Swedish star Fredrik Lindgren says the mental and physical test of recovering from spinal injuries has steeled him in his quest for top honours as he heads to Horsens on Saturday.
The FIM Speedway Grand Prix series leader lines up in the WD-40 Danish SGP with a one-point advantage over nearest rival Tai Woffinden at the top of the standings.
But with eight rounds to race, the likes of world No.2 Patryk Dudek and double Horsens winner Maciej Janowski, both on 24 points, will fancy their chances of closing the gap. Russia’s Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations winners Emil Sayfutdinov (23) and Artem Laguta (21) will also be keen to build on lifting their nation’s first world title in Wroclaw on June 9.
Triple world champion Nicki Pedersen and wild card Michael Jepsen Jensen will also be keen to make their mark for Denmark, with Pedersen seeking his first SGP win in his homeland and MJJ chasing a second after topping the podium at Vojens in 2012.
But they’ll have to get the better of Lindgren, who has been in the form of his life this year, despite a gruelling winter recovering from the badly broken vertebra that ended his 2017 season.
Fast Freddie has gone from being able to walk only short distances to leading the world title race after an incredible rehabilitation. The Orebro-born man admits his recovery is ongoing, but he believes the challenges he has faced have only made him stronger on the shale.
He said: “It was a tough winter. I think that helps me this year – having to go through a really tough time mentally.
“It’s still an ongoing work to keep me at a level where I’m comfortable. I feel a little bit of pain after meetings sometimes and I really have to do my exercises to stay sharp and get my body to feel okay all the time.
“I have physio treatment and my rehabilitation programme. I do that on a day-to-day basis to be able to race.”
Lindgren is something of an expert on tight and technical tracks after years of racing for Wolverhampton in the British leagues. He hopes one of the smallest circuits on the SGP calendar will play into his hands.
He said: “I’ve been there a few times now and we feel we know what to expect track-wise. We also need to be open if something changes with the surface.
“But I come here with a positive mindset and I feel very good. Horsens does create some different racing lines and when you have a track that’s open coming in and out of the turns, you can create some really good racing.
“I think these temporary tracks are a little bit smaller and more technical. I do have some help after riding in Britain for a lot of years. You need to have good control of your bike to be successful on these tracks. And I think I’m one of the most technical riders in the world.”
The stakes are high for all the riders in Horsens, not least Jepsen Jensen. While he may not be able to chase the World Championship as he makes a one-off appearance in his home event, he’s keen to impress the SGP Commission as he seeks one of the four wild-card berths in the 2019 series.
He said: “I just have to go out and grab as many points as possible and then we’ll see where that will bring me.
“To heighten my chances of a wild card for next year’s series, I have to go out and do something great.
“In all the meetings I’m doing, I have to score as many points as possible because as it is, I missed out on the qualifier for next year’s series (the GP Challenge). Now every meeting is important.”
MJJ finished third at the 2015 Danish SGP – the first staged in Horsens – and can’t wait to get another taste of the CASA Arena action.
He said: “I reckon the track is a good shape and the racing over the last few years has been quite good – it’s one of the most exciting meetings as well. There are normally some lines and some options to pass, so I’m looking forward to that for sure.
“It’s quite intense in Horsens with the spectators so close to the track, and of course you can hear them. It will help us Danes a lot to have the fans there and cheering us on.”
Fans heading to the CASA Arena can also enjoy live music, with rock band Big Fat Snake playing live at Forum next to the stadium after the SGP action comes to a close – and it’s free entry to their performance!
Tickets for the WD-40 Danish SGP are still available from the CASA Arena ticket office or online. Visit: http://bit.ly/2Lx4qui.
WD-40 DANISH SGP LINE-UP (in ranking order with rider numbers): 69 Jason Doyle, 692 Patryk Dudek, 108 Tai Woffinden, 71 Maciej Janowski, 95 Bartosz Zmarzlik, 89 Emil Sayfutdinov, 55 Matej Zagar, 66 Fredrik Lindgren, 54 Martin Vaculik, 23 Chris Holder, 45 Greg Hancock, 110 Nicki Pedersen, 59 Przemyslaw Pawlicki, 222 Artem Laguta, 111 Craig Cook, 16 Michael Jepsen Jensen, 17 Mikkel Michelsen, 18 Mikkel Bech Jensen.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Fredrik Lindgren 32, 2 Tai Woffinden 31, 3 Patryk Dudek 24, 4 Maciej Janowski 24, 5 Emil Sayfutdinov 23, 6 Artem Laguta 21, 7 Matej Zagar 16, 8 Chris Holder 15, 9 Greg Hancock 15, 10 Jason Doyle 14, 11 Bartosz Zmarzlik 13, 12 Nicki Pedersen 10, 13 Niels Kristian Iversen 9, 14 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 8, 15 Krzysztof Kasprzak 7, 16 Vaclav Milik 6, 17 Craig Cook 4, 18 Maksym Drabik 2, 19 Bartosz Smektala 2.