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HANCOCK'S LATVIAN HAT-TRICK
 
Double world champ Greg Hancock admits his Rietumu Bank Latvian FIM Speedway Grand Prix victory tonight “means everything” as he puts his early-season battering in Bydgoszcz behind him.

Hancock fended off a sensational chase from second-placed Australian sensation Darcy Ward and new World Championship leader Tai Woffinden of Great Britain in third to complete a hat-trick of Daugavpils wins and add to his 2006 and 2009 victories at the Lokomotiv Stadium.

The 43-year-old picked up his first SGP gold medal since he won last year’s opening round in Auckland on March 31, 2012. It was also Hancock’s maiden appearance on the rostrum this season.

The Californian’s bid for honours this term suffered a major setback when he crashed with Troy Batchelor in a Polish Ekstraliga meeting for Bydgoszcz at home to Wroclaw on April 28.

Hancock was knocked out cold for the first time in his career and was left nursing whiplash-style injuries for some weeks after the fall.

The world No.3 admits it was tough to overcome this spill, but he is delighted to be back on top of the box as he climbed from eighth to sixth place in the World Championship and he is now just seven points behind Jaroslaw Hampel in third.

“This means everything,” Hancock said. “It has been a hard year. I had a good start in New Zealand. I came fourth there and just tried to hold the form, but the crash I had at Bydgoszcz knocked me back pretty big. It’s hard to come back from big hits and that was one of my bigger ones over the years.

“Since then, I’ve taken a slow pace back up to winning ways. I feel great now and I have no problems with anything. I’m just getting comfortable and feeling at one with my bike. It has been getting better week after week and I feel I’m back on track.

“There are still three very, very important rounds to go that can put me back in the medal chase if all goes to plan. This is another stepping stone.

“We’re going to another new venue in Stockholm on September 21, which should be interesting for everybody, so we’ll see what happens there. But I’m charged, I’m ready to go and I’ve got to make it happen. I love winning …”

Hancock hailed his crew for their part in his 17th FIM Speedway Grand Prix victory as he completed his journey back to the top of the rostrum.

“I’m very grateful to all my mechanics,” he said. “They do a lot of work and deal with all the emotions around it – the good and bad times. They’ve been awesome and they know we’re in this thing to the end. We have to keep fighting.”

Hancock has won three of the five SGP events staged at Daugavpils and has clearly found a magic formula for the Latvian circuit, which stages Polish First Division racing.

He said: “I love the shape of the track. I know it’s a drag race to the first corner – it’s not a short run. I have good bikes and good feelings for tracks like that. I came here with confidence, but you never know. Competition is fierce. We had a great practice on Friday, and I never like to say that, but we went to bed with some great ideas and I think they worked out well.”

Rietumu Bank Latvian SGP runner-up Darcy Ward climbed up to 10th in the World Championship on 68 points. He remains 14 adrift of injured fellow countryman Chris Holder, who occupies the eighth and final automatic qualification position for the 2014 series. But Ward was pleased to close on his top-eight goal with one of his typical, swashbuckling performances.

He said: “I was hanging it out there. It’s a final and that’s what you do, but I couldn’t catch the old master Greg. We’re getting closer to the goal. I have a few more rounds and I need to keep putting in the good performances and also go back to the drawing board and learn how to gate.”

Woffinden may not have won gold in Daugavpils, but he moved into pole position for the biggest prize of all, edging top of the World Championship on 117 points.

But the British champion knows his title rival Emil Sayfutdinov, who exited before the semis with seven points to move on to 114 overall, will still take some beating when he defends his advantage at the Doodson Slovenian FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Krsko on September 7.

He said: “There are a few meetings to go yet and anything can happen in speedway. I’ll just keep fighting until the end. It’s not over yet – Emil will come back.

“It’s good. I did the job I needed to do tonight. I didn’t stand on top of the box, but if I can keep doing that for the rest of the season, I’ll be world champion.”

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1 Tai Woffinden 117, 2 Emil Sayfutdinov 114, 3 Jaroslaw Hampel 96, 4 Nicki Pedersen 94, 5 Niels-Kristian Iversen 90, 6 Greg Hancock 89, 7 Matej Zagar 84, 8 Chris Holder 82, 9 Tomasz Gollob 73, 10 Darcy Ward 68, 11 Fredrik Lindgren 65, 12 Krzysztof Kasprzak 62, 13 Martin Vaculik 51, 14 Andreas Jonsson 46, 15 Antonio Lindback 35, 16 Leon Madsen 13, 17 Ales Dryml 11, 18 Andzejs Lebedevs 9, 19 Chris Harris 7, 20 Krzysztof Buczkowski 6, 21 Linus Sundstrom 6, 22 Bartosz Zmarzlik 6, 23 Michael Jepsen Jensen 6, 24 Josef Franc 2, 25 Peter Kildemand 2, 26 Kenni Larsen 2, 27 Nicolas Covatti 2, 28 Jason Bunyan 1, 29 Craig Cook 1, 30 Josh Auty 1.

RIETUMU BANK LATVIAN SGP SCORES: 1 Greg Hancock 18, 2 Darcy Ward 13, 3 Tai Woffinden 15, 4 Nicki Pedersen 11, 5 Niels-Kristian Iversen 13, 6 Jaroslaw Hampel 11, 7 Matej Zagar 9, 8 Andzejs Lebedevs 9, 9 Martin Vaculik 7, 10 Emil Sayfutdinov 7, 11 Andreas Jonsson 7, 12 Tomasz Gollob 5, 13 Leon Madsen 5, 14 Fredrik Lindgren 4, 15 Krzysztof Kasprzak 3, 16 Antonio Lindback 1, 17 Vjaceslavs Giruckis 0, 18 Maksims Bogdanovs DNR.

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