With Australians Jason Crump and Chris Holder automatically qualified in the top eight for the 2011 FIM Speedway Grand Prix (SGP) series, Andreas Jonsson, Nicki Pedersen and Emil Sayfutdinov have all been handed permanent wild cards for next season’s world championship, and they are joined by Polish newcomer Janusz Kolodziej.
Following the selection of the four wild cards, BSI Speedway managing director Paul Bellamy said it’s never an easy decision to select the wild cards.
“With just four places available, it is never an easy decision for the SGP Commission,” Bellamy said. “Andreas Jonsson and Nicki Pedersen will be the first to admit they have not had the best of seasons this time around. But with their fantastic records and undoubted talent, there is no reason why either could not turn their fortunes around next year.
“Emil Sayfutdinov has not been given the chance to show what he is truly capable of due to his injuries. But hopefully he can get back to his best in 2011.
“With regards to Janusz, he has been, without a shadow of a doubt, the best rider in the world outside of the SGP regulars this year. His success with his clubs, his country and individually has been impressive and he will be a real threat to his rivals if he maintains this form next year.”
Bellamy also confirmed the wild card rider for each individual SGP round may not be from the hosting country next season.
“We are keen to use the wild card places to give new riders their chance to shine in the grand prix series, and hopefully stake their claim to be part of the world championship in years to come.
“With nations like Australia and Russia not staging their own rounds, we feel restricting the wild card picks to the host country can force some very talented riders to miss out.
“While we will still choose a home rider for some of the rounds, we are determined to put the best possible field out there for all 11 events. I’m sure every rider who dons the No.16 race jacket next year will give the SGP regulars a run for their money.”
Swedish champion Jonsson finished ninth in this year’s world championship and was just a point adrift of automatic qualification for the 2011 series, despite tasting victory at the final round of the 2010 season in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Meanwhile, three-time world champion Pedersen was 10th in the overall standings and just five points off Holder, who held the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot for next year.
But the FIM Czech SGP runner-up finished fourth in two of the final three rounds this year, and it was the first time Pedersen has missed out on a top eight finish since 2002.
Russian starlet Sayfutdinov has endured a year of injury woe, breaking his arm in the Czech SGP in Prague. This was before his season was ended when he sustained wrist ligament damage on his return at the FIM Scandinavian SGP in Malilla back in August.
He will be hoping to hit the soaring heights he achieved in his world championship debut season last year, when he finished third in the standings behind Jason Crump and Tomasz Gollob.
Polish international Kolodziej is one of three new faces for next season’s SGP series. He helped his country to win the FIM Speedway World Cup this year as well as playing a huge role in Leszno winning the Polish Ekstraliga and Vetlanda taking Swedish Elitserien gold.
The new Polish champion has also reached two finals in as many SGP appearances this term, finishing fourth at the FIM European SGP in Leszno and third in the final round at Bydgoszcz.
LINE-UP FOR THE 2011 FIM SPEEDWAY GRAND PRIX SERIES:
1 Tomasz GOLLOB Poland
2 Jaroslaw HAMPEL Poland
3 Jason CRUMP Australia
4 Rune HOLTA Poland
5 Greg HANCOCK USA
6 Chris HARRIS Great Britain
7 Kenneth BJERRE Denmark
8 Chris HOLDER Australia
9 Andreas JONSSON Sweden
10 Nicki PEDERSEN Denmark
11 Fredrik LINDGREN Sweden
12 Emil SAYFUTDINOV Russia
13 Artem LAGUTA Russia
14 Antonio LINDBÄCK Sweden
15 Janusz KOLODZIEJ Poland
16 WILD CARD