Wide Open World Championship
By James Black @mythman666
With the disappointing yet perhaps unsurprising news that there would be no British League action in 2020, there is a likelihood that there will be a strong continued interest in the Polish League and possibly the Swedish League once it is up and running.
However this is not the only action to look forward to in 2020, far from it in fact!
We will see a World Champion crowned in a revised Speedway Grand Prix series featuring eight rounds on four or five different tracks between August 28th and October 3rd. At the time of writing Wroclaw, Gorzow and Prague will hold two rounds each, with the final round taking place in Torun.
There are a few rumours of Bydgoszcz possibly hosting the penultimate round which is yet to be confirmed, however with this round taking place the day before Torun it wouldn't be a surprise. As with anything these days there are critics, with many saying that the entire series should have been scrapped or that a one off world final like the days of old would have been the answer.
However for me, I feel that the organisers were backed into a corner and felt they had to put on a show and these are the cards we are dealt. Dare I say that if the racing turns out to be amazing and the title race goes down to the wire, then those same critics will be heaping praise upon the organisers such is the modern way.
With a new and revised format, it does put a potentially more interesting spin on things and in a lot of ways it blows the race for the world championship wide open. In speedway you often find that there are plenty of riders who on any given night are capable of winning a Grand Prix, but they struggle for consistency over the entirety of the series for whatever reason.
Quite often the achilles heel of a GP rider can be the unpredictability of the temporary tracks like Cardiff and Warsaw. These rounds can be the difference maker over the course of the season. With these rounds out of the equation, it surely must make for a more even playing field.
Understandably there will be the usual suspects of Bartosz Zmarzlik, Leon Madsen and Tai Woffinden among the likely favourites to take the spoils come the end of the season but with reduced rounds on permanent and familiar tracks, it becomes a different ball game and potential "also rans" become championship contenders.
Emil Sayfutdinov is consistently among the top performers in the Polish League but in the past he has perhaps faltered at the business end of Grand Prix meetings when it comes to making finals and scoring the big points. Irrespective of this, there is always a feeling that the Russian Rocket will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. With the vast bulk of rounds on tracks he has performed well at in the past, there is no reason to believe that won't be the same in 2020.
It would be fair to say that Sayfutdinov's fellow countryman Artem Laguta would usually rank among the outsiders in the conversation about world title contenders but after a scintillating start to the season in Poland he all of a sudden looks a potential contender. Familiar tracks in Poland where he has likely scored double figures already and the wide open spaces of Prague will hold no fears for him, which means he must fancy his chances of becoming Russia's first world champion.
Another man on an impressive run of form in Poland is Martin Vaculik. A proven GP winner on his day and capable of beating the absolute best on any given night, the Slovakian has been on an absolute tear in recent weeks with an impressive streak of double figure scores. There is no reason he can't carry that form into the Grand Prix, shoot himself near the top of the standings and improve on his fifth place of 2019.
Former world champion Jason Doyle perhaps hasn't reached the heights of his title winning season, but he is still a force to be reckoned with. A proven scorer in the Polish League with past GP wins in Gorzow and Prague to his name, Doyle must surely fancy his chances of adding a second world title to his already impressive resume.
The likes of Maciej Janowski and Freddie Lindgren have often looked like early season title contenders, only for their challenge to peter out as the year draws on. With only eight rounds taking place over a very short period, they could well be in with a shout of glory if they happen to be in a rich vein of form at the right time.
Under normal circumstances the riders would be offered the luxury of having the entire season to ride their way into form, but 2020 won't see that option, given that two rounds will be on consecutive days. The room for error is perhaps lower than ever and it makes for an interesting dynamic in what has already been a strange year.
Of course it could be argued that any of the 15 riders are in with a shout of lifting the title, given that everyone starts with zero, but inevitably someone has to finish first and someone has to finish bottom of the pile. With so many proven GP winners and genuine world class performers in the field, the race for the world championship is possibly as wide open as it has ever been.
But what do you think?
Who's your money on?
Who's your surprise packet?
Who's going to be world champion in the strange year of 2020?
Of course if you wish to agree, or disagree with me, have an idea for a feature, or you simply want to chew the fat over all things speedway, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via the JB Speedway Media Facebook page. If your compliments, or indeed gripes can be contained to limited characters, you can send me a tweet @Mythman666.
Photo: The late great Ron MacNeil