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SWC: Australia teams round three Wroclaw preview

Aussie trio confident of pay dirt in Poland The 2004 Speedway World Championship will make the first of two incursions into Poland this Saturday night, with Australia's three strike weapons out to continue a remarkable run at the sharp end of...

Aussie trio confident of pay dirt in Poland

The 2004 Speedway World Championship will make the first of two incursions into Poland this Saturday night, with Australia's three strike weapons out to continue a remarkable run at the sharp end of the field.

Collectively, Jason Crump, Leigh Adams and Ryan Sullivan have appeared in nine of the last 11 finals in the Speedway World Championship, with the triumvirate winning seven of those hitouts -- a remarkable level of cunning and consistency.

Reigning world number two, 28-year-old Crump, has three of those victories to his name, with his most recent success coming in a rain-lashed round two of this year's title at the Marketa Stadium in Prague (Czech Republic) on May 16. That was after 33-year-old Adams -- a seven-time national champion -- dominated the opening round in Stockholm on May 15; this third GP victory.

Meanwhile, Sullivan, who made the final in Prague after a lean result in Stockholm, continues to sit on four GP victories, with his last visit atop the podium in round six of last year's title -- while still suffering the effects of long-term injuries.

After two rounds -- of nine -- in 2004, 28-year-old Crump sits on 45pts, ahead of Adams (38), five-time world champion Tony Rickardsson (36), Tomasz Gollob (29), American Greg Hancock (24) and Sullivan (24), who lies in joint sixth alongside Polish youngster Jaroslaw Hampel.

Hitherto, Crump and Rickardsson are the only riders to have made both finals in 2004, still keeping themselves within reach of the speedway holy grail -- qualifying for every single final of a world championship.

With such a strong line-up in 2004, that will be a difficult brief to conquer, with Crump instead setting himself a more modest goal on Saturday night -- back-to-back wins for the first time since 2001, all in front of a knowledgeable crowd.

"The Olympic Stadium is a great venue, and it holds some fond memories for me -- it's where Australia won the revamped Speedway World Cup in 2001. I also rode there about six weeks ago and did very well, so I'm very confident about what lays ahead.

"The Polish just love their speedway, and the media coverage it receives is on a par with cricket and football in Australia," says Crump. "Because the fans are so passionate, it's extra special to do well there -- and of course a lot of my sponsors are from Poland."

Adams also displays a fondness for the 40,000-seat Olympic Stadium, and is already dismissing his failure to make the final in round two as a mere aberration. He said: "I have a strong record at Wroclaw and I am very confident of a good result. I made a couple of small errors in the mud a fortnight ago (Czech GP), but it was more bad luck than anything else.

"I'm looking forward to getting some dry racetrack under my bike and capitalising on the momentum I've gained so far this season. On top of that, my team has been awesome and we are working toward a common goal - to get this #4 off my bike! It's been there way too long! We are up for anything this Saturday!"

Adams has finished fourth in the past two world championships, which stalled the 'momentum' he had built up in finishing seventh in 1999, followed by sixth and fifth in 2000-01.

Meanwhile, Sullivan, who won his maiden Australian championship in January this year, was back to his barnstorming best in round two, after having to fight his way through the Pre-Main section of the evening -- his 'reward' for an indifferent round one.

This Saturday night will be a different story, with Sullivan penciled in to make his first foray onto the Olympic Stadium in heat nine -- against both Crump and Adams.

If the Aussies eventually progress through to the semis, they are most likely to face the likes of Rickardsson, Hancock, 2003 junior world champion Hampel and local rider Gollob. The latter won the corresponding Polish round in 2003, and remains the only rider to win a GP on debut -- which he achieved, again at home, in 1995.

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Nicki Pedersen will be banking on a return to form in round two, after what has been an underwhelming start to his championship defence. He's currently in ninth on 21pts.

-www.ma.org.au

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