Russian racers Artem Laguta and Emil Sayfutdinov head to Wroclaw with history in their sights after winning Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations Race Off 1 in Teterow on Saturday.
The FIM Speedway Grand Prix duo lived up to their pre-meeting favourites tag by topping the scorechart on 25 points.
They join runners-up Germany (20) and third-placed Denmark, who saw off Slovenia in the final knock-out heat, in earning a place in the Finals at Wroclaw’s Olympic Stadium on Friday and Saturday.
It’s a track Laguta enjoys riding and he scored 12 points there for Grudziadz in the PGE Ekstraliga last Sunday. So he can’t wait to go back and race to become one of the first Russians to win a world senior speedway title of any kind – individual or team.
He said: “For sure there’s the chance – and the other teams have a chance as well. Everybody will go there to win it. We’ll try and get the points on both days, count them at the end and see if it’s good enough or not.
“Wroclaw is a good racing track, especially since they built the new stadium there. They changed the material, which is very good. But I have always loved racing there.
“I went there a week ago for a league meeting and I scored good points. I would like all the fans to make a fantastic atmosphere there for all the countries. It will be a fantastic show and I am looking forward to it.”
Laguta was one of the night’s most consistent stars, dropping just two points to finish on 16 – a figure matched only by the USA’s four-time world champion Greg Hancock – while Sayfutdinov notched nine. The in-form BOLL Warsaw SGP finalist was delighted with his side’s performance.
Laguta added: “We got a good setup and it was my first time in Teterow. We’ve been working hard to get a proper setup that worked well. We enjoyed the night and the main thing is we’re now going into the Final.
“We were scoring points in every race and for the last one, we knew we were going to be in the Finals, but we didn’t give up. We wanted to win our last one as well.”
Sayfutdinov says his side didn’t worry about their favourites tag and just focused on piling up the points.
He said: “To be honest, we didn’t have any pressure. We just thought about our points and tried to do our work best.
“It was a tough meeting because the track changed in every heat. We tried to find some good speed and change our setups. My team worked really well and we are happy with today. Now we are focused and concentrating on the Finals.
“We are really looking forward to Wroclaw. For sure, we will try to win there and make history. But the Finals will be more difficult than today – we have two Finals. It will be hard.”
German ace Martin Smolinski says teamwork was crucial as his side reached their first world team final since the turn of the millennium.
He said: “We looked very good together as a team. We know each other quite well and we have a very good team spirit. I think we showed that team spirit out there and we also had the fans’ spirit with us.
“We worked very well together and looked for each other quite well. We had some good 5-1s and I nearly beat the man, Mr Hancock in heat 15. He was nearly unbeatable today! We just couldn’t hold on for the 5-1.
“But it was still a very nice meeting and it’s very good for German speedway that we’re back in the main event. It shows the high level we’re at.”
Despite grabbing the final qualification place, Danish star Michael Jepsen Jensen admits it was a frustrating night for his side as they fell short of the automatic qualification places. But he’s determined to make up for it in Wroclaw.
He said: “I reckon we’re still a little bit disappointed. But we qualified and that was the main thing. Wroclaw is a completely different meeting, so we just have to go for it.
“We are both feeling good. I missed a few starts today and that was a big reason why our points weren’t better. But we will be better in Wroclaw.”
The next leg of the Monster Energy SON is Race Off 2 at Manchester’s National Speedway Stadium on Tuesday, featuring Great Britain, Sweden, Australia, Czech Republic, France, Italy and Finland.
MONSTER ENERGY SON RACE OFF 1 SCORES
1 Russia 25: Artem Laguta 16, Emil Sayfutdinov 9, Gleb Chugunov DNR.
2 Germany 20: Kai Huckenbeck 11, Martin Smolinski 9, Michael Hartel DNR.
3 Denmark 18: Michael Jepsen Jensen 10, Kenneth Bjerre 8, Frederik Jakobsen DNR.
4 Slovenia 17: Matej Zagar 14, Matic Ivacic 2, Nick Skorja 1.
5 USA 17: Greg Hancock 16, Gino Manzares 1.
6 Ukraine 15: Andriy Karpov 7, Aleksandr Loktaev 8.
7 Latvia 14: Andzejs Lebedevs 8, Kasts Puodzuks 6, Ojegs Mihailovs DNR.