Great Britain skipper Craig Cook led his country into the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final and declared “we’re not going there to win a medal. We’re going to win.”
The Lions roared to victory in Event 1 at King’s Lynn on Saturday with 53 points to secure a place at the Final in Leszno next Saturday alongside hosts Poland, plus the Event 2 and Race Off winners.
Australia finished second on 44 and take their place in the Race Off, also at Leszno, on Friday. They’re joined by a plucky USA team, which defied the absence of four-time world champion Greg Hancock to finish third with 15 points, knocking the Czech Republic (13) into fourth place.
The night belonged to GB, and Cook sees no reason why the Lions can’t top the podium again in the Monster Energy SWC Final as they seek their first world title since 1989.
He said: “We’re not going there to win a medal. We’re going to win. What’s the point of looking to finish second? We just have to believe.
“Yes, the Poles are good. The Swedes are good, the Australians are good and the Danes are good. They’re all good; they’re all fantastic in fact. But that doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable. If you think ‘we’re up against the Poles, we’re not going to win’, you’re defeating the object.
“You have to forget about who you’re racing and concentrate on your thing. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. It’s irrelevant. You’re there to race the bike and I think that’s what has helped me this season.”
Cook led the charge on 14 points, with Robert Lambert, Steve Worrall and Chris Harris all weighing in with 13 apiece.
The Cumbrian believes the lightening start, which saw the Brits win the opening five races, put their rivals on the back foot.
He said: “We can all ride this King’s Lynn track really well. We hit them hard from the get-go and we were out there to prove a point and make a statement. That’s what we did. We set the tone for the whole meeting and kept it up.”
On a personal level, Cook is determined to make his mark against some of world speedway’s biggest stars in Poland in the Final.
He said: “I get to go to Poland and show the boys there what I’m all about. Let’s go out there and just enjoy it. I just want to go there, open a few people’s eyes and do well for GB.”
The last team to win the Monster Energy SWC after reaching the Final via the Race Off was Denmark in 2012. But with that meeting now staged just 24 hours before the Final, Aussie boss Mark Lemon believes his side has a tough task to lift the Ove Fundin Trophy.
He said: “I know it has been done, but now it’s back-to-back nights, it’s tough. People take for granted how much effort goes into these meetings. Whether you win or you lose, it takes it out of the boys. The Brits will go in there fresh. The Race Off isn’t a double-edged sword – it’s hideous.”
Reflecting on Event 1, Lemon paid tribute to the Brits, as well as skipper Chris Holder, who led the Roos’ challenge on 19 points.
He said: “The Brits rode great; you can’t deny them that. Chris had plenty of resilience, but one man can’t do it alone. The boys just didn’t fire on the track. The slick conditions kind of caught them out a little bit. Collectively, we struggled at the starts. But you have to adapt. They’re pro riders.”
American team manager Lance King hailed his USA heroes as they overcame a Czech team packed with far more experienced stars to earn their place in the Race Off, as well as qualification for the 2018 tournament.
He said: “This is obviously the first step. When we get to Leszno, we’re just going to do the best we can. But this shows the heart of these kids.
“We made a lot of mistakes out there. We had a lot of stuff go against us. But we still made it, so these kids should be so proud of themselves.”
EVENT 1 SCORES
GREAT BRITAIN 53: 1 Steve Worrall 13, 2 Craig Cook 14, 3 Chris Harris 13, 4 Robert Lambert 13, 5 Adam Ellis DNR.
AUSTRALIA 44: 1 Jason Doyle DNR, 2 Chris Holder 19, 3 Nick Morris 5, 4 Troy Batchelor 12, 5 Max Fricke 8.
USA 15: 1 Ricky Wells 3, 2 Gino Manzares 7, 3 Luke Becker 2, 4 Dillon Ruml 2, 5 Broc Nicol 1.
CZECH REPUBLIC 13: 1 Matej Kus 0, 2 Vaclav Milik 6, 3 Josef Franc 4, 4 Hynek Stichauer 3, 5 Eduard Krcmar 0.