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SWC: Cardiff round four preview

Aussies primed for Millennium bout Round four of the 2005 Speedway World Championship will be held at the majestic Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on June 11, for what will be the 11th staging of the British GP. The 320-metre purpose-built...

Aussies primed for Millennium bout

Round four of the 2005 Speedway World Championship will be held at the majestic Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on June 11, for what will be the 11th staging of the British GP.

The 320-metre purpose-built layout at the Millennium Dome, which sits 40cm above a concrete base, always produces racing of the highest calibre, with last year's Big Final the most recent case-in-point. That race saw American Greg Hancock win his seventh GP, but only after a searing final lap from Australian Leigh Adams required a photo finish to separate them.

Now, having been bundled out in the semi-finals of the last two GPs, that's the type of irresistible form which Adams will have to reproduce on Saturday night if he is to keep the likes of Tony Rickardsson, countryman Jason Crump and Dane Nicki Pedersen in his orbit.

"It is pretty obvious that I am on the brink of losing touch and that is not why I entered this competition," said Adams, who currently leads the UK Elite League averages. "I would have hoped to be leading by now, but things aren't going to plan. I still think I can win it this year, but if I don't gain on the leaders before the summer break (after round five) then I'll have to face the fact that it's not my year.

"I must admit to liking the Cardiff track and it is really a little championship of its own. There is added prestige to win this particular round and I will be aiming to do just that. Put it this way; if I don't win it, the competition will definitely know I was there. I won't go down without a fight."

Adams, who hasn't missed a semi-final since the final round of 2003, sits on 42pts after three of nine rounds, behind five-time world champion Rickardsson (70), reigning title holder Crump (59) and 2003 supremo Pedersen (46).

This will be the fifth British GP at the multi-purpose 62,500-seat Millennium Stadium, which hosts an assortment of events, including rugby, soccer, motor sport and concerts. In fact, the follow-up to the speedway will be a U2 concert on June 29!

Crump, 29, has appeared in three of the four Big Finals at the Millennium Stadium, for two second places in 2001 and 2003. However, he is already a two-time British GP winner, having collected the silverware at Hackney Stadium in London (1996) and Coventry Stadium in 1998.

The victory in 1996, over legendary Dane Hans Nielsen and American duo Billy Hamill and Hancock, saw Crump become the youngest GP winner of all time -- an honour he still holds. The Australian was just a shade over 21 at the time, and in only his fifth GP start!

Crump was fourth in last year's Big Final behind Hancock, Adams and British rider Lee Richardson, and it would be incongruous if he didn't again snare a spot in this year's decider -- if current form holds any credence. Crump and Rickardsson have been the only two riders to make the Big Final in the opening three rounds, with the latter now chasing a record eighth consecutive appearance in the finale.

Since Crump in 1998, only one other Australian has won the British GP -- Ryan Sullivan. The 30-year-old defeated compatriot Todd Wiltshire in the 2002 event at the Millennium Stadium - one of only two Aussie 1-2s since the GP-style format was adopted in 1995.

After a languid 2004, Sullivan is now returning to the type of swashbuckling form that he showed a few seasons ago, with the renaissance in full view last time out when he equal top-scored with Rickardsson in the heats. Although his advance was halted in the semi-finals, it still debunked the notion that his days at the pointy end of the 16-rider world championship field may be over.

Sullivan has also recently displaced Crump at the head of individual averages in the top-tier Polish league.

Sullivan jumped four world championship spots at Slovenia's round three, and is now in eighth on 23pts, behind rookie Antonio Lindback (27), Hancock (25) and Bjarne Pedersen (25).

Nine GP winners will be in the round four field, with local rider David Norris the wildcard.

For more information on the 2005 Fiat Vans British Speedway Grand Prix, visit www.speedwayworld.tv.

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