With World Cup silver as the biggest Danish surprise of the year in speedway, the 1000 meter specialist Kenneth Hansen is ready to fight for gold next season. He will also arouse interest in this classic discipline, where Kurt W. Petersen, Ole Olsen and Erik Gundersen have won great triumphs.
By Ib Søby
On Sunday 27 September, a piece of Danish speedway history was written in Polish Rzeszow, which had deserved far more attention in the Danish media in the days that followed.
The 33-year-old North Zealander Kenneth Hansen won the second and final division of this year's Grand Prix series in the 1000 meter long distance, and scored World Cup silver in the overall standings. It was the first time in 29 years that Denmark won a World Cup medal in this speedway discipline, which years ago had a much greater attention in the consciousness of Danish speedway fans.
After a number of major years and as the crowd magnet on trotting tracks in Aalborg, Skive and Copenhagen's Charlottenlund, the 1000 meter long track slowly disappeared from the Danish speedway environment after Jan O. Pedersen's World Cup bronze in 1991. 1000 meters was considered a German specialty, although this raw and breathtaking discipline with bigger and longer motorcycles and gears, still attracts over 15,000 spectators not only in Germany but also in Holland and Belgium, in a number of Eastern European countries and in particular in France.
Back in 2003, Kenneth Hansen won the youth world championship, YGT, and began a long speedway career in the Danish league for Slangerup, alongside contracts in Sweden, England and Poland. But on the sidelines stood a speedway legend with an idea.
- A couple of years ago, Erik Gundersen started to prick me if I could not be interested in 1000 meters. He thought that my riding style and way of starting suited the longer motorcycles well. I'm a type who likes to jerk a little backwards in the start second, and it can sometimes be problematic on a normal speedway machine, whereas this jerk with the body can be an advantage on the 1000 meter motorcycle, Kenneth Hansen explains, and adds that the start is still a crucial moment.
After some deliberation and a realization that his career might need a new boost, Kenneth Hansen began to look at the 1000-meter discipline.
- I was very surprised at how big the sport is beyond Germany, and started to set myself some goals, says Kenneth Hansen.
At the same time as speedway life, Kenneth Hansen studied at Copenhagen Business School, and today works in a leading position for the Copenhagen Vognmandsfirma E. Trasborg A / S.
The company's CEO is Kurt Trasborg Hansen, who is a former professional speedway driver and one of the country's most significant speedway patrons.
Without support from Trasborg, it would not have been possible to throw over 1000 meters. It requires new motorcycles and equipment, so we made a sensible action plan, where also Erik Gundersen and tuner Brian Karger have been important pieces, says Kenneth Hansen.
In 2019, he began his new career in the 1000 meters, while still driving regular speedway.
- We had expected to be in the top three during 2022 or 2023, and therefore it is wild that it turned into World Cup silver in my second year. But I want to point out that I have never worked so hard with my physical shape before, and that is perhaps one of the explanations for the success.
The only 21-year-old German Lukas Feinhage became world champion ahead of Kenneth Hansen, but it did not come as a surprise to the Dane.
- No, Lukas is a really good driver. A purebred 1000 meter specialist and he also has the former German world champion Robert Barth in his team.
Kenneth Hansen imagines that the 1000 meter long-distance speedway may well flourish in Denmark in the coming years.
- We had plans for a race on the trotting track in Aalborg before the corona pandemic turned upside down all over the world, and there are also contacts to Bjæverskov and Charlottenlund, so now we just have to see how things develop in 2021. It is also a fact that the international motor union FIM would very much like to see a Danish Grand Prix division in 1000 meters, and I believe that more Danish drivers can go and get a taste for this part of the speedway sport, says Kenneth Hansen.
Recently, an open Danish championship was run on the Skovby track at Haderslev where Hansen won ahead of Jacob Bukhave and Jacob Nymark.
- I hope for about forty 1000 meter races and a lot of speedway matches in 2021, just as I spend a lot of time coaching young speedway drivers and passing on some of my experience, says the World Cup silver winner, who has some speedway freedom with his employer.
- Yes, but in return I have to give it a go in other periods, and I like to do that, laughs Kenneth Hansen, who lives in Terslev south of Copenhagen with his British wife Joanna and their two boys Anakin and Enzo.
Here is Ib Søby's talk with WC silver winner Kenneth Hansen from DM in Vojens on Wednesday 30 September.
Watch FIM's official highlights video from the 1,000 meter long distance WC 2020:
Danish EC and WC medals in 1000. Meter long distance
From 1971 run as the official FIM world championship
1963: Silver, Malmö, Sweden, Kurt W. Petersen
1964: Gold, Schessel Germany, Kurt W. Petersen
1966: Silver, Mühldorf, Germany, Kurt W. Petersen
1968: Bronze, Mühldorf, Germany, Kurt W. Petersen
1969: Bronze, Oslo, Norway, Kurt W. Petersen
1973: Gold, Oslo, Norway, Ole Olsen
1975: Bronze, Radgona, Yugoslavia, Ole Olsen
1976: Silver, Marianske Lazne, Czechoslovakia, Ole Osen
1977: Bronze, Aalborg, Denmark, Ole Olsen
1979: Bronze, Marianske Lazne, Czechoslovakia, Ole Olsen
1984: Gold, Herxheim, Germany, Erik Gundersen
1986: Gold, Pfarrkirchen, Germany, Erik Gundersen
1991: Bronze, Marianske Lazne, Czech Republic, Jan O. Pedersen
2020: Silver, Grand Prix series, Kenneth Hansen