Crump in the box seat Australia is on the cusp of hailing its first speedway world champion in 52 years -- that's the upshot after the penultimate round of the 2004 title was staged in Poland on September 18. Crump, 29, finished second...
Crump in the box seat
Australia is on the cusp of hailing its first speedway world champion in 52 years -- that's the upshot after the penultimate round of the 2004 title was staged in Poland on September 18.
Crump, 29, finished second in the final at Bydgoszcz behind local rider Tomasz Gollob for the second year running, with the 20pts on offer taking his season's haul to 147, 17 in advance of five-time world champion, Sweden's Tony Rickardsson (130).
The latter, chasing a second consecutive GP win, finished third behind Crump in the round eight final, and remains the only rider who can extinguish Crump's claim to becoming the sport's 31st world champion since 1936 -- and just the fourth Aussie to reach the pinnacle.
The equation for the final round, which will be held at the Viking Ship Stadium in Norway on October 2, is simple. Crump, at an absolute minimum, will score 5pts in Norway -- his 'reward' for making the semi-finals in Poland. That would take his pointscore to 152, forcing Rickardsson to clinch the final (25pts) to win the title.
Hitherto, Crump's lowest score in 2004 has been 8pts, and the three-time championship runner-up has made it through to the semi-final stage in seven of the eight rounds.
Moreover, he has made it through to the semi-finals (a minimum of 11pts) in the only two Viking Ship Stadium-hosted grands prix -- for an eventual fourth in 2002 and equal seventh in 2003.
Despite the equation being loaded in Crump's favour, the Aussie is determined to claim the title on his own merits, which will necessitate at least an 8pt haul in Norway.
"I'm going to head to Norway and get the job done," said a bullish Crump. "Tonight's been great, because you never know what's going to kick you in the guts when you get close to something you really want.
"This round has really set me up, but I won't start celebrating until I've got those 8pts."
In Poland, Crump made it through to the second semi-final after two wins and a third in his preliminary heats. However, one rider who didn't advance was American Greg Hancock -- with his championship aspirations also evaporating at that juncture. Hancock, who still remains third in the title on 117pts despite his worst result of the season, was eliminated in heat 17.
In the opening semi-final (heat 23), Gollob outlasted Norwegian Rune Holta, Aussie Leigh Adams and reigning world champion Nicki Pedersen, while Crump won the second from Rickardsson, with Jaroslaw Hampel and Scott Nicholls left to pack their bags.
Adams' world title hopes were also dashed after failing to make the final, but he has now closed to within 2pts of Hancock on 115.
In the final, Rickardsson and Gollob crashed on lap one, necessitating a restart with all four riders. Gollob, starting from gate four, won the 'second' attempt to become just the second rider to win the same GP three years in succession. Crump was the first to set the landmark earlier this year when he won his third Czech Republic-hosted GP in as many years.
"I was out front and gone in the final, and then I couldn't believe it when I saw the red light after the crash between Gollob and Rickardsson," said Crump, who started from gate one. "In the restart, Gollob got a flyer and that was about the extent of it.
"Conditions were pretty slick tonight -- which is becoming quite normal for Bydgoszcz. And gate one was pretty used up by the end of the night, so I'm happy and relieved how it's all turned out."
Six of Gollob's nine GP wins have now come in his home grand prix.
Crump, who was making his 30th appearance in a GP final, held on for second to repeat the Polish quinella from 2002, with Rickardsson third from Holta.
It was Crump's fourth successive appearance in the Polish decider, highlighted by a victory in 2001.
<pre> ROUND EIGHT RESULTS 1 Tomasz Gollob Poland 25 2 Jason Crump Australia 20 3 Tony Rickardsson Sweden 18 4 Rune Holta Norway 16 5 Leigh Adams Australia 13 5 Jaroslaw Hampel Poland 13 7 Nicki Pedersen Denmark 11 7 Scott Nicholls Great Britain 11 9 Andreas Jonsson Sweden 8 9 Hans Andersen Denmark 8 14 Ryan Sullivan Australia 6
SPEEDWAY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after eight of nine rounds) 1 Jason Crump Australia 147 2 Tony Rickardsson Sweden 130 3 Greg Hancock America 117 4 Leigh Adams Australia 115 5 Nicki Pedersen Denmark 100 6 Tomasz Gollob Poland 95 7 Andreas Jonsson Sweden 84 8 Bjarne Pedersen Denmark 75 9 Hans Andersen Denmark 74 9 Jaroslaw Hampel Poland 74 13 Ryan Sullivan Australia 57