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SGP STAT SUNDAY | SGP AUSSIES

Today on SGP Stat Sunday, we feature 10 men from a nation rich in FIM Speedway Grand Prix success – the SGP Aussies.

02 / 12 / 2018, 08:30

Today on SGP Stat Sunday, we feature 10 men from a nation rich in FIM Speedway Grand Prix success – the SGP Aussies.

Ten riders have flown the Australian flag as full-time SGP riders, and incredibly nine of them have finished in the World Championship’s top nine. When riders head to the other side seeking speedway stardom, desire isn’t normally lacking.

When the SGP series was launched in 1995, Craig Boyce went into it as world No.3 after finishing third in a three-man run-off for the 1994 world title with Tony Rickardsson and Hans Nielsen.

That was his highest World Championship finish; with 11th place in 1995 his best performance in the SGP era.

But the man who went on to become Aussie team manager handed over to a golden generation, headed by Jason Crump. His three world titles make him Australia’s most successful speedway star, while his tally of 23 SGP victories remains unsurpassed.

It was no surprise Australia were crowned world champions in 2001 and 2002, as Crump was far from the only man from Down Under in the limelight.

Leigh Adams also enjoyed a glittering SGP career, peaking at second place in the 2007 series and claiming eight SGP wins over 14 straight seasons as an FIM Speedway Grand Prix regular.

Ryan Sullivan also starred, bagging the bronze medal in 2002 and four SGP triumphs over a nine-year stint in the big time.

Todd Wiltshire also performed solidly as an SGP regular. He reached a career-best eighth place in both 2000 and 2001, as well as achieving podium finishes in Linkoping and Cardiff.

And then there was Jason Lyons. He may be the only full-time Aussie SGP star not to have made the top nine, finishing 20th in 2003. But he still won the 1999 World Team Cup and 2002 FIM Speedway World Cup with his country, as well as claiming fourth at the 2000 British SGP in Coventry – the last one staged away from Cardiff.

Following Adams’ retirement from the series in 2009, Crump was joined on the SGP stage by Chris Holder, who qualified by finishing second at the 2009 GP Challenge in Coventry.

He didn’t waste any time making his presence felt. After finishing eighth in his first two seasons, Holder romped to title glory at his Polish home track Torun after seeing off Nicki Pedersen in a tense title fight in 2012.

Things got even better for Australia when one of the sport’s brightest talents for a generation finally took his place in the series. Darcy Ward stormed to third place in the 2011 Torun SGP as a wild card.

He was then given a permanent pick for 2013. But the Queenslander suffered a fractured shoulder blade at the Swedish SGP in Gothenburg, leaving him unable to score from four of the 12 rounds, meaning eighth place was as high as he could climb.

But given that Ward scored double figures in all of the other eight rounds, another 40 points on his 106 tally would have put him in the silver medal position, potentially rivalling Tai Woffinden for top spot.

Ward wasn’t the only man in the wars that year, as Holder’s title defence was ruined by a serious crash at Coventry in July, which ended his season and left him temporarily confined to a wheelchair.

The pair returned for 2014, joined by Troy Batchelor, who was called up a month before the series after Emil Sayfutdinov withdrew at the 11th hour.

Batch was one of the season’s surprise packages as he raced to ninth in the final standings, scoring 20 points at the Danish SGP in Copenhagen – only missing out on the holy grail of a seven-ride maximum after Niels-Kristian Iversen got the better of him in the final.

While Holder finished defied missing two rounds to finish seventh, it was a tough year for Ward as his season was ended in August after he failed an alcohol test at the Latvian SGP in Daugavpils.

Sadly he never appeared in the World Championship again after suffering career-ending spinal injuries while racing for Zielona Gora just months after making his comeback.

The loss of Ward was followed by Jason Doyle’s arrival on the scene in 2015. At age 29, he was a late bloomer in the sport. But JD quickly made up for lost time as he finished fifth in his debut series.

The fifth place he registered in 2016 doesn’t begin to tell the story of an extraordinary year. He stormed to four SGP victories – winning in Prague and then bagging three on the bounce in Gorzow, Teterow and Stockholm – to put himself five points up at the top of the standings with just two rounds to race.

Agonisingly for Doyle, his season was halted by a serious crash at the Torun SGP, allowing Greg Hancock to snatch the gold medal.

But Doyle didn’t let it get away in 2017 – powering through the pain of a broken foot to an unbelievable title triumph, sealed with an Australian SGP victory in Melbourne.

After a tough couple of years for Holder, Doyle will be Australia’s sole full-time SGP representative in 2019. But with the likes of Max Fricke, Brady Kurtz and Jack Holder waiting in the wings, and Chris Holder still far from a spent force at the top level, he’s unlikely to be on his own for long.

 

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