Grand Prix speedway returned to the magnificent Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden, after a four-year absence on Saturday and over 20,000 fans there witnessed one of the most memorable nights in the competition’s history.
Rune Holta, born in Norway but now riding under the flag of Poland, duly won the FIM Sapa Swedish Grand Prix, his first victory in 50 attempts, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of a meeting than over-ran by almost an hour.
Referee Tony Steele, who has officiated at more Grands Prix than anyone, admitted that he could not remember a more incident packed event which saw two riders taken to hospital and with so many raceshaving to be stopped and rerun.
The track, which had been perfect for Friday’s practice, did cause problems to some riders but Sweden’s home grown star, Fredrick Lindgren, simply breezed through the qualifying stages, unbeaten in five rides.
Eventually, after also winning his semi-final, passing pre-meeting favourite Leigh Adams, who had won in Poland two weeks before, in the process, Lindgren was headed home in the final by Holta who made a terrific start round the outside.
Defending World Champion Nicki Pedersen was also passed by Holta, taking third spot overall. He hasn’t won any of this year’s three GPs but has made the rostrum in each and again leads the championship table.
Said Pedersen: “Consistency is the key. I know that if I can keep reaching finals I will be there or thereabouts but, of course, I want to win.”
The next round is in Denmark, Pedersen’s home country of course, and his sights are firmly set on that one.
Holta was naturally ecstatic. For so long a journeyman Grand Prix rider, he has always had the potential to be a winner and on this night he took every opportunity that came his way and made the most of it.
“Three different riders have won this year,” said Holta, “and that says it all about the Grand Prix. Anyone can win. I have been last and now I am a winner.”
The added bonus for Holta was that the FIM Sapa Swedish Grand Prix was also the first of this season’s Super Prix, which will determine the four riders to chase a prize pot of $200,000 in Germany later this year.
Holta has now not only assured himself of a place in that race but also the red, and number one, gate position.
“It is great to have done that,” added Holta, “and now I can concentrate on doing well in the rest of the season.”
For Lindgren, who quietly went about his business, it was an almost flawless display. Had the track not been watered before the final, which made the inside lines difficult, he might have withstood Holta’s charge round the outside. But he was delighted with his night’s work. “Six wins and a second isn’t bad is it?” he said.
Australia’s Jason Crump, at times looking almost back to his best, came fourth. But for many the night was not only long but also painful.
Sweden’s top rider, Andreas Jonsson, was involved in a fearful looking crash after hitting the back wheel of Poland’s Tomasz Gollob while both were at full speed. Jonsson was eventually stretchered from the track and taken to hospital. An update on his injuries will be issued later.
Denmark’s Niels Kristian Iversen dislocated a shoulder, and also went to hospital, while his fellow countryman Hans Andersen returned to action after a heavy fall that injured his right arm and wrist.
FIM Sapa Swedish Grand Prix:
Rune Holta (Poland) 17, Fredrik Lindgren (Sweden) 22, Nicki Pedersen (Denmark) 16, Jason Crump (Australia) 12, Leigh Adams (Australia) 9, Tomasz Gollob (Poland) 8, Hans Andersen (Denmark) 8. Andreas Jonsson (Sweden) 8, Jonas Davidsson (Sweden) 7, Scott Nicholls (Great Britain) 7, Greg Hancock (USA) 6, Krzysztof Kasprzak (Poland) 5, Lubos Tomicek (Czech Republic) 5. Chris Harris (Great Britain) 5, Lukas Dryml (Czech Republic) 3, Niels Kristian Iversen (Denmark) 2.
Nicki Pedersen 49, Tomasz Gollob 39, Fredrik Lindgren 36, Leigh Adams 34, Greg Hancock 34, Jason Crump 30, Andreas Jonsson 29, Hans Andersen 28, Rune Holta 26, Niels-Kristian Iversen 20, Chris Harris 17, Scott Nicholls 16, Jarek Hampel 16, Lukas Dryml 14, Krzysztof Kasprzak 14, Lubos Tomicek 8, Jonas Davidsson 7, Matej Zagar 7, Bjarne Pedersen 4, Billy Forsberg 2, Sebastian Alden 0.