Swedish skipper Freddie Lindgren is determined lead his country straight into the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup Final with victory in Vastervik on Tuesday night.
The three-time SWC winners take on Denmark, Russia and Latvia in Event 2 at the Stena Arena, with the winners joining reigning champions and hosts Poland and Event 1 victors Great Britain in the Monster Energy SWC Final at Polish track Leszno on Saturday.
The runners-up and third-placed nation face Australia and the USA in the Race Off, also at the Alfred Smoczyk Stadium, on Friday, where one remaining Final spot will be up for grabs.
Lindgren is joined in the Swedish side by new national champion Antonio Lindback, former world No.2 Andreas Jonsson, Linus Sundstrom and under-21 reserve Joel Kling.
And while he’s expecting a huge battle, Lindgren is keen to keep Sweden out of the cutthroat Race Off event and take the easier route into the Final.
He said: “We’re looking to go straight to the Final from Vastervik. That’s our goal. It will be hard. Denmark have such a great tradition with the World Cup and Russia have plenty of good riders. It’s going to be a tough challenge.
“I think my form has been pretty good all year. Anton looks like he’s picking up at the right time for the World Cup.
“It’s about performing on the day. Vastervik is a track we all enjoy riding. There are plenty of racing lines there. We’ll be focused, make sure we have everything prepared 100 percent so that we can go out there and do the job on the track.”
Danish racer Kenneth Bjerre hopes his side can bounce back from missing out on last year’s Final as he joins skipper Niels-Kristian Iversen, Leon Madsen, Michael Jepsen Jensen and reserve Frederik Jakobsen in racing to secure their passage to Leszno.
He said: “This time of the year, Denmark are used to being on top. Last season we had a bit of a bad one, so there’s big pressure coming up. We can’t do what happened last year.
“Vastervik is first. It’s a tough one with Sweden at home. We never know how the Russians will do. We simply have to go and win in Vastervik.
“We all just have to perform on the day. If we do that, then I am sure we will go through. But Sweden are Sweden and a home crowd always helps. We just have to do our job and hopefully everyone will have a good day.”
Russian ace Emil Sayfutdinov teams up with Grigorii Laguta, plus young guns Andrei Kudriashov, Vadim Tarasenko and under-21 reserve Gleb Chugunov. He admits racing on the world stage in Vastervik will be a fantastic experience for a youthful side.
He said: “We are looking forward to it. Kudriashov rode last year, but for Vadim and Gleb, it will be a new and a good experience. I’m happy about that and we’ll see what happens. We’ll try to do something and I hope we can get to Leszno for the Final.”
Qualifying round winners Latvia complete the line-up, with skipper Andzejs Lebedevs joined by Maksims Bogdanovs, Kasts Puodzuks and Jevgenijs Kostigovs.
Tickets for Event 2 are still available online. Visit: http://bit.ly/2rNPzpj.
Sweden (Red): 1 Fredrik Lindgren ©, 2 Antonio Lindback, 3 Andreas Jonsson, 4 Linus Sundstrom, 5 Joel Kling (U21).
Latvia (Blue): 1 Andzejs Lebedevs ©, 2 Maksims Bogdanovs, 3 Jevgenijs Kostigovs, 4 Kasts Puodzuks, 5 No Rider (U21).
Denmark (White): 1 Kenneth Bjerre, 2 Leon Madsen, 3 Michael Jepsen Jensen, 4 Niels-Kristian Iversen ©, 5 Frederik Jakobsen (U21).
Russia (Yellow): 1 Emil Sayfutdinov ©, 2 Grigorii Laguta, 3 Vadim Tarasenko, 4 Andrei Kudriashov, 5 Gleb Chugunov (U21).