Great Britain hero Tai Woffinden became the nation’s first ever triple world champion, and instantly set his sights on matching Ivan Mauger and Tony Rickardsson’s record haul of six.
The Scunthorpe-born ace didn’t just win the FIM Speedway World Championship; he topped the podium on the night in the Torun SGP of Poland, inflicting Artem Laguta’s sole loss of the night as the Russian racer stormed to 20 points – one short of a seven-ride maximum. Emil Sayfutdinov finished third with Niels-Kristian Iversen fourth.
Woffinden, who also took gold in 2013 and 2015, was elated to make history and surpass fellow countrymen Freddie Williams and Peter Craven’s brace of world titles.
But now he’s ready to race for even more history as he bids to become only the third rider to retain the sport’s biggest prize in the SGP era since 1995.
He said: “After I won my 2013 championship, we were sat in a room with Nicki (Pedersen), Crumpy (Jason Crump), Greg (Hancock) and (Chris) Holder. I mentioned that I wanted to break the six-time world champion record.
“They all kind of had a little laugh between them. But I’ve done it three times in six years and I will do it six times.”
Woffinden added: “They say the hardest thing is being world champion – it’s not. The hardest thing is being world champion the following year.
“When you have that target on your back, it’s tough. I’ve had a few cracks at trying to win it back to back and now I have a third time. Hopefully it is third time lucky. I’ll put the work in and make sure I can give it my best shot next year.”
Woffinden was keen to enjoy his moment after coming under huge pressure from Zmarzlik in the race for gold, with the Pole finishing just 10 points short in second spot.
He said: “I always say I don’t like to start the season well and that’s what I did this year. It’s always nice to be behind chasing. This year was the hardest year for me physically and mentally.
“I’m pretty strong in the head, but there were times when I kind of sat there thinking ‘wow man, this is tough.’ One hundred percent this was my hardest one to date.”
Woffinden dedicated his special moment to a former Wroclaw team mate. “I want to dedicate that win to Tomasz Jedrzejak,” he said. “He’s one of my really close friends who lost his life earlier in the season.
“A massive thanks to Daniel and Ryszard Kowalski; they have given me very fast engines all season. A massive thanks to all my sponsors, my family and my team. I am looking forward to next year.”
Zmarzlik was delighted with his second World Championship medal after following up bronze in 2016 with silver.
He said: “I have the second medal. It’s a different a colour – silver. I am very, very happy and I’m very happy because the start of the season in the GP was so very hard. It was a little bit unlucky for my team and with my setups.
“Afterwards was a little bit better and now I am second in the world. Second place is not so bad.
“Congratulations to Tai – it was a beautiful season all season for him. He scored very good points and congratulations to Freddie on the bronze medal.”
Swedish star Fredrik Lindgren finished third in the final standings to bag his first ever World Championship medal. It was the ideal way to bounce back after his 2017 season was ended by a spinal injury just over 12 months ago, which left him briefly bedbound and able to walk only short distances.
He said: “I am very proud of what I have achieved. I set up the goal before the season to get a medal and here I am with it around my neck, so it feels really good with the background I’ve had.
“I had a very serious injury last season and it was a very hard fight to come back and be ready for this season and be as good as I have been as well.
“I am very proud of that and hopefully I go into this winter injury-free and I can be better next year.”
Woffinden, Zmarzlik, Lindgren, Maciej Janowski, Greg Hancock, Artem Laguta, Jason Doyle and Emil Sayfutdinov all booked their places in the SGP 2019 series after finishing inside the FIM Speedway Grand Prix top eight.
They are joined by GP Challenge top trio Janusz Kolodziej, Niels-Kristian Iversen and Antonio Lindback, plus four wild cards to be confirmed.
FINAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Tai Woffinden 139, 2 Bartosz Zmarzlik 129, 3 Fredrik Lindgren 109, 4 Maciej Janowski 104, 5 Greg Hancock 102, 6 Artem Laguta 97, 7 Jason Doyle 93, 8 Emil Sayfutdinov 89, 9 Patryk Dudek 84, 10 Matej Zagar 79, 11 Nicki Pedersen 74, 12 Chris Holder 65, 13 Martin Vaculik 52, 14 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 36, 15 Niels-Kristian Iversen 36, 16 Craig Cook 30, 17 Vaclav Milik 11, 18 Szymon Wozniak 8, 19 Krzysztof Kasprzak 7, 20 Andreas Jonsson 7, 21 Peter Ljung 5, 22 Michael Jepsen Jensen 4, 23 Oliver Berntzon 3, 24 Kevin Wolbert 3, 25 Kai Huckenbeck 2, 26 Daniel Kaczmarek 2, 27 Maksym Drabik 2, 28 Bartosz Smektala 2, 29 Mikkel Michelsen 1, 30 Robert Lambert 1, 31 Joel Kling 1, 32 Martin Smolinski 1.
TORUN SGP OF POLAND SCORES:1 Tai Woffinden 15, 2 Artem Laguta 20, 3 Emil Sayfutdinov 11, 4 Niels-Kristian Iversen 10, 5 Bartosz Zmarzlik 15, 6 Fredrik Lindgren 11, 7 Greg Hancock 9, 8 Martin Vaculik 8, 9 Jason Doyle 7, 10 Nicki Pedersen 7, 11 Matej Zagar 6, 12 Maciej Janowski 6, 13 Chris Holder 5, 14 Vaclav Milik 5, 15 Daniel Kaczmarek 2, 16 Przemyslaw Pawlicki 1, 17 Igor Kopec-Sobczynski 0, 18 Dominik Kubera DNR.