Triple world champion Greg Hancock ended his 21-year wait for an FIM Speedway Grand Prix win in Sweden, and dedicated it to his extended band of family, friends and fans in his adopted homeland. The Californian legend won the Swedish SGP at Malilla’s G&B Arena after rounding nearest World Championship rival Jason Doyle in the Final. Polish racer Piotr Pawlicki finished third, with Australia’s Chris Holder came home in fourth place.
It was an emotional triumph for Hancock, who bases himself in Sweden during the European season. The nation has become a second home for the 46-year-old, who is married to Swedish wife Jennie. The couple have three half-Swedish sons in Wilbur, Bill and Karl. Eldest son Wilbur was in the Malilla pits to give Dad a huge hug after he ended his long wait for a Swedish win.
Hancock has appeared in all of the SGP rounds staged in Sweden since 1995, and was elated to triumph there at the 36th time of asking. Hancock said: “That had been a long time coming. Every year I come here, I want to win and I’ve never managed to have a great meeting in this place. But today I did and it makes it all worth the wait. Everyone knows I have a big tie to this country. Having a Swedish wife and our kids is one thing. But there are a lot of sponsors and mechanics who have worked for me here.
“There are so many people who have helped me here. They make me feel right at home, even when we’re just here for the season. This goes out to them. I really, really owe it to them. They have always been there and always supported me. I just want to say ‘thank you – there’s more to come.’”
Hancock has now won FIM Speedway Grand Prix rounds in 11 different countries, and this was a hard-earned triumph after he battled past Doyle to hit the front in the final. “All I could think is I wanted to keep building momentum and not try to do anything too fast, otherwise I could have killed off the speed, given the way I had the bikes set up. Doyley was there all the time and I kept waiting for him to shut the door. But I think he felt quite comfortable where he was. I just managed to get one good corner out of it where he saw me. I managed to push him up and make a nice cutback. Plan B had to come into action quickly and it worked.”
Hancock extended his World Championship lead from three points to 12. He’s now on 83 with defending champion Tai Woffinden and Jason Doyle deadlocked in second and third respectively on 71. Despite a healthy cushion, Hancock is determined to keep his head down and keep piling up the points with five rounds still to race, starting with the MIB Nordic Gorzow FIM Speedway Grand Prix of Poland on August 27th.
Hancock said: “The guys that are there, Woffy, Doyley, all of them are so good. Anything can happen. It’s the guy who can have the best of the bad days that will come out on top. I don’t like to look at what’s happening around me too much. I’m chasing the big dream all the time. I want to be successful, so I just have to stay focused and positive. I definitely have the will to win.”
Doyle was delighted to have overcome a back injury suffered in Rospiggarna’s Swedish Elitserien meeting with Indianerna in Hallstavik to claim second spot on the day and retain third place in the standings.
Doyle said: “I struggled with an injury that has been playing on my mind since Tuesday. I hurt my back, so I didn’t do practice. Maybe that was a good thing because it rained on Saturday and the track was totally different. If someone said to me I’d have 17 points from the Malilla Grand Prix, I’d have bitten their hand off. It was a very difficult meeting, to be honest. But in the end, I had four gate ones and it went well. That’s speedway – sometimes it can work for you with the gate choices. The bike felt very good and my team worked very hard.”
Third-placed Pawlicki admits he exceeded his own expectations as he reached the rostrum in his first SGP final. Pawlicki said: “This day was very nice for me. Before this meeting, I felt I needed to have good points. The semi-final was my plan, but when I got there and finished second, it felt good to say ‘oh, I’ve made the final! I knew I had to have full concentration. The final is very hard and the top riders were there. Congrats to Greg, Jason and Chris. I’m very happy I had third place and I am safe. Thank you to my team, my brother Przemek, my family and my fans. Now I’m waiting for the next GP – I need to have the same points or better.”