds came out fighting.

Despite carrying a shoulder injury the star of the show in Žarnovica was Denmark’s Anders Thomsen. The thirty-year-old, who was fifteenth in last year’s SGP series after missing the final three rounds following hand surgery, dropped just one point during the course of the afternoon to book his place in Pardubice.

Sharing the lead after the opening block of four Heats with Robert Lambert from Great Britain, home favourite Martin Vaculik and Luke Becker from the USA, Thomsen moved to the front on his own when he won his second Heat and he maintained this advantage after victory in his third Heat took his total to nine points.

With the top four booking their places in Pardubice as long as a Czech rider qualified for the Challenge event, Poland’s Patryk Dudek moved into contention tied with Lambert on eight points following the third block of Heats with swift Swede Oliver Berntzon next in line on seven.

Becker revived his hopes of making the cut when he inflicted Thomsen’s only defeat of the afternoon in his fourth Heat which moved him up to eight points, three behind Thomsen who was now tied at the top with Dudek ahead of a three-way tie on nine points between Australia’s Brady Kurtz, Lambert and Berntzon.

Thomsen then made sure of the top step of the podium with his fourth win of the afternoon in his final Heat, but behind him the tension was reaching boiling point.

A retirement in his third Heat had put Vaculik – currently sitting seventh in SGP – on the back foot and despite signing off with two wins he ended the day tied with Becker for fifth while a second-placed finish behind Kurtz ensured Dudek went through, leaving the Australian joint third with Lambert who also won his final Heat.

In the Run-Off for the third step of the podium – and the final guaranteed place in the Challenge event – it was Kurtz who came out on top, leaving Lambert with an anxious wait to see if Jan Kvěch, the only remaining Czech rider in the competition, would make the cut from the evening programme at Lonigo.

Fortunately for Lambert, Kvěch was in fine form just a few hours later and the twenty-two-year-old only dropped one point to top the Italian podium and comfortably progress to the Challenge event.

With two wins and two second places from his opening four Heats in Italy, Dan Bewley went into his final Heat knowing that second would secure him a place in the top four, but the twenty-five-year-old British racer – currently sixth in the SGP standings – was not about to settle for position and he raced to his third win of the programme to end the evening a clear second.

Holding down second in the 2024 SGP title fight, Australia’s Jack Holder was one of the pre-race favourites, but after dropping points in his first two Heats he needed back-to-back wins in his third and fourth Heats to drag himself back into contention before he made sure of his place in Pardubice with second in his fifth Heat.

Local hero Michele Paco Castagna had started the evening with three wins before a single point in his fourth Heat dropped him into the danger zone, but he fired back with second in his final Heat race to tie with Holder before losing third in the Run-Off to the Australian.

The first four from both Slovakia and Italy will now join the eight successful riders from Monday’s two Qualifying rounds in Germany and Hungary for a date with destiny in the Czech Republic on 4 October.

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