TOP 10 SGP STARS WHO RACED IN WORLD FINALS
SpeedwayGP.com editor Paul Burbidge picks out 10 of the best stars who made the step from World Final action into Speedway GP.
21 / 03 / 2020, 12:30
Before the FIM Speedway Grand Prix series was launched in 1995, the sport’s world champion was crowned in a one-off World Final.
Many of those world finalists went on to achieve great things in the SGP era. SpeedwayGP.com editor Paul Burbidge picks out 10 of the best stars who made the step from World Final action into Speedway GP.
1. Tony Rickardsson
The Swedish legend remains the most successful star in FIM Speedway Grand Prix history, having won a record five SGP world titles.
But TR lifted his first championship in the year before the SGP series launched – topping the podium at the last-ever World Final at Vojens in 1994, beating Hans Nielsen and Craig Boyce in a run-off for gold.
Rickardsson went on to win back-to-back SGP titles twice in 1998 and 1999 and 2001 and 2002, before crowning his career with a jaw-dropping 2005 season, winning six out of nine SGPs on his way to a record-equalling sixth title.
2. Hans Nielsen
The Professor enjoyed much of his success in the pre-SGP era – winning three World Finals in 1986, 1987 and 1989.
He then made more history as the first-ever SGP world champion in 1995, winning the Danish SGP at Vojens along the way.
Nielsen won SGP silver in 1996 and bronze in 1999 – his final season on the shale. He has been Danish national team manager since 2016.
3. Greg Hancock
The Californian king made his World Final debut at Pocking in 1993, finishing 16th. But he improved on that dramatically, taking fourth spot in Vojens a year later before going on to write and rewrite the SGP record books.
Hancock won his first SGP world title in 1997. He then blazed back to the top of the sport 14 years later at the age of 41, winning title No.2, before adding the 2014 and 2016 championships to his roll of honour.
His retirement from the sport last month means this is the first year he hasn’t featured among the list of permanent SGP riders.
But he bids farewell with 218 SGP appearances, 2,655 points from 1,248 heats, 455 heat wins and 92 SGP final outings to his name – all series records. That’s not to mention 21 SGP wins. What a career!
4. Jason Crump
The Aussie reached the last World Final in 1994, finishing 11th with six points – a year before being crowned World Under-21 champion in 1995.
He made his SGP debut in 1996 and rapidly went on to establish himself as one of the greats – finishing in the world’s top three for a record-equalling 10 straight seasons between 2001 and 2010 and winning a record 23 SGP rounds.
Crump lifted three world titles in 2004, 2006 and 2009 before retiring from the shale in 2012. But he’s back in competitive action after seven seasons away – joining SGB Premiership side Ipswich.
5. Tomasz Gollob
There was a time when Poland didn’t have a golden generation of world-beaters and one man carried his country’s speedway hopes single-handedly.
That man was Tomasz Gollob. He may have finished seventh in 1993 and 16th in 1994 on his World Final appearances, but the Bydgoszcz-born ace achieved special things in the SGP series.
He came agonisingly close to the sport’s biggest prize in 1999, when his hopes were dashed by a heavy crash in the closing stages of the season, forcing him to settle for silver.
But after finishing second again in 2009, Gollob went on to seal the trophy he craved most, winning the 2010 SGP world title, with victories in Prague, Torun, Vojens and Terenzano along the way – two of them achieved with seven-ride maximums.
6. Mark Loram
The Great Britain hero made his one and only World Final appearance in Vojens in 1994, but went on to write his name in the SGP history books.
He claimed his first SGP win at Vojens in 1997, before topping the Swedish SGP podium at Linkoping in 1999.
But his crowning glory came in 2000, when he became the first world champion of the new millennium and the first Brit to win the SGP world title. He remains the only rider to have achieved this feat without winning a round.
7. Billy Hamill
The Bullet raced his World Final in 1991, finishing 12th in Gothenburg, before achieving 10th at Pocking in 1993 and having to make do with the reserve spot a year later.
But it wasn’t long before he was on top of the world, as he raced to gold in the 1996 SGP series.
He finished second to long-time race partner Hancock in 1997, before winning silver again in 2000.
The four-time World Team Cup winner went on to manage his country, playing a key role in re-establishing the USA in the Speedway World Cup when they famously knocked Sweden out in Event 2 at King’s Lynn in 2013.
8. Leigh Adams
The master of Mildura made one World Final appearance in 1993, finishing 15th. But he went on to establish himself as an SGP stalwart after making his series debut in 1996.
He reached the world’s top six every year from 2000 to 2008, winning the bronze medal in 2005 and silver in 2007.
The 10-time Aussie champion retired from the series at the end of 2009 and hung up his kevlars the following year. He’s still a prominent figure in the sport Down Under, where he coaches the stars of tomorrow.
9. Jimmy Nilsen
The Swede made his World Final debut way back in 1986, finishing fourth in Chorzow – a feat he repeated in Amsterdam a year later.
After fifth places in Bradford in 1990 and Gothenburg in 1991 and a seventh in Wroclaw in 1992, he was absent from the World Championship until 1997, when he stormed back on to the scene in style.
After a solid eighth place in his comeback year, he followed Rickardsson to a Swedish one-two in the 1998 series, before finishing fourth in 1999 and dropping out of the competition at the end of 2001 after a lengthy career in the big time.
10. Sam Ermolenko
The American’s first World Final appearance came 35 years ago at the 1985 showdown in Bradford, where he claimed third place. He repeated the feat in Amsterdam two years later, before finishing fourth at Vojens in 1988.
After missing the next two World Finals due to injury battles, he returned to the big stage with seventh place in 1991 and eighth in 1992.
But the crowning moment of his career came at Pocking in 1993, where he won the sport’s top prize.
Ermolenko only raced two seasons in Speedway GP, but finished third in the inaugural series in 1995, before exiting the competition a year later. He went on to race in league action until 2005, when he retired after a glittering two decades on the shale.