Australia completed the Monster Energy Speedway World Cup Final by winning a nail biting race-off in Prague that saw all four teams separated by seven points at the end of the meeting. The USA almost completed a fairytale world cup by taking second, a result that would have got them through in every other year to date. Latvia took third at the Marketta Stadium to complete a fine World Cup for them as Great Britain flopped and took fourth in the meeting.
The Americans got the perfect start courtesy of the perfect starter, as gating god Greg Hancock hit the front from the first corner and kicked on from there ahead of Latvian captain Kasts Puodzuks, whilst Troy Batchelor of Australia took the final point as one of Britain’s changes from Monday Ben Barker came last. Things did not get any better for Britain in the next heat, as captain Chris Harris’ kill switch came out when he was looking set for second, as Ryan Fisher took America’s second straight victory. Bogdanovs of Latvia came home second ahead of Jason Doyle in third. It took a win from Tai Woffinden for Britain to finally get off the mark in heat 3, ahead of Australia’s Cameron Woodward, in for Davey Watt, Andzejs Lebedevs and US rookie Gino Manzares. The first round of heats saw Australia take their first win, with form man Darcy Ward taking an impressive victory ahead of Lewis Bridger, Britain’s other change. Ricky Wells passed Vjaceslavs Giruckis for the final point as the USA took a surprise lead after the first four heats. Australia were level with them on 7, whilst Britain and Latvia were tied on 5 points apiece.
Heat 5 saw circuit record holder Woffinden take a dominant victory ahead of Hancock, with Ward running a lacklustre third as Bogdanovs was outclassed by the Grand Prix men. Puodzuks then took a fine heat victory with a sweeping move from the outside of turn two to take complete control of the race. Woodward held off Fisher whilst Bridger toiled. Heat 7 saw Jason Doyle clear off from turn 1 as Barker harried Giruckis but ultimately ended up third. Manzares fell away after an initial good start, clearly unused to the bigger European tracks. The second batch of heats was rounded out in fine style by Chris Harris, who made a decent gate and kicked on. Wells took a brilliant second place, whilst Troy Batchelor took out Andzejs Lebedevs on the final corner. He was excluded, and the Latvian awarded third.
US talisman Hancock then started the third batch of heats by getting the first corner first and kicking on from there to take an easy win, in classic Hancock style. Lewis Bridger came an impressive second ahead of Doyle and Lebedevs, who packed up at the start. Giruckis took a big win for Latvia in heat 10, as Woffinden was duffed up at turn 1 by Fisher and Batchelor, with the former doing a superb job to keep the Aussie behind him. Ward then showed just why he is a man to beat with a dominant heat victory, pulling away from Harris, who himself could have had a cup of tea before Puodzuks and Manzares finished. Bogdanovs took a well earned three points in heat 12, after getting grip in turn 2 as Woodward settled for two points, whilst Barker passed Wells as GB’s gating continued to let them down. By this point, Australia led by 2 points on 20, with Latvia themselves ahead of the USA and Britain by a point as the meeting stayed as tight as a drum.
The fourth round of heats was where Britain capitulated. Barker ran a last as Ward won from Lebedevs and Fisher, meaning a joker was available. Woffinden played the joker well, getting second and a 4 point haul behind Hancock, but ahead of Giruckis whilst Doyle got nothing. This was followed up by Bridger falling, Batchelor taking the win and Bogdanovs taking second. Gino Manzares apparently packed up, but in reality it was a staged engine failure to allow Uncle Sam the joker before heat 17, where it isn’t allowed. They played the joker to perfection, as Hancock again started well and passed Puozduks, followed by Woffinden and Doyle again taking last.
More tactics came into force, with Barker slowing to allow Bogdanovs through so Harris could be a rider replacement for Bridger as Doyle powered past the Brit earlier. Wells took a disappointing last as the USA missed out on vital points. Puodzuks took a dominant victory in heat 18, beating Harris into second as the rider replacement did not work. Woodward beat Manzares to third to take a vital point for the Australians. Hancock then took yet another heat victory ahead of Batchelor, with Lebedevs’ third and Harris’ last confirming that Latvia and Britain were out. The final heat saw Darcy Ward outclass the opposition, ahead of the hard charging Woffinden as Australia confirmed they were going through. Fisher took a credible third ahead of Giruckis, as the US just missed out on glory.
Australia’s advancement comes as little surprise, but the USA’s and Latvian achievements do. America led the meeting on many occasions, and Latvia were always in the hunt for the final. The big surprise is Great Britain, who were anything but Great. Some serious changes would not go amiss in the management, as they inexplicably flopped to finish last. America and Latvia can go home very happy despite missing out in the tightest of World Cup meetings.
Great Britain 28