They say good things come to those who wait and for Greg Hancock, it was worth the wait to finally win a Grand Prix in his adopted home of Sweden.
The American icon had never won a GP in the country he now calls home in 35 attempts, but the hoodoo was finally broken this weekend when he charged to victory in Malilla and laid down a serious marker in the fight for the world championship.
Greg actually had to wait even longer for his chance to win in Sweden as the first running of the event, on Saturday night, was postponed after the heavens opened and flooded the track just minutes before the scheduled start time.
The riders were changed and ready to go but the rain didn’t relent and the decision was made to come back in the morning and try again at 10am – meaning it was a breakfast of shale and methanol for the thousands of fans who had descended on the tiny Swedish town.
‘Grin’ is clearly a morning person. He opened up with a comfortable victory in the first race and then, other than a third place finish in his third ride, didn’t slip out of the top two in any of his races.
After the 20 qualifying heats GH had racked up 11 points but, vitally, his main rival for the title – current champ Tai Woffinden – had just failed to make the semi-final’s which meant any points Greg scored were helping him move away from Tai at the top of the leader board.
Nobody has raced in more high-pressure races than the three-time world champ and he showed nerves of steel. In his semi-final he made a textbook hole-shot to fire himself to the front and from there he used every single bit of his experience to block the moves of those chasing him and qualify for yet another Final – and the chance for that elusive first Swedish GP win.
The Final was a lot less straightforward but the result was the same. Greg gated in second place behind championship dark horse Jason Doyle and got right on his back wheel, waiting for the slightest mistake for his chance to pounce, but Doyle held firm.
That was until the start of the last lap, when Greg’s pressure was just too much for Doyle to resist and the American barged into the lead – taking the chequered flag and punching the air in delight as he enjoyed his best event all year.
As you can imagine, he was a happy man.
“17 points and a win in Sweden, I don’t know if I need to say anymore! That was just unbelievable, it’s one of those wins that I’ve been hunting for so many years and there’s been so much talk about it, it goes round and round in your head and I’ve just wanted to win one!
“I have to give huge credit to my team because the guys were making small adjustments here and there to the bike all the time and every heat I could feel it.
“The last change they made to the bike was unreal, I knew that if I could make a good start I just had to put the bike in the right place and it would be mine. Whatever they did, the thing hit the ground and I just had to hold the momentum and be patient. The whole time I was thinking ‘don’t make a mistake, don’t kill your speed’ because I knew when I cut back I had such good acceleration that I wasn’t going to get passed back.
“It’s great to get the monkey off my back and obviously to pull a bigger lead, there’s a long way to go but it’s good to be the guy at the top.”
It was another solid night for Greg’s Monster Energy stablemate Chris Holder too, who moved back up to fifth in the championship after taking 12 points and fourth place.
He said: “It was much better today, the last two GP’s have been quite tough but today was better and it’s good to make a final again. That’s where you can get a few extra points, unfortunately I couldn’t quite get there in the final but all in all, it was a good day for me.
“I made a few mistakes and probably could’ve picked up a few more points but it’s tough and you don’t have much time to think in the GP’s so you do what you can. I’m pleased with how it went and now we can build on it for the next one.”
That next one takes place in the speedway-mad city of Gorzow, Poland where we’re always treated to some epic racing and where we might get some more clues as to where the world championship trophy will end up come the end of the season.
Swedish Grand Prix Result
1 – Greg Hancock (17 points)
2 – Jason Doyle (17 points)
3 – Piotr Pawlicki (13 points)
4 – Chris Holder (12 points)
Series Top Eight
1 – Greg Hancock (83 points)
2 – Tai Woffinden (71 points)
3 – Jason Doyle (71 points)
4 – Maciej Janowski (64 points)
5 – Chris Holder (62 points)
6 – Bartek Zmarzlik (61 points)
7 – Antonio Lindback (60 points)
8 – Piotr Pawlicki (50 points)