Shock speedway GP winner as Brit world champ suffers
German racer Martin Smolinski took a shock victory in the opening round of the 2014 speedway world championship Grand Prix in New Zealand.
It was Smolinski's first-ever appearance in the Grand Prix after making it through the qualifying rounds, and there's not likely to be a bigger surprise this season than his win in his GP debut.
The 29-year-old was in fine form throughout the 20 qualifying heats in Auckland, using both the inside and wider lines on the Western Springs circuit to great effect. Having made it into the four-lap final, he was trailing last in the latter stages as Dane Nicki Pedersen and Krzysztof Kasprzak battled for the lead. But Smolinski moved into third place at just the right time and was able to dive up the inside of both Pedersen and Kasprzak on the final lap to take a win in one of the most entertaining GP finals ever.
Smolinski said afterwards: "It's unbelievable. I've worked 20 years for this goal and I've shown I have the pace for Grand Prix racing."
The German is now third in the world title standings, as every point in the qualifying heats, semis and finals counts towards the championship. Pedersen leads from Kasprzak, with Swede Freddie Lindgren sitting behind Smolinski in fourth.
It was a tough night for British riders. Defending world champion Tai Woffinden just missed out on the semi-finals, and was clearly riding in pain after suffering back injuries racing at Leicester a week earlier. Cornishman Chris Harris failed to score a point from his five rides, including a fall in his fourth outing.