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SWC: Round nine Italy summary

Adams gets fourth place monkey off back Australian Leigh Adams is now the third best speedway rider in the world -- and that's official. The 34-year-old finished fourth in the final round of the 2005 FIM Speedway Championship at Lonigo...

Adams gets fourth place monkey off back

Australian Leigh Adams is now the third best speedway rider in the world -- and that's official.

The 34-year-old finished fourth in the final round of the 2005 FIM Speedway Championship at Lonigo in northern Italy on September 10, overhauling Dane Nicki Pedersen in the final standings.

Adams, who has finished fourth the last three years, finished on 107pts after the nine rounds, five in front of Pedersen (102) and behind Tony Rickardsson (196) and compatriot Jason Crump (154).

"I am so happy to have got that monkey off my back. I was beginning to get into a rut with fourth place all the time," said Adams.

"A few years ago Tony (Rickardsson) set the standard, now the fella has gone and raised it up a notch. He is just awesome. But at last for me it is a medal and I am quite pleased with that."

Fittingly, after being the two dominant riders all year, Rickardsson and Crump claimed the quinella in the Lonigo Big Final, ahead of American Greg Hancock and Adams.

For Rickardsson, who claimed the world title in the penultimate round in Poland, it was his sixth win of the year -- a new record. In a campaign where everything turned to gold, Rickardsson also set a new benchmark for the most points in a year (196), and for the most consecutive wins (four). Moreover, he just missed out on becoming the first rider to qualify for every Big Final in one year.

Besides Rickardsson, Crump (two) and Poland's Tomasz Gollob were the only other riders to win Big Finals in 2005, which was a far cry from 2003-2004 when seven separate riders climbed atop the podium. Even when the world title was held over six rounds from 1995-2001, no fewer than four riders won Big Finals.

Crump, who had consolidated second position before the final round, said that the Lonigo result was emblematic of the whole year.

"It was a good go, but the night was basically a mirror image of the whole season," said Crump.

"Tony was better than me during the year and again tonight. This is the fourth time I've finished second and the one positive that I can build on.

"It gives me confidence that I've been in the top two in the world for the past five years. Not too many riders can say that.

"My season hasn't finished yet, as I still have some league matches in England and Poland, but the preparation for next years starts now."

Interestingly, Crump's final score (154pts) was only four less than his title-winning year of 2004, proving that the Northhampton-based Aussie came back to the field only slightly in 2005 -- if you discount the clinical display by Rickardsson...

After making his second Big Final of the year, Hancock (100pts), the 1997 world champion, finished just 2pts behind Nicki Pedersen in the final standings, with Bjarne Pedersen (90), Gollob (83) and Swede Andreas Jonsson (80) filling out the top eight.

Eighth place is the cut-off for automatic entry into next year's title, with the rest of the 16-rider roster at each round to be filled by five 'seeded' riders, one wildcard and two qualifiers.

Australian Ryan Sullivan, who missed Lonigo with illness, finished 14th in this year's title on 45pts, and it remains to be seen whether he will get the green light to compete in 2006.

If Sullivan does not make the cut, it will reduce Australia's full-time representation to two, down from a high of five in 2003.

Final standings (after nine rounds): 1 Rickardsson 196; 2 Crump 154; 3 Adams 107; 4 Nicki Pedersen 102; 5 Hancock 100; 6 Bjarne Pedersen 90; 7 Gollob 83; 8 Jonsson 80; 9 Nicholls 72; 10 Antonio Lindback (Sweden) 71; 14 Ryan Sullivan (Australia) 45.

-Motorcycling Australia

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