They were busy all last week. The weather gods. After all, they had to service Danish agriculture, horticulture, the gardens of the population and all the beautiful parks of the cities. Of course, it is about the environment, climate and biodiversity. In a speedway context, however, it looked bad in the days leading up to the opening race in Vojens. But when Nanna Gundersen sang the Danish national tune on Saturday, August 10 at 17.45, the weather gods took a few hours break, because now there was again racing at the legendary stadium.
By Ib Søby
Of course, Jacob Olsen and his excellent staff had been foresight and covered the pitch with tarpaulins Friday night. It was known that some showers would occur the night before the event that would mark Vojens Speedway Center's return.
Even on Saturday morning, there were some rainstorms, almost reminiscent of tropical weather in Singapore and the surrounding area. The sports jury with Swedish Krister Gardell, judge Artur Kurzmirz and the top executives from the promoter firm One Sport held their breath as at noon the track was unpacked to get ready for the mandatory training session. It succeeded without the big problems, and the riders who wanted it, tried a few laps on the fat race track, which Vojens is obviously.
Then came several black clouds and rain, while the VIP tent and Kærgården Lounge gradually filled up with business people, sponsors and other good people to eat, drink and warm up for the evening's event.
In the equestrian courtyard there was a mood of silence before the storm. The sporting storm. Everybody was leaning against the sky every now and then while convincing themselves and others that it would all go well. The large TV team, which was to produce live images and sound to the whole world, worked tirelessly and with great precision. "It's Vojens, we've tried it before," said technical coordinator Morten Durloo.
The rumors started to falter. The reigning European champion and grand prix sensation Leon Madsen might not get started. He is suffering from a discus prolapse and is due to be operated in October. But the night before, he had crashed in the Polish league with a bad scrub in the back and a leather foot. After all, many had hoped that Madsen would fly to Billund and greet fans, Danish press and support the club he himself signed up in early spring.
But the hard-pressed Madsen chose to stay in Gdynia and save on health before the next month's tasks - and of course the Danish World Cup Grand Prix on Saturday, September 7.
That, in turn, gave a golden chance to the first reserve, U21 national team captain Frederik Jakobsen, who scored seven great points with great cheer.
Speedway audience is a special crowd. They do not fight the weather gods, but meet faithfully wearing rubber boots, umbrella and raincoats. Many also with a camping chair so you could set up your own little VIP Zone on the slope with good views of both the course and the two big screens, which provided slow shots of the starters and any crashes.
The music pumped loose in a truly well-functioning speaker system, while the experienced speaker duo, Carsten Agerbæk and Jens Nim, began to entertain with interviews, facts and news. Country coach Hans Nielsen, Jacob Olsen, many drivers and former world champion Sam Ermolenko (now TV commentator) were interviewed, while mood and anticipation were slowly rising minute by minute to the start.
In the VIP lounge, there were speeches and features including. Nicki Pedersen and ice hockey coach Mario Simioni from SønderjyskE Elite Sport.
- Nicki, what does face off in ice hockey mean?
- Uhh. I do not know.
- Mario, what helmet color does starting gate four have?
- Hmmm, I'm not sure. Pink?
It was relaxing and fun, just as sponsor Ovethi - Dæk.dk - had a nice draw with great prizes.
There were still heavy showers.
An hour before the start, I met Jacob Olsen in his office. It was completely quiet and Jacob stood looking out the window. We had a short talk.
- Now you can take a deep breath and try to relax, I said low-key.
- Yes, now there is nothing we can do. Now it's up to the race management and the runners.
I understood well what emotions he was messing with. For the past seven months, he - along with Helge Frimodt Pedersen and Søren Steno - had knuckled like a beast to be ready for tonight. Both with the extensive renovation, all the sports and the recruitment of officials and all the volunteer staff who provided a formidable effort.
People were still coming in. Over six thousand, which was more than expected. The sausages sizzled in the stalls, where liters after liters of draft beer smoked across the counter. In the equestrian courtyard, the mechanics began to warm up the motorcycles, and in the brand new press lounge, the international press corps sat ready with program and computer.
The dice were thrown.
With the driver presentation and Nanna's song, the euphoria rose to new heights. Now it was showtime, and the very first heat of the new era was won by European champion Grigory Laguta, while wildcard driver Peter Kildemand was ruled out. Oh no, should Laguta - in Leon Madsen's absence - completely quit and remove the tension before the last European Cup in a month in Chrozow?
But then came Pedersen.
With great driving, as in his young days, he delighted the audience several times and showed that he was perhaps the man who should go all the way. Mikkel Michelsen and Michael Jepsen Jensen also made great heat victories, and the hopes of regular Danish success rose.
A terrible crash and a collision with Swedish Antonio Lindbäck in heat eight created a crunching feeling throughout the stadium. It's also part of the speedway, but it looked really bad. Later in the hospital it was found that he had been "released" with a broken collarbone.
With that reserve Andreas Lyager came on the field, and the mint sand if not the reigning Danish U21 champion also took points and two heat victories.
Everyone had almost forgotten everything about the weather in the great excitement. But since the national anthem no drops came, while the wind blew the clouds on towards Funen and Zealand.
By 20, it was clear that Nicki Pedersen and Mikkel Michelsen had scored enough points to reach the final. Now just the last chance heat was missing with Jepsen Jensen, Woryna, Smektala and Finnish Timo Läthi.
During endless cheer, Jepsen won Jensen, just as when he won the final of the Nordic World Grand Prix in 2012 ahead of Nicki. Kacpar Woryna took second place and was also ready for the final.
Nicki Pedersen has won everything in the world, but just not a big and important race on Danish soil.
It repeated on Saturday night.
In the final, Michelsen blew away in front of Woryna, while Nicki got a little 2012 revenge on Jepsen Jensen. The veteran took 3rd place, and referred Jepsen Jensen to the role of buck.
- Yes, I obviously should not win big races on Danish soil - at least not individual races, Nicki sighed afterwards. But he was happy with the podium and overall that Vojens is now functional again.
"It's so cool to drive here," Nicki said, thanking the crowd who had barely left the stadium before the weather gods again went to work and sent shower after shower with over Vojens.
Their break was over
For Mikkel Michelsen, Saturday night was his real international breakthrough. He is now the Giants favorite for a wildcard on Saturday, September 7, when the World Cup Grand Prix series leads the way.
That is precisely why it is so important to get Vojens back. It is the international mecca where young Danish drivers can dream of winning and gaining fame and glory. Mikkel Michelsen did this on Saturday, and many young Danes now dream of doing the same for years to come.
But, dear weather gods, please take a day off on Saturday, September 7.