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Speedway Junior World round one preview

Schlein and Holder for junior opener The opening qualifying round for the 2005 Individual Speedway Junior World Championship will be held at Belle Vue, Great Britain, on May 22, with two highly regarded Australians in action -- Rory Schlien...

Schlein and Holder for junior opener

The opening qualifying round for the 2005 Individual Speedway Junior World Championship will be held at Belle Vue, Great Britain, on May 22, with two highly regarded Australians in action -- Rory Schlien and Chris Holder.

With the top eight finishers at Belle Vue guaranteed a spot in the semi-final action on June 18, Schlein and Holder appear well positioned to advance as they attempt to become the third Australian to win the junior world title after Leigh Adams (1992) and Jason Crump (1995).

The bespectacled Schlein, who won the Australian junior speedway championship in 2002-03 before Holder claimed the spoils in 2004, is currently riding for Coventry in the UK top-tier Elite League, and is averaging 6.11pts per match -- a respectable output for his first full-time year in the big smoke.

However, this Sunday's qualifier will be something of a homecoming for Schlein, because he was a part-time teamster at Belle Vue in last year's Elite League, which he combined with his Premier League (UK second division) commitments at Edinburgh.

Schlein, 20, is already adept at the world junior speedway caper, having finished fourth in last year's Polish-hosted final behind Robert Miskowiak, Kenneth Bjerre and Matej Zagar.

That colossal effort, on top of the 'soft' 16-rider field in the May 22 qualifier, should see Schlein easily move into semi-final calculations.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Holder, despite his searing form in the last Australian summer, is somewhat of an unknown in the Northern Hemisphere -- which may hold in good stead as he takes his first steps in forging an international career.

Holder first arrived in the UK on May 3 and, on a machine borrowed from reigning world champion Crump, has since spent quality time practicing on a clutch of Elite League circuits, including the tight Belle Vue layout. The 'results' of those intense sessions will be put to the test on Sunday and, if he finishes in the top eight, his original one-month sojourn to the UK will undoubtedly be extended a little longer.

The major opposition for the Australians in the qualifying round should come from the likes of German Martin Smolinski, Pole Krzysztof Kasprzak and British Premier League riders Daniel King and James Wright. Smolinski and Kasprzak were sixth and ninth respectively in last year's final.

The Individual Speedway Junior World Championship was first held in 1988, and was won by Sweden's Peter Nahlin. Five past title winners -- Adams, Crump, Lee Richardson, Andreas Jonsson and Jaroslaw Hampel - are now incumbents in the Speedway World Championship, re-affirming its cachet as the proving ground for up and coming talent.

-Motorcycling Australia

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