This coming weekend, this year's Par World Cup finals - Speedway of Nations - will be run in Russian Togliatti. Denmark sets up with Grandprix stars Leon Madsen and Niels Kr. Iversen, as well as U21 driver Frederik Jakobsen. The goal is medals.
By Ib Søby
- With Iversen and Madsen on the team, we are in the strongest position, and at the same time they both have a good feeling for couple-driving. It is a bit different than normal speedway races. Here it is about finding each other and having a precise strategy for each and every heat, depending on the starting gate you have, says coach Hans Nielsen, before the long journey to Samara province, about 900 km east of the Russian capital Moscow.
- Leon Madsen has really evolved, and bubbles of excess and drive. It's impressive how well he's done in both the Grandprix series and the SEC, even on small lanes that aren't exactly his favorites. Niels Kr. Iversen has struggled to find the final percentages, but as a quadruple team champion, we know he can deliver top results when it comes to seriousness. With Frederik Jakobsen as our U21 driver - who must run at least a single heat - I really feel that Denmark will be competing for the medals on Saturday and Sunday, declares the national coach, who has won seven full World Cup titles for Denmark himself.
Hans Nielsen sees the reigning pair-world champions Russia, with Emil Sautfudinov, Artem Laguta and Cleb Chuganov, as the Danes' toughest rivals, together Poland and Australia.
The Speedway of Nations final will be played over two evenings at the big Anatoly Stephanov stadium in Togliatti. Everybody runs against everyone both Saturday and Sunday night, and all points scored count in the accounts, which ends with the highest-scoring nation qualifying directly for the grand final heat, while numbers two and three run an extra heat for a place in the finals.
Both races start at 5pm, Danish time, and on Sunday around 8pm we know the final result. The Speedway of Nations was introduced last year to replace the traditional team world championship, and here Russia won ahead of Britain while the Poles took bronze, and the Danes - with Michael Jepsen Jensen, Kenneth Bjerre and Frederik Jakobsen - shared 4th place with Australia.
Golf in Gdansk
The Danish squad is already gathering on Wednesday in Polish Gdansk, where Leon Madsen is based. The day is spent on fun and mental charging in the form of a walk on the golf course, before the team, together evening, fly to Warsaw and spend the night near the airport.
Thursday morning is the long flight to Samara, where the team camps at the Park Hotel in Togliatti, located on the Volga River, and quite close to Anatoly Stephanov Stadium. All motorcycles and gear are already transported to Togliatti.
- It is connected to a lot of logistics and paperwork, to go to Togliatti, but together with NERI we have been early and managed to travel and stay, so we minimize hassle and Russian bureaucracy, says Hans Nielsen, pointing to it detail that the Danish squad is picked up at the airport and driven directly to the hotel.
The Russian car city
Stavropol -on- Volga was founded in 1737 around a fort by the river, but in 1964 the city was named after the Italian politician and communist Palmiro Togliatti. The area is especially known for the production of Lada cars, and the Lada factories are also the main sponsor of a number of the city's sports clubs, such as football, handball, ice hockey and basketball.
The city, which has over 700,000 inhabitants, has previously had a scary reputation for major corruption and many mafia related murders. The current mayor, Sergey Andreyev, however, has been able to rectify something of past lawlessness, and the city appears with large green parks and beautiful monuments. Togliatti is still a car town, but also has many educational institutions, shipyards and numerous industrial companies.
Anatoly Stepanov Stadium is from the late 50s, and also known as an important stadium for ice speedway with 353 meters. Following a major renovation in 2005, it is the best-functioning speedway stadium in Russia, also running in Vladivostok, Balakovo and Oktybrasky.
When the Russians won the Speedway of Nations last year, it was the nation's first official FIM gold medal in senior management. In the Soviet era, several times silver and bronze were achieved in team context, while Ufa legend Igor Plechanov individually took the World Cup silver in both 1964 and 1965. Emil Saytfudinov won the U21 World Cup in 2007 and 2008, just as the Russian U21 national team won the World Cup in 2011 in front of Denmark in Balakovo.
The 2019 Speedway Of Nations field
RUSSIA: 1 Emil Sayfutdinov (c), 2 Artem Laguta, 3 Gleb Chugunov (U21). Reserve: Grigory Laguta, Roman Lakhbaum (U21). Team Manager: Igor Dmitriev.
SWEDEN: 1 Fredrik Lindgren (c), 2 Peter Ljung, 3 Filip Hjelmland (U21). Reserve: Antonio Lindbäck, Alexander Woentin (U21). Team Manager: Morgan Andersson.
POLAND: 1 Maciej Janowski (c), 2 Bartosz Zmarzlik, 3 Maxim Drabik (U21). Reserve: Patryk Dudek, Bartosz Smektala (U21). Team Manager: Marek Cieslak.
GERMANY: 1 Erik Riss, 2 Kai Huckenbeck (c), 3 Lukas Fienhage (U21). Reserve: Martin Smolinski, Michael Hartel. Team Manager: Herbert Rudolph.
UNITED KINGDOM: 1 Craig Cook (c), 2 Chris Harris, 3 Robert Lambert (U21). Reserve: Dan Bewley (U21). Team Manager: Alun Rossiter.
AUSTRALIA: 1 Jason Doyle (c), 2 Max Fricke, 3 Jaimon Lidsey (U21). Reserves: Chris Holder, Jordan Stewart (U21). Team Manager: Mark Lemon.
DENMARK: 1 Leon Madsen, 2 Niels-Kristian Iversen (c), 3 Frederik Jakobsen (U21). Reserve: Michael Jepsen Jensen, Patrick Hansen. Team Manager: Hans Nielsen.
Result of Speedway of Nations 2018, Wroclaw Poland:
Emil Saytfudinov, Aretm Laguta, Cleb Chuganov.
2. United Kingdom
Tai Woffinden, Robert Lambert, Craig Cook.
Maceij Janowski, Partyk Dudek, Maxim Drabik.
The Par World Cup was run from 1970 to 1993 and Denmark has won gold eight times. The most winning pair-world champion is the current country coach Hans Nielsen with seven titles. Erik Gundersen reached five, while Jan O. Pedersen won twice. Ole Olsen and Tommy Knudsen each achieved a pair of titles.