Australia second in Speedway World Cup qualifier Australia, led by its three world championship combatants, finished second in its qualifying event at the 2004 Euphony Speedway World Cup at Eastbourne (UK) on August 3 -- but it wasn't enough...
Australia second in Speedway World Cup qualifier
Australia, led by its three world championship combatants, finished second in its qualifying event at the 2004 Euphony Speedway World Cup at Eastbourne (UK) on August 3 -- but it wasn't enough to gain automatic entry in this Saturday's final.
Instead, Australia's five-man outfit -- the top-shelf troika of Jason Crump, Leigh Adams and Ryan Sullivan, in addition to debutantes Steve Johnston and Adam Shields -- will now have to finish as one of the top two teams in this Thursday's race-off in Poole (UK) for a chance to win its fourth SWC crown in six years.
Australia, which finished a close second behind Sweden in last year's final, faced off against Denmark, Italy and the Czech Republic in the August 3 qualifier, which quickly developed into a battle of the super powers -- a shootout between the Danes and Aussies.
As it transpired, Denmark, whose five riders have all scored points in the 2004 world championship, lead throughout the 25-heat program, although Australia managed to join it in co-leadership twice throughout the night.
In an event where the cream rose to the top, Denmark, masterfully led by 2003 world champion Nicki Pedersen, always managed a powerful riposte to Australia's advances, so much so that it led by 7pts after heat 16 -- which gave Australia a chance to introduce a 'tactical' substitute, which is allowed when a team is more than 6pts in arrears.
Adams was charged with the tactical (aka "joker") responsibilities, which he used to supreme effect with a win in heat 17 -- the double points on offer (six) bringing the Aussies back to within three of the lead. That was trimmed to a 2pt lead after Crump emerged with the spoils in heat 18 -- but that was as close as Australia got before Denmark, an 11-time SWC winner, eventually triumphed 60-52.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic emerged a clear third on 32pts, and will join Australia, Sweden and Poland in the race-off to decide which two countries will meet Great Britain and Denmark in the Poole-hosted final. Great Britain defeated Sweden by 8pts (58 to 50) in the opening qualifier at Eastbourne on August 2.
Adams was the top scorer for the Australians in the qualifier with a 13pt haul, with his last two outings proving to be bittersweet -- the 6pt joker triumph followed by a crash and exclusion in the penultimate heat. Crump, who currently leads the world championship after five of nine rounds, pieced together a solid 11pts in his five rides, followed by Sullivan (10), Johnston (nine) and Shields (eight).
In contrast, only one of the Danish five failed to score double points, with Nicki Pedersen only 1pt short of his second clean sweep in an SWC meeting -- his feat coming in the opening qualifying round last year.
Australia is currently fifth on the all-time SWC roll of honour with four victories, behind Denmark (11), Great Britain and Sweden (both nine) and Poland (five). Three of Australia's wins have come since 1999, during which time only eight riders have been called into action -- Todd Wiltshire, Craig Boyce and Jason Lyons the others.
Australia first won the SWC in 1976, where Jason Crump's father Phil was one of the leading lights.
<pre> RESULTS 1 Denmark 60pts 2 Australia 52 3 Czech Republic 32 4 Italy 14