Grand Prix Preview 2006
Adams spent his time back home in Australia testing new machinery, mainly carburettors and chassis's. What an enigma this guy is, there is nothing left to say that hasn't been said a thousand times before. Last season's third spot will have given Leigh a tremendous morale boost in his quest to gain that number one spot. He is good enough on a motorcycle to become World Champion and everyone knows that, whether the Aussie has the mental tenacity to consistently overcome his rivals on the world stage is a subject of which there is much debate.
Crump has started the 2006 season incredibly well notching up fifteen point maximums left, right and centre. Whether it be England or Poland, home or away, individual or team events 'Crumpy' has set a blistering pace thus far in 2006. As always he will be hungry for World championship success and there is bound to be some elation, frustration and unpredictability along the way. Jason is one of the most natural racers in the business today, consistently providing fans with 110% effort and oozing the tenacity to succeed. It will be interesting to monitor the effect that the transition from Jawa to GM engines will have, the latter certainly seems to be the most popular in the sport at the moment. The speedway community is generally agreed the Aussie is good enough to achieve a second world championship, but whether he will be able to crash Rickardsson's farewell party in 2006 remains to be seen.
Is there a final sting in the tale of Gollob as his colourful Grand Prix career looks to be drawing to its natural conclusion? These days the Pole often looks weary on track, but still offers the flashes of genius that have made him one of the most entertaining riders of all time. Will certainly perform well on the Polish tracks and characteristically struggle on the smaller artificially manufactured surfaces. Many would love nothing more than to see Gollob gain number one status, me included. He has been a tremendous servant to the GP series and Polish speedway, come on Tomasz one last push!
Hampel would have undoubtedly found himself in the top eight last season if it hadn't been for the injury that forced the Pole to miss three of the nine rounds. Jarek is my man to watch in 2006, providing he can stay away from injury the youngster will mount a serious challenge for the top three positions. At Cardiff last year he was phenomenal and will certainly be the man to take over the reigns of Polish speedway when Gollob calls it a day. Unlike Gollob he is able to effectively adapt his riding to suit tracks all shapes and sizes, it is this adaptability that will one day reward Hampel with honours. He is very highly rated by Speedway pundits all around the globe; hopefully his phenomenal ability will be able to give the sport in Poland a much needed resurgence.
Greg will be looking for an improvement on his fifth place last year and his ambition to obtain another World title is as prominent as ever. A quick rider who tends to pop out and win races when you're not expecting it. Greg will be looking to make more finals in 2006 and convert those qualification points into larger returns. A classy rider who remains a major player in World Speedway.
Niels Kristian Iversen
Many have expressed their concern that the young Dane may not be ready for the GP series. On paper it certainly seems Hans Andersen would have been a wiser choice, however Iversen will undoubtedly be keen to impress and prove those doubters wrong in his inaugural Grand Prix year. The twenty three year old has progressed remarkably well since joining Kings Lynn in 2001 and now finds himself occupying a heat leader role for the ambitious Peterborough Panthers. His unorthodox style is similar to that of Mark Loram and like the Brit he's a fully fledged racer with bag loads of bravery. He certainly won't be disgraced in 2006 and will learn an awful lot about the necessary ingredients for future Grand Prix success.
It is hard to believe that Andreas is now twenty five years of age. It is harder to believe the talented Swede hasn't had a more pivotal impact on Speedway Grand Prix. He is an entertaining rider with bags of talent who could, and should, be forging his way into the top three of World speedway, just why he hasn't is hard to fathom. His performance at Malilla was one of the few highlights in what was a frustrating season hampered by sickness. There is no doubt Andreas is a temperamental rider who thrives on a grippy race surface, nevertheless he is a true racer and will be seeking serious improvement this summer.
After a very impressive start in 2005 Antonio Lindback's GP form tailed off in the latter rounds of the series. Nevertheless he enjoyed a successful campaign and certainly fared significantly better than fellow newcomer Tomasz Chrzanowski. Lindback will be looking to improve on last season's 10th place finish and the twenty year old certainly has time on his side. Ideally he needs a year of laying low, free from the media hype, to properly demonstrate his talent and develop his consistency levels.
There is no doubt that Nicholls has the ability, speed and style to consistently grace Grand Prix Finals. He is engulfed by true Bulldog spirit and never knows when he's beaten, his bravery is simply outstanding and some of his passing manoeuvres last year were phenomenal. However Scott's weakness lies in his sluggish gating, much like Mark Loram he is often in third or fourth position entering turn one. In the Elite league this is less of a concern for the Brit as he simply charges through the field with ease, however in the hustle and bustle of GP speedway, where the tracks are usually slick and the opposition breathtakingly fast, rapid gating is a prominent necessity. Scott has fantastic backing from former promoter Bradford Allan Ham but is still seeking that illusive Grand Prix win. One would imagine the Coventry number one dislikes continually relying on the generosity of BSI and will be keen to cement his spot in the top eight this season.
Bjarne is neither spectacular nor a controversial rider and is therefore one of the series lesser talked about characters. He goes about his work quietly but very effectively and this was reflected by his eventual sixth place finish in 2005. He will obviously be looking to climb into the top four in 2006 and if he continues to maintain the sort of progression he has displayed in previous seasons there is no reason why he shouldn't. Pedersen is a solid and consistent team rider for Poole who has the natural talent to mix it with the Grand Prix bigwigs.
Pedersen will be aiming to get amongst the top three again in 2006 and will definitely be one to watch. A switch from GM to Jawa is uncharacteristic of the current fashion but early Elite league form suggests this isn't a detrimental move. If he can keep that persisting wrist injury calm and have a accident free year there is no reason why Nicki won't be challenging for honours. A fantastic entertainer who the fans love to hate, a real character who breathes life into Speedway Grand Prix.
Has started the 2006 campaign in an absolutely outstanding fashion and will be determined to forge a route into the top eight this season. A Polish rider who has vast track craft and is very quick, Pepe is an experienced campaigner who could well spring a few surprises this year.
Richardson will be the first to admit he has to drastically improve his GP performances in 2006. Other than a creditable third spot at Bydgoszcz, 2005 was in general a rotten year for the former world under 21 Champion. In response Richardson has completely revamped his back room and pits set up and only his mentor John Davis remains on board this year. A new engine tuner in Switzerland, along with a set of new Polish mechanics, will hopefully allow Richardson to solely concentrate on his track performance. There is no doubt he is a very talented rider whose league scores continues to impress, but as yet the speedway world hasn't seen this form applied to the GP series.
In his final season as a professional speedway rider the six times world champion will want to exit with a bang. It is hard to see anyone stopping him, last season he was breathtakingly fast, so fast we wished he would miss the start and work for his points. His machinery will once again be top notch and his ambition higher than ever, we may be losing him to car racing, but rest assured, Rickardsson won't let that distract him from those title aspirations in 2006.
Matej is a phenomenal young talent who has a big role to play in shaping the future of world speedway. He oozes the kind of arrogance that only someone with his ability can, and anyone who has had the pleasure of watching him cruise around Reading will know what a special relationship he enjoys with a speedway machine. He is a rider, along with Janusz Kolidziej, which a majority of fans plumped for in their fantasy speedway teams this year. The youngster will be hopeful of a top six result in the first round of the series held in his own backyard at Krsko, it will however be interesting to monitor the progress of Matej at venues like Cardiff and Copenhagen. The Slovenian is fearless, quick, classy and has great bike control, he will undoubtedly figure largely in future years of Speedway Grand Prix. Whether he can make a significant impression this year is debatable, but he is guaranteed to serve up some excitement along the way.
This article was first published on 20th April 2006
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