World speedway champion Tai Woffinden will stick to what he knows as he tries to lead Great Britain to a first team would championship in 27 years at Manchester’s National Speedway Stadium tonight.
The 25-year-old is the standout performer for a national team that will face serious firepower from opponents Poland, Sweden and Australia in the Monster Energy Speedway World Cup Final at Manchester’s new National Speedway Stadium.
But Woffinden insists he will adopt the same approach that has seen him win two world individual titles in the last three seasons and that has put him right in the hunt for a third title in 2016.
He flew out to Poland earlier this week to test a new engine from tuner Peter Johns, with a view to tonight’s final, which he described as a rocket.
But Woffinden revealed at last night’s Race-Off, where he watched Australia claim the only available place in the final line-up, that he won’t be running ‘the rocket’ in Manchester.
“It’s fast, but it’s too much of an unknown for a meeting like this,” Woffinden told MCN in the pits after the Race-Off. “I don’t know how it will react if I need to make changes during the meeting, such as changing the jetting, so it’s too much of a gamble.”
Woffinden will practise on his current stable of bikes at lunchtime today before making a final decision on which engine holds the key to success. But he expects to race on the GM motor that powered him to an impressive second place in the recent British Grand Prix.
He switched to that engine after struggling at the start of British speedway’s showpiece event and immediately found the speed that propelled him to the semi-finals, into the final and within a couple of bike lengths of winning the whole meeting from an unfavourable starting gate.
Woffinden has faced flak on ‘social’ media from a small section of British fans who were disappointed that he missed a British team practice session earlier this week. They used it as further fuel to their case that Woffinden doesn’t take enough pride in racing for his country rather than individually. But Woffinden, who is a master at using such criticism as fuel for ever greater exploits, says testing engines in Poland was an important part of the plan.
He said: “You have to have a certain mentality and I will be keeping the same approach as I have in a Grand Prix,” he said. “I will get to practice and do some laps and try and stay relaxed at the meeting itself.
“I know there is an extra responsibility for me to help the guys but at the same time I need to do my job for the team and that means scoring as many points as possible. It’s always great to ride for Great Britain in the World Cup, I will wear the race jacket with pride and do my very best for the team.”
Team GB are playing down their expectations, saying a podium finish is their aim – hardly the most ambitious target when there are only four teams remaining in the competition and they have been seeded to the final.
But a look through the teams suggests there is no dominant stand-out nation in this year’s final and the British team don’t look far off the pace compared to their rivals.
Historically their best performances have come on home shale – they came within a whisker of winning at Poole in 2004 and at Coventry in 2000, while their last win came at Bradford back in 1989.
But they have also had some shockers at home, notably the 1993 final when they trailed in a very distant last at Coventry.
The one certainty is that Woffinden and team-mates Robert Lambert, Craig Cook and Danny King will need to harness the power of patriotism, on the 50th anniversary of the England football team’s World Cup triumph, to claim Great Britain’s 10th world title.
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