The Class of 2018 - The 2018 Speedway GP Riders.

Grand Prix Riders 2018-:

#69 Jason Doyle - Australia (Defending Champion)

Current World Champion and would have won in 2016 too but for serious injury in penultimate round. A rider who blossomed in his mid 20's and towards his early 30's; from a solid scorer in to a major World Class talent. Has done the hard miles around UK and Europe to get where he is. No one works harder, no one better prepared and fully deserves his World Champion status. As World Champion though he will have a "target on his back" (the one to beat). Likely to be very competitive all season and won't give the crown up without a massive fight! 

#692 Patryk Dudek - Poland

One of a new breed of exciting and committed Polish riders whose dad was a more than decent rider in his day. Dudek embodies all that is outstanding about the modern Polish generation whose father figure was and still is the legendary Tomasz Gollob.  Dudek had a fantastic run last season in his first full season in GP series; stunning to watch when "on song" and likely to be a massive player again. My only niggle is "is he too much of a racer"?; this series is about "points accumulation" and on occasions; the bigger picture can be 2 points guaranteed in a race is better than taking unnecessary risks.   

#108 Tai Woffinden - United Kingdom

Already a twice World Champion; and I just sense more settled now than at any time in his career, both on track and off. His much publicised "ostracisation" from the UK Speedway Team has been ended now that the more professional set up he asked for has been put in place; being delivered. A mercurial talent, his consistency over the past 4-5 years in GP series stands comparison with anyone. Has the ability to win any race in any round on any day, settled and focussed, it would be no surprise to see him win the Title again. Although he does not ride League Speedway in the UK; he is based in UK and spending a lot of time supporting the "No Limits" programme to develop a Group of Speedway Riders aged 15-17 to help bring UK up to same level as State and Sport sponsored programmes in Poland and Scandinavia. A fantastic initiative which SP2A is proud to support in a small way.

#71 Maciej Janowski - Poland

On his day breathtaking and unstoppable. The problem for "magic" is that in a Series where points accumulation is vital, his "off days" are too frequent and too poor. He will win Rounds and accumulate 15-18 points in the process, sadly, to date, too many 4-5 point weekends have appeared. if he can maintain his excellence on key nights and just turn the 3-4's in to 8-9's on the les good nights; he could be a genuine dark horse for the Title. Like all of the Polish and Eastern European boys, he has the skill (and it is an incredible skill) to let the bike "run in the turn" basically not fighting the bike and trying to turn too sharply, but keeping his wheels inline, to get maximum drive and grip. Effectively riding 2 long straights and 2 short straights (the corners), on song and in form, a joy to watch. 

#95 Bartosz Zmarzlik - Poland

Another outstanding Polish talent, can very much be rated in the same league as his compatriots and possibly long term the best of the Poles in my humble opinion. Will have learned much last season and likely to be top 8 again this series and a genuine dark horse having experienced all of the Venues. I suppose that if there is one "Achilles heel" to the Polish boys it is "they are racers"; put them in a Team in World Cup and they work together brilliantly, put them in individual races and .no quarter asked or given. There have been occasions in the past when some Nations dominated (USA / Sweden / Denmark etc) when you felt if one was doing well the others later in the meeting would ride "tactically" to support them, not the Poles, racers to the core and all the better for it.  

#89 Emil Sayfutdinov - Russia

Burst on to the scene around 7-8 years ago and looked a sure future World Champion. Rode in the UK for a spell and made many friends. A genuine natural talent and great to watch when "On song". He did not compete in GP Series for a few years of his own accord. Whether that was his choice or his sponsors choice; I don't know, but you can't just "step off" a merry go round this competitive and step back on. last year was tougher than I suspect he envisaged, but he retains the ability to win meetings and to be top 3-4 at the end of the year, I do wonder if his biggest enemy is his own drive and determination?

#55 Matej Zagar - Slovenia

As someone who actually rode a speedway bike (albeit it at a lowly level in late 70's / early 80's) this guy is one of my favourites in terms of style. The bikes and tracks and safety features have changed dramatically since my day (something we will focus on in the coming weeks as some ex-riders will be doing articles for us); but Zagar reminds me a lot of Michael Lee. Quite tall for a Speedway rider he is so smooth on a bike; almost as if he is part of the bike at times. He can be outstanding and generate fantastic speed, when he gets his set up spot on. He is a "tipsters / betting dream" as he won't ever be one of the favourites, but always likely to "pop up" at the right price on his night - I think he will win a GP round, I think he will make the top 8 again, as for top3 = not quite. 

#66 Frederik Lindgren - Sweden

It is staggering, given the history of Speedway from Fundin to Michanek to Rikardsson that Fast Freddie is the only Swedish Rider fully qualified for the 2018 Series. He has been a GP Regular for several years and progressively improved. An engine switch 2 years ago paid dividends, although he seems to have now switched back from the Gerhard Engine back on to something more standard (we will do a feature on Engines and Bikes in the coming weeks). He was bang in contention last year and would have been on the podium but for a bad neck/back injury, that required him to lie flat on his back in the Autumn for 10 weeks. A stalwart of the Wolverhampton side in the UK for many years he is focussing on Swedish and Polish Leagues this year, and I actually think that may help him. Poland race on Sunday's and Sweden usually on Tuesday, so his standard schedule would be Poland - UK - Sweden, week in week out (Sunday - Monday - Tuesday) that can be physically and mentally exhausting and I think not riding the tight and tricky Wolves track every week; will help him prepare better as most GP venues are much bigger and faster tracks. He has started the Polish season is outstanding form and certainly a must on current and past form for any top 3 permutations. 

#54 Martin Vaculik - Slovakia

Sadly Martin is currently on the injured list nursing a broken ankle. Having worked hard to get in to the GP series full time, he broke his ankle on his UK League debut in controversial circumstances riding for Leicester at Swindon a few weeks back. The meeting went ahead in awful conditions and all 4 riders fell on the 3rd turn of the first heat and the meeting was immediately called off. Hopefully he will return and make up for lost time, as a redoubtable competitor on his day. The injury though suggests his main aim this season will be to make the top 8 who automatically qualify; or at least to show enough to be selected for a organisers pick for next year. He represents a developing Speedway Nation and will hopefully be back soon. 

#23 Chris Holder - Australia

A former World Champion, outstanding at best and very much in the mould of past Australian World Champions (Doyle and Jason Crump). Chris has on occasions looked a pale shadow of his past self in recent years, partially due to injuries, partially due to some personal issues which have held up his return to UK racing at Poole. I am sure the terrible injury suffered by his best mate a few years ago (Darcy Ward whose fight back is a shining beacon of hope and dedication against adversity) has also had an impact on him. Fully focussed he would be a danger to all, but one wanders how often he can put it all together still at the very highest level; all speedway fans will be cheering him on but top 8 is my best expectation.    

#45 Greg Hancock - USA

Multiple World Champion and possibly one final shot as he is closer to 50 than 40. He had a shoulder injury that curtailed his 2017 Campaign and this looks to me more to me a "farewell tour" than anything else. You can't knock the guy on track or his record. He has always been a big danger at the "one off stadium tracks" his ability to make 5-6 starts and clear off out of trouble will always earn him a glut of points. I suspect "old father time" is catching up with him and a bizarre decision to move to a Division 3 side in Poland and to cut back his schedule is strange, if he had genuine Title hopes. He has massive support in Speedway, not in the least from TV Presenter Nigel Pearson, who it seems can mention his name more often than any other rider even when he is not racing. Probably best to leave it there, I wish him well on track!

#110 Nicki Pedersen - Denmark

Where do you start with Nicki Pedersen. He has some in the sport who watch to whom he is "the most bad / mad man ever" . He has alienated a few riders in his time too. I have always rated the guy to be honest and people I know in the sport quite well, who have dealt with him, speak very highly of him. Put it like this "life is never dull" when Nicki is on the track. He has had career threatening neck/shoulder/back injuries in the past few years. Many are surprised he is still racing, many will (like me) hope he gets out of the sport intact; will he ever shut the throttle off (n ****** way) and that is what makes him box office. I would love to see him win a GP; I want him to do well and he has started a season many thought he would not start in scintillating form. One to watch in every race he completes in, and whilst he might "grow horns" every time he puts a helmet on "don't always judge a book by its cover" as one top former rider reminded me only a few weeks ago = sage advice. 

#59 Przemyslaw Pawlicki - Poland

One of two fantastic young racing brothers from Poland. He will light up the series, win races and may make the semi-finals more often than people think. An out and out races, top8 has to be his first season aim and if he can make a good start, can be a genuine dark horse.

#222 Artem Laguta - Russia

Talking about dark horses, this guy could be a MASSIVE SHOCK!. Has enough GP experience to not be phased. He scores "monster points" in League Racing at the highest level. ALL the top guys know he can beat them and beat them consistently, he has some excellent backing, fast bikes and the right people around him. He has matured massively as a rider and person and will be one on OUR betting/tipping radar throughout.  I just feel he is a superb natural talent on a motor bike who just needs to have the confidence in his own ability and  set up, that others know and fear. If he can find that inner belief, has the tools to be a World Champion.    

#111 Craig Cook - United Kingdom

Has worked incredibly hard to get this chance, he was a late starter in Speedway in the UK coming from moto-cross and worked his way up through the UK pyramid, was riding in second tier (doubling up) as recently as a year ago, and now undoubted No 1 in the Belle Vue Team. He has been a big points scorer in UK for several seasons and deserves this chance. Age though is not on his side and his lack of genuine European experience (particularly on the big Polish and some Swedish tracks) will be a handicap he has to overcome. He can and has ridden small and big tracks well in the UK; has recently become a father and everyone in British speedway will be willing him on. Hand on heart, do I think he can win a GP Round, in Cardiff or on a perfect night maybe?, he has the ability to be competitive but this is a Grade up for him and I genuinely think Top 8 would be a massive achievement for someone totally dedicated and genuine "nice guy" and one with a CV that many will look at and think it gives them "Hope to anyone with aspiration and prepared to graft"

A 16th Rider in each round will be a WILD CARD Nominated by the Home Nations Federation.

The FIM (Federation International Motorsport) will nominate 2 further reserves for each round from the following stand-by list

#88 Niels Kristian Iversen - Denmark

A GP regular who just missed out on the main series this time. He will be a big danger in any Round where circumstances give him proper time to prepare and he will know that the more Rounds he gets called in to and the more points he scores, the more the chance he does get a "full time ticket" next season and with the Organisers likely to "want a Dane" involved and with Pedersen nearing the end of his GP career, plenty of incentive for NK-I  to be in there pitching and pitching hard.

#225 Vaclav Milik Jr - Czech Republic

He is not to be under-estimated, reminds me a lot of Vaculik; a rider all the top guys will be wary of if he gets a start, and one more than capable of winning races and making a very favourable impression. A classic "spoiler".

#53 Linus Sundstrom - Sweden

He seems to be the best long term prospect Sweden currently has to come in to the GP series and deliver something tangible, it will be interesting to see how many chances he gets and how he grabs those chances. The ability is definitely there but whether he had the drive and the clout to invest in fast bikes, I'm not yet sure. 

#133 Maksym Drabik - Poland

Any one who scores as highly and regularly as he does in Poland has to be feared. He will be a "dark horse" in any Round he gets to race in and one with a long term GP top ride aim I'm sure, could be a handy e.w bet chance when he gets in to a Round at a suitable venue.

#46 Max Fricke - Australia

One of a clutch of promising Australian Riders who have improved from a start in UK Speedway in recent years and who are now starting to show their credentials in the tougher Swedish and Polish leagues. He and his younger brother look good enough to aspire to GP Speedway, whether can reach the higher echelons like Jason Crump; Lee Adams; Chris Holder; Darcy Ward and Jason Doyle in the past 10-12 years, only time will tell us.

All views are strictly my own and © JMI Publications. As someone who has sat astride a Speedway Bike and ridden at a lowly level for 4-5 years; I would hope that my views reflect my utmost respect for these guys and what they do and the entertainment they provide and risks they take. As we say in horse racing, my over-riding hope is that they all come home safe and sound each meeting.

We will provide a Betting Guide and Tips / Analysis for each Round of the Speedway GP Series FOR FREE each Round, and if at the end of the Series you have made a few quid and had some fun, we will put in touch if you want to make a small donation to either The Ben Fun (Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund) or The No Limits Programme (doing fantastic work - mostly volunteers) to develop a group of 15-17 year old British Riders with the same help that is State / Sport Sponsored in many other Speedway Nations and which SP2A is proud to support. It involves tutoring from top riders, who give their times fro free; some leading fitness help and diet/nutrition and some sports psychology and other invaluable help.