Swedish star Kim Nilsson, Great Britain shooting star Dan Bewley and Australian ace Jack Holder are the first riders to guarantee their place in the 2023 FIM Speedway Grand Prix series.
Nilsson stormed to a shock victory at the FIM GP Challenge in Glasgow on Saturday, winning a run-off ahead of FIM Speedway GP of Great Britain – Cardiff winner Bewley to top the podium after they tied on 13 points.
The final 2023 qualification place went to Holder, who defeated FIM Speedway of Nations world title-winning partner Max Fricke in a run-off for third place after they finished level on 12.
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It was a night of high drama in Scotland as Speedway GP rider Anders Thomsen crashed out of the FIM GP Challenge with a broken leg.
This came not long after 2012 world champion Chris Holder was taken to hospital after falling awkwardly in heat 12, with pursuing French racer David Bellego unable to avoid the stricken Aussie and ploughing into him. Holder confirmed he suffered a broken collarbone, two broken ribs and a broken bone in his lower back.
While fans await further news on the condition of the injured pair, it was a night to remember for Nilsson as he prepares for full-time Speedway GP life in 2023.
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The surprised Swede said: “I wouldn’t have believed it, especially not winning the meeting. My goal was the top three, but I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t been to Glasgow before and I was just open-minded.
“I am going to be open-minded again next year too. I am going to do my best and try to build up a good team around me so that I can perform as well as I can.
“I do not have such high expectations right now. I am going to build things up during the winter. I will just do everything I can and give it my all in every heat. I can’t do more than that.”
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World No. 5 Fredrik Lindgren is Sweden’s sole Speedway GP rider in 2022 and Nilsson is delighted to be expanding the nation’s presence on the sport’s biggest stage. He added: “It’s important for Swedish speedway, for sure. I think it could be a boost to get one more Swede in – and a new name. I just hope it does something for Swedish speedway.”
British hero Bewley may have secured his Speedway GP status for another year. But having moved up to fourth place in the 2022 standings with victory in Cardiff last weekend, he will not be easing off the gas as he stands just one point off Patryk Dudek in third place.
The Cumbrian said: “After the last few rounds, the aim is to try and get a medal. It’s nice to have qualified – you never know with speedway what is going to happen. It’s nice to have what you could say is a back-up plan. Hopefully I don’t need it, but if I do, it is nice to have it. It was an awesome night, and it was good to be back in Glasgow again.”
Third-placed Holder had to overcome the ordeal of seeing older brother Chris leave Ashfield in an ambulance after crashing when they met in race 12, with their family watching on from the stands.
But the Speedway GP star showed phenomenal composure to snatch the final qualification place, guaranteeing himself a second straight season in the SGP World Championship.
Holder said: “It all started off well, but then the red lights came on in heat 12 and I saw Chris on the ground. I quickly stopped and I could see he was in a bit of pain, but it was a hard one because I had to keep racing.
"It was definitely a big mental test. It was tough to see him like that while I had to continue doing what I was doing. But it is what it is. I managed to keep my head and get the job done.”
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This year’s Speedway GP top six will also earn qualification for the 2023 series, along with the winner of the Speedway European Championship and five wild cards chosen by the SGP Commission.
If either Bewley or Holder finish in this year’s Speedway GP top six, Fricke will receive the qualification place they earned at the FIM GP Challenge after being ranked fourth in Glasgow. GB star Robert Lambert took fifth place on 10 points – a figure matched by Danish champion Rasmus Jensen in sixth.
This year’s World Championship race continues with the Betard FIM Speedway GP of Poland – Wroclaw next Saturday, with the Beckhoff FIM SGP3 of Poland taking place for the sport’s under-16 stars on Friday afternoon.
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