Tai Woffinden’s defence of his world speedway championship hangs in the balance following a crash riding for his British club Wolverhampton at Eastbourne last night.
The 24-year-old broke a bone in his left hand, but admits he was lucky to escape with only one fracture after smashing through a wooden safety fence at the Arlington circuit. Woffinden picked up unwanted drive and couldn’t regain control of his bike before he and it clattered into the fence.
Woffinden is set to see his personal surgeon tomorrow in a bid to find out if he’ll be able to race in next Saturday’s Grand Prix in Gorzow, Poland. The Brit is currently second in the title standings, just five points behind leader Greg Hancock, but missing a GP would leave him facing a huge battle to retain his world title.
The Scunthorpe-born rider said: “"I'm battered and bruised, I feel dreadful, the hand and wrist are badly swollen but I know I'm a lucky man after that crash. I took out three fence panels and the whole thing looked a mess. I thought I'd broken bones everywhere, the pain was horrendous so I was relieved when the x-rays came back with just the broken hand.”
Woffinden broke his collarbone twice during his title-winning 2013 season and continued to race, so he’s no stranger to racing injured, but a broken hand could be harder to overcome.
"I will see my surgeon who did a great job on my collarbone and scaphoid last year - I went through the pain barrier to win the title then and I'm going to have to do it again. This time, however, the injury is worse. I want to be in Gorzow - but I will only ride if I'm 70% fit and no danger to myself and the other guys in the meeting.”
Speedway tracks around the world are now protected by air fences, but only on the corners as that’s where the riders are most likely to crash into them. Air barriers were trialled on straights, but they were ditched because they drew riders in and caused crashes that otherwise would not have happened.
Meanwhile, championship third-placed man Nicki Pedersen faces his own race to be fit for the GP in Gorzow. The Dane suffered a dislocated right shoulder in an awkward crash in a meeting in Poland on Friday night. He has been told he needs two weeks to recover, but he is undergoing extensive physiotherapy in a bid to make it back by next Saturday.