The reigning British World Champion Tai Woffinden, is looking for an injury, losing Saturday's showdown in the Czech capital. Thus, the Woffinden's overall World Cup chances are greatly diminished. In the past 15 years, it has been 9 times that the winner in Prague also becomes the world champion.
By Ib Søby
Of course, statistics can be bent and interpreted at will and position. Just ask a politician, during an election campaign.
But there is now something about Prague and the World Cup ghost.
Saturday's show at the Marketa Stadium in the Brevnov district is the 23rd World Cup Grand Prix in Prague and, apart from 1999, 2006 and 2012, the later World Champion has always been in the final in Prague.
This peculiar fact now does not get Danish Niels Kr. Iversen to fall asleep up to this year's 3rd World Cup.
- I don't believe in diviners and theses about who will become world champions if they win on certain courses. I'm going to Prague with a focus on having a good race. If I get on the podium or win it will be great. There are many points to drive for, and I have to build on the 21 I have right now, says Niels Kr. Iversen to UK speedwaygp.com
Last year, Swedish Frederik Lindgren triumphed in front of Dudek, Saytfudinov and Woffinden, while Doyle won in 2017 ahead of Hancock, Milik and Dudek.
A good bet on Saturday could thus be Polish Patryk Dudek who, as seen, has the last two Prague finals in the account.
The 353 meter long track is a real racing track where, through the ages, there have been raw types with lots of speed in the machines that have drawn the longest straw. Drivers such as Tony Rickardsson, Jason Crump, Nicki Pedersen, Tomasz Gollob, and most recently Doyle and Woffinden.
Are Leon Madsen and Niels Kr. Iversen not also a little a la that type?
Sure, but they are not alone in the term in the current field. Again Dudek, or maybe Saytfudinov - who made his big breakthrough in Prague ten years ago. But with the Woffinden out of the picture, only Saytfudinov, Lindgren and Doyle know the top podium at the Marketa Stadium.
Personally, I doubt one of the three can do it on Saturday, but more inclined to the impression that we will see a winner who has not won the Czech Grand Prix before.
It had to be a Dane.
And if not, so much like both Madsen and Iversen in the final.
You know why - even if Iversen doesn't believe in diviners!
Having said all the sports, Prague is just a fantastic grandprix city. Here you can really combine a breathtaking speedway experience in a cool stadium, overlooking the golden city - and where there is never quite a crowd with audiences - with good Czech beer, cultural experiences and music in the old town. A beautiful metropolis emanating from a hard communist past and a golden future. A city where, for example, President Vaclav Havel played music at the La Reduta jazz bar, with his American colleague Bill Clinton and their mutual friend Frank Zappa.
A city where a Sunday trip on the River Moldau is always an experience.
If you are a bit polite and smiling, and do not tease the Czechs with their recent and seventh - annoying - 4th place at the Ice Hockey World Cup, the citizens of Prague are very welcoming and open. They also know what the speedway is, so you can easily talk about it over a well-stocked mug of Staropramen beer.
It is strange that the Czechs have not won more in the speedway context, because they have always had many good riders, fine stadiums, Jawa motorcycles, and the sport's oldest classic The Golden Helmet, which is now run every fall in Pardubice.
Twice - 1963 and 1999 - the Czechs have been silver winners in the World Cup, while great individual results have never been achieved, despite class riders such as Vaclav Verner, Lubos Tomicek, Jiri Stancl, Peter Ondrasik, Anton Kasper, and brothers Lukas and Ales Dryml.
Saturday's wildcard is again given to Vaclav Milik. You should also keep a close watch on him. He was number three in 2017 and thus knows the way to the podium at Marketa Stadium.
Judge is British Craig Ackroyd.
World Cup position:
1 Bartosz Zmarzlik, Poland, 28
2 Patryk Dudek, Poland, 28
3 Leon Madsen, Denmark, 26
4 Martin Vaculik, Slovakia, 24
5 Niels Kr. Iversen, Denmark, 21
6 Frederik Lindgren, Sweden, 20
7 Emil Saytfudinov, Russia, 19
8 Tai Woffinden, England, 15
9 Robert Lambert, England, 15 reserve for Greg Hancock
10 Artem Laguta, Russia, 13
11 Matej Zagar, Slovenia, 13
12 Antonio Lindbäck, Sweden, 13
13 Jason Doyle, Australia, 11
14 Janusz Kolodziej, Poland, 11
15 Bartosz Smektala, Poland, 10
16 Maciej Janowski, Poland 4