Australia’s FIM Speedway World Championship leader Jason Doyle admits trying to seal the sport’s biggest prize is “like the headache that doesn’t go away” as he goes for gold at Aust SGP on Saturday.
Doyle is just eight points away from winning his first world title – with that target reduced by every point second-placed Patryk Dudek drops.
The Pole is 14 adrift of Doyle and is now the only rider mathematically able to stop the 32-year-old becoming Australia’s sixth world champion and the first to be crowned Down Under.
JD admits he has felt the weight of expectation as he bids to close out the title race. “It’s like the headache that doesn’t go away!” he said. “You’re always thinking about it and it’s always there.”
Doyle had the chance to claim the crown at the last round in Torun on October 7, but Dudek’s first SGP win denied him his moment of glory in Poland. While JD was gutted he had to wait another three weeks in his quest for gold, he is content with his efforts at the Motoarena as he tallied a rock-solid 10 points.
He said: “Looking back on it, of course you want to win a world title as fast as you can. When I left the meeting, I was a bit upset with how it all went, but it was actually not a bad result.
“I scored 10 points in Poland against a tough field and it was all up for grabs. It was a hard Grand Prix. I went there to score points – and I scored 10 more points than I got last year. So we’re still in a good position.
“Even though I had a few points taken off me in Torun, 14 points is a good lead going into the final round.”
Having seen his 2016 title charge cruelly ended by a heavy crash in Torun after three SGP wins on the spin, Doyle admits riding wisely, and not necessarily hard, will be the key to finishing the job at Etihad Stadium.
He said: “I’ve seen comments saying you have to ride hard to be a world champion, but you also have to be smart.
“You can be riding hard and then all of a sudden, you’ve won three GPs in a row and then you crash out and finish the season without even coming close to winning the world title. You need to be looking for the right points.
“With 10 points scored in Torun, it was a good night in the end. We’re still there. Now I’ll go to Melbourne and try to do it in front of the Aussie fans.
“It’s in my home country and it makes it a little more special. I always wanted to ride in a Grand Prix. I never thought I’d ride in a Grand Prix here, let alone get to win the world title in Melbourne.”
There’s much more than a World Championship on the line as Dudek on 128 points bids to seal gold or silver, which would be the finest SGP debut season by a rider since the series was launched in 1995.
There’s a brilliant battle for bronze developing with Tai Woffinden leading the way on 115 points, but he faces huge competition from the likes of Maciej Janowski on 113, Emil Sayfutdinov on 109 and Bartosz Zmarzlik 108.
Qualification for the 2018 SGP series is also at stake. Doyle, Dudek, Woffinden and Janowski have already guaranteed top-eight finishes, with Sayfutdinov needing just three more points and Zmarzlik requiring four to join them. Matej Zagar occupies the eighth and final automatic qualifying place on 97 points.
Fredrik Lindgren in seventh on 107 misses the Melbourne event due to injury, but ninth-placed Martin Vaculik on 90 would need a huge 18 points out of a possible 21 at Etihad Stadium to earn a spot for 2018.
World champion Greg Hancock, Nicki Pedersen, Lindgren and Niels-Kristian Iversen miss the trip due to injury. Their places are taken by Denmark’s Peter Kildemand, German star Martin Smolinski, Mildura racer Justin Sedgmen and Townsville-born Dave Watt respectively.
Tickets for the QBE Insurance Australian SGP are still available online. Secure your spot at the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest indoor motorsport event here: http://bit.ly/2hpprgm.
QBE INSURANCE AUSTRALIAN SGP LINE-UP (in ranking order with rider numbers): 25 Peter Kildemand (substitute for 45 Greg Hancock), 108 Tai Woffinden, 95 Bartosz Zmarzlik, 23 Chris Holder, 69 Jason Doyle, 777 Piotr Pawlicki, 85 Antonio Lindback, 18 Dave Watt (substitute for 88 Niels-Kristian Iversen), 55 Matej Zagar, 71 Maciej Janowski, 17 Justin Sedgmen (substitute for 66 Fredrik Lindgren), 84 Martin Smolinski (substitute for 12 Nicki Pedersen), 692 Patryk Dudek, 54 Martin Vaculik, 89 Emil Sayfutdinov, 16 Sam Masters, 19 Brady Kurtz, Rohan Tungate.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Jason Doyle 142, 2 Patryk Dudek 128, 3 Tai Woffinden 115, 4 Maciej Janowski 113, 5 Emil Sayfutdinov 109, 6 Bartosz Zmarzlik 108, 7 Fredrik Lindgren 107, 8 Matej Zagar 97, 9 Martin Vaculik 90, 10 Chris Holder 82, 11 Piotr Pawlicki 79, 12 Antonio Lindback 73, 13 Peter Kildemand 54, 14 Greg Hancock 45, 15 Niels-Kristian Iverson 44, 16 Vaclav Milik 31, 17 Martin Smolinski 19, 18 Max Fricke 11, 19 Pawel Przedpelski 10, 20 Nicki Pedersen 8, 21 Michael Jepsen Jensen 8, 22 Maksims Bogdanovs 8, 23 Kenneth Bjerre 7, 24 Krzysztof Kasprzak 6, 25 Kai Huckenbeck 4, 26 Jacob Thorssell 4, 27 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 3, 28 Craig Cook 2, 29 Linus Sundstrom 2, 30 Kim Nilsson 2, 31 Josh Bates 2, 32 Nick Skorja 1.