With the FIM Speedway Grand Prix heading to Sweden for round 9 in Malilla, wild card Oliver Berntzon is hoping to put in a good display in front of his home supporters, which will hopefully set him on his way back to qualifying for the series full-time again in future.
Berntzon last qualified for the SGP for the 2021 season but endured a difficult campaign in which he failed to reach a semi-final in 11 meetings and finished 15th overall.
The 29-year-old has however had an fruitful 2022, winning his first Swedish Championship and helping his nation to bronze at the Speedway of Nations.
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Speaking to Eurosport ahead of the event at the historic Skrotfrag Arena, Berntzon set out his aims as well as his excitement to compete at the venue, having previously done so for the club Dackarna in the Elitserien.
“It's hard to say, you know. No specific goal set out,” he admitted. “But I just want to go there and race and race hard and prove not just to myself, but to everyone else as well, that I can be in the Grand Prix, and that last year wasn't a good reflection of my ability.
“Usually, there's a lot of people and a lot of Swedish flags in Malilla during the Grand Prix. So I hope it will be the same on Saturday.
“It's a good track. It's the National Speedway stadium in Sweden. They've had a Grand Prix for many, many years, and it's one of my favourite tracks as well. I've ridden there for three years. And yeah, I've had many good results in there. So hopefully, I can have another one on Saturday.”
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Despite his poor SGP season in 2021, Berntzon has shown he could compete with the very best at the Speedway of Nations, top scoring with 21 points from heats in the semi-final as he and fellow Swede Fredrik Lindgren advanced, before another 20 points in the final.
However, there was to be heartbreak in the Grand Final Qualifier as Berntzon was controversially excluded for a clash with Australia’s Max Fricke, a decision that left the Swede furious at the time.
The Aussies ultimately went on to beat Great Britain in the Grand Final and Berntzon admits that the experience was bittersweet.
“If you would have asked me before if I would have taken a bronze, I probably would have,” he admitted. “But as it played out, things felt that they were starting to go for us with Freddie as well.
“We just felt that we could get more, get into that final and maybe even win. So the way it ended was very disappointing.
“But yeah, a few days later it sank in a little bit. And, yeah, we were pretty happy with the bronze medal.”
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A step in the right direction
Berntzon believes the SON performance can provide a platform as he looks to put the disappointment of 2021 behind him.
He added: “It was a great stage to show myself that and like I've said many times, last year just nothing worked for me. And it was definitely the wrong season to have that one.
“Now my long journey back to the Grand Prix has started this year and I think I've taken a step in the right direction. And yeah, hopefully next year, I'll take another step.”
Another positive from Berntzon’s 2022 was becoming Swedish champion for the very first time following victory in June’s national final in Linkoping.
Although understandably pleased with the achievement, Berntzon refused to dwell on it and is still very much focused on a return to SGP in future.
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Injury saw him miss the opportunity for qualification at the GP Challenge in Glasgow – an event won by compatriot Kim Nilsson – but is looking at the bigger picture and a longer-term goal when he hopes to be fully equipped to compete.
“It's feels good, of course,” he says. “It was my first Swedish title. I’ve been trying for a few years, so it was a big relief.
“It's a good thing, but you know, it's on the world stage you want to be and now Kim has qualified for next year, it's gonna be cool to follow him and hope he can do better than I did last year. But obviously I'm thinking about myself and that I want to get back to Grand Prix as soon as possible.
“I said last year when I fell out I want to be outside for three years, at least. So, you know, maybe things happen this year for a reason, I don't know.
“But I just felt that after last year, I didn't have any stress to come back. I wanted to build myself up to become better, more stable, more consistent, you know, build a better team and absolutely be more ready for the Grand Prix when I get back next time.”
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Stream the 2022 Speedway Grand Prix season live and ad-free on discovery+ with live race action also on Eurosport 2.
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