You might think losing the final heat of your home Grand Prix when you’re set to triumph in front of over 40,000 flag-waving British fans could be filed in the drawer marked ‘disappointment’. But not for British speedway hero Tai Woffinden.
The 2013 world champion was in blistering form going into Saturday night's all-important final heat, having recovered from a first-race duck to reel off five consecutive wins at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. But he was blocked out of the running on lap one and finished fourth, denying him even a spot on the rostrum.
But the 24-year-old said afterwards: “I’m not disappointed at all, I came here to score points and I got a solid 15 and extended my [world championship] lead. Obviously it would’ve been nice to win, but points are more important.”
In speedway every point from every heat counts towards the world championship, so a qualifying heat is just as important as a final in terms of points – if not in terms of prestige. Woffinden’s 15 points in Cardiff mean he now has a 12-point lead in the title race after four of 12 rounds.
He added: “Of course there’s pressure now I’ve got a lead but I put enough pressure on myself anyway. I want to be the best and I do everything I can to be the best so there is added pressure, but I put it on myself more so I don’t feel it too much.”
Woffinden admitted the atmosphere in the Millennium Stadium was very intense. He said: “I’m British and I’m proud – the fans were awesome and I felt so special when my name was called. It sent goose bumps down my back, it was a moment to savour and I cannot thank the fans enough, they were brilliant and well done to every single one of them who came along to support me.
“I can only imagine what a global sporting superstar like Lionel Messi feels when he steps out onto the Nou Camp pitch with Barcelona. I felt a little bit like that. The noise was deafening and it’s an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.”
MCN took a noise meter along to Cardiff and the noise in the stands reached over 101dB – and that was after the race as the crowd is much noisier than the bikes. That's almost as loud as the crowd for a British gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics, but with only half the number of people.
“It would have been a dream come true to win in Cardiff, but there’s always next year and I’ll be going for it again,” said Woffinden.
Dane Niels-Kristian Iversen won the meeting by sweeping around the outside of top qualifier Chris Holder on the opening lap. Aussie Holder, who rides for Poole Pirates in the British League, stayed low on the track to block Woffinden's inside charge, which let popular King's Lynn Stars rider Iversen steam around the outside to take a sweet-tasting victory.
"The atmopshere was so good you could chew it!" Iversen told MCN. "The British GP is a great event and whoever wins in Cardiff goes into the history books. You put your name down on something big, so this win is special for me."
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after four rounds of 12)
1. Tai Woffinden (GBR) 55, 2. Nicki Pedersen (DEN) 43, 3. Greg Hancock (USA) 39, 4. Niels-Kristian Iversen (DEN) 35, 5. Matej Zagar (SLO) 34, 6. Chris Holder (AUS) 31, 7. Jaroslaw Hampel (POL) 31, 8. Jason Doyle (AUS) 29, 9. Michael Jepsen Jensen (AUS) 27, 10. Andreas Jonsson (SWE) 26, 11. Maciej Janowski (POL) 26, 12. Chris Harris (GBR) 23, 13. Krzysztof Kasprzak (POL) 21, 14. Troy Batchelor (AUS) 17, 15. Tomas H Jonasson (SWE) 16, 16. Peter Kildemand (DEN) 12.