On Saturday, the match for this year's individual world championship starts with the Croatian Grand Prix. Polish Bartosz Zmarzlik is the BIG favorite to take home his 3rd World Cup title, while the world champion and bronze winner from last year is excluded because they were born in Russia.
By Ib Søby
What is the similarity between the species Laguta and the 1938 world champion Bluey Wilkinson.
Yes. They are both unable to defend their World Cup title due to war.
Wilkinson because the Nazis invaded Poland shortly before the World Cup final in 1939, and Laguta, along with her compatriot and three-time World Cup bronze winner Emil Saytfudinov, were thrown out of this year's World Cup series because the leaders of their country have decided to attack Ukraine.
With the two Russians out, international bookmakers' odds on 27-year-old Bartosz Zmarzlik have dropped dramatically. You only get your money back 1.90 times if Zmarzlik tops the overall World Cup podium in the autumn.
Number two and three on this ranking are Maciej Janowski and Leon Madsen who give 8.50 again.
So big favorite is Zmarzlik, and you have to go back to Tony Rickardsson's heyday to find something similar before the start of the season.
The weaver and smart driver from Szczecin is simply the hottest on the planet Dirt Track phenomenon in these years, although his 2020 World Cup title should be seen in the light of a corona-plagued season with six divisions in Poland and two in Prague.
With Laguta out, there is also the rarity that there are only three former world champions in this year's field. Zmarzlik, Australian Jason Doyle and England's only triple world champion Tai Woffinden. It says something about the fact that we are slowly embarking on a new generational change.
Personally, I do not think that Jason Doyle has more titles in him, while "veterans" like Woffinden, Swedish Frederik Lindgren, Polish Maciej Janowski, and Danish Leon Madsen are probably the ones who can best put Zmarzlik under pressure.
On the other hand, the vast majority in the field can win Grand Prix races on a good night, so therefore stability and a high bottom level are, as usual, the decisive factor in a month-long World Cup campaign.
With three Danes in this year's World Cup field, it is obvious that Leon Madsen, Anders Thomsen and Mikkel Michelsen will push each other to Danish success in 2022.
But when you look at the list of participants, it also turns out that there are four Polish drivers, three Englishmen and three Australians, who will also fight hard against each other to be the best for just their own nation.
At first glance, Leon Madsen may seem to continue the recent seasons as the best Dane, but both Mikkel Michelsen and Anders Thomsen now know that a Grand Prix weekend requires an extra step up - and especially European champion Michelsen may threaten Madsen's position, while we still lack a little more Grand Prix stability from Anders Thomsen.
But if they get off to a good start in the first Grand Prix races in Croatia and Warsaw, Danish fans can look forward to a joyful season with several finals and podium places ahead of the Danish World Cup division in Vojens, Saturday 10 September.
All fifteen riders dream of a good start and a final place on Saturday in Gorican, but there are only four final places and three podium places available, and therefore there is also room for many disappointments, already at this year's first World Cup Grand Prix.
It is not certain we know who will be the overall world champion when the Croatian Grand Prix is over, but we know the names of several riders such as does not becomes.
2022 FIM SPEEDWAY GP LINE-UP:
95. Bartosz Zmarzlik, Poland
71. Maciej Janowski, Poland
66. Fredrik Lindgren, Sweden
108. Tai Woffinden, England
30. Leon Madsen, Denmark
46. Max Fricke, Australia
69. Jason Doyle, Australia
505. Robert Lambert, England
105. Anders Thomsen, Denmark
54. Martin Vaculik, Slovakia
323. Pawel Przedpelski, Poland
155. Mikkel Michelsen, Denmark
692. Patryk Dudek, Poland
25. Jack Holder, Australia
99. Dan Bewley, England
Wild Card - in Croatia, Matej Zagar, Slovenia