Woffinden takes his third world speed­way ti­tle in fine style

Woffinden takes third world ti­tle but wants to dou­ble his tally

MCN - - CONTENTS - By Paul Bridge MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

‘Be­com­ing a back-to-back cham­pion is next’

Great British hero Tai Woffinden be­came the na­tion’s first three-time speed­way world cham­pion in Torun, Poland on Satur­day, and im­me­di­ately set his sights on join­ing the sport’s most elite club. The 28-year-old won the Torun FIM Speed­way Grand Prix of Poland to fend off a fierce chal­lenge from Pol­ish ri­val Bar­tosz Zmar­z­lik and add to the ti­tles he lifted in 2013 and 2015. Woffy has now sur­passed the cham­pi­onships won by Fred­die Wil­liams and Peter Craven to be­come Bri­tain’s most dec­o­rated speed­way world cham­pion.

But the Scun­thorpe-born star has long dreamed of match­ing the record six ti­tles won by the late, great New Zealan­der, Ivan Mauger and Swedish icon Tony Rickards­son. It’s an am­bi­tion he’s now halfway to­wards achiev­ing. A de­ter­mined Woffy said: “Af­ter I won my 2013 cham­pi­onship, we were sat in a room with Nicki (Ped­er­sen), Crumpy (Ja­son Crump), Greg (Han­cock) and (Chris) Holder. I men­tioned I wanted to break the six-time world cham­pion record. “They all kind of had a lit­tle laugh be­tween them. But I’ve done it three times in six years and I will do it six times.”

Only two riders have suc­ceeded in re­tain­ing the World Cham­pi­onship since the SGP se­ries was launched in 1995, with Rickards­son do­ing the dou­ble twice in 1998 and 1999 and in 2001 and 2002, and Dan­ish le­gend Ped­er­sen achiev­ing the feat most re­cently in 2007 and 2008. While his dream of win­ning a su­per six will take at least three more years, be­com­ing a back-to­back cham­pion is next. He said: “Peo­ple say the hard­est thing is be­ing world cham­pion, but it’s not. The hard­est thing is be­ing the world cham­pion again the fol­low­ing year.

“When you have that tar­get on your back, it’s tough. I’ve had a few cracks at try­ing to win it back to back and now I have a third. Hope­fully it is third time lucky. I’ll put the work in and make sure I can give it my best shot next year.” Woffinden came un­der in­tense pres­sure from Zmar­z­lik in the sec­ond half of the sea­son, with the tal­ented 23-year-old win­ning his open­ing four rides in Torun to take the race for gold all the way to the semi-fi­nals.

But sec­ond place in semi-fi­nal two ahead of the Gor­zow rider was enough to see Woffinden over the line as he claimed the cham­pi­onship by ten points. The for­mer Wolver­hamp­ton rider ad­mits this year’s ti­tle fight was his tough­est yet. He said: “I al­ways say I don’t like to start the sea­son well and that’s what I did this year. It’s al­ways nice to be be­hind chas­ing. This year was the hard­est year for me phys­i­cally and men­tally.

“I’m pretty strong in the head, but there were times when I kind of just sat there think­ing ‘wow man, this is tough.’ One hun­dred per­cent this was my hard­est one to date.

“A mas­sive thanks to (Pol­ish tuners) Daniel and Ryszard Kowal­ski; they have given me very fast en­gines all sea­son. A mas­sive thanks to all my spon­sors, my fam­ily and my team. I am look­ing for­ward to next year.”

Bri­tain’s Woffinden takes the world cham­pi­onship Tai prefers a slow start to his sea­son and to chase ri­vals Woffy thanked fam­ily and friends No 95 is close ri­val and cham­pi­onship run­ner-up Zmar­z­lik

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