Photo gallery: Speedway World Cup Event Two at King’s Lynn: Denmark 49, Great Britain 35, USA 24, Sweden 18
- Credit: IAN BURT
Denmark showed their class by kick-starting their Speedway World Cup defence with a comfortable victory in King's Lynn tonight.
The holders were just too strong for Great Britain, Sweden and the USA as they progressed to Saturday's final thanks to winning the meeting by 14 points.
With Lynn rider Niels-Kristian Iversen at the helm, as well as ex-Stars men Nicki Pedersen and Kenneth Bjerre, they went into the meeting as clear favourites.
And they showed why that was the case by romping to 12 possible race victories out of 20 to sail through to the weekend's showcase in Prague, Czech Republic.
The trio's knowledge of the Norfolk Arena circuit paid off time and time again as they picked up race wins from a variety of gates. Whether they had to fight off opponents from the inside, or the outside, they used every inch of the shale to their advantage.
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Add talented youngster Michael Jepsen Jensen into the mix and they just proved to be far superior in front of about the 5,000 fans who had packed the Saddlebow Road stadium to witness the sport's elite go toe-to-toe for the fourth consecutive year.
Many heats turned into two races within one with the Danes streets ahead of their opponents – who were often left to fight it out for the minor places. They won seven of the first 10 and could even afford to ease up towards the end to leave plenty in the tank for the rest of this week's action.
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Host country Great Britain were their nearest challengers pretty much all night, spurred on by a huge swell of Union Jack flag waving fans around the packed oval.
National champion Tai 'Woffy' Woffinden and captain Chris 'Bomber' Harris were, as expected, GB's star men and fought hard for the cause. But they just weren't backed up well enough by Edward Kennett and debutant Craig Cook to put the Danes under enough pressure.
A brave use of the joker in heat seven was the only time the Brits significantly closed the gap with Woffy seeing off home hero Iversen – who was surprisingly pipped to second by Swede skipper Peter Ljung – to pick up double points. That six, rather than three for winning, closed the gap, but that was about as close as it got on the night.
As Event Two, all but a semi-final in name, continued, it was clear that the team in the white helmet colour would be assured of automatic progression. Britain looked certain of one of the two race-off slots.
So the battle soon became a dog fight for third, and a place in Thursday's last-chance saloon, to reach the final between Sweden and USA.
America's hopes were literally being kept alive by one of the sport's favourite sons in Greg Hancock. The man with a grin as big as the Atlantic was smiling even more in the pivotal 14th when his country and Sweden used their jokers.
Riding for double points, the speedway veteran collected a crucial triumph, with Jonas Davidsson running a last, to help his team power ahead of an understrength Swedes. And from that point they never really looked back as they ensured their World Cup dream will continue up to Thursday's clash.
The evening ending as it started with Iversen picking up another race win to send the Lynn-based fans home happy at least that one of their own had tasted plenty of glory on another fine night for speedway in Norfolk.
Denmark (number of rides in brackets): Nicki Pedersen 13 (5), Kenneth Bjerre 11 (5), Michael Jepsen Jensen 12 (5), Niels-Kristian Iversen 13 (5)
Great Britain: Chris Harris 12 (6), Tai Woffinden 18 (6), Edward Kennett 1 (3), Craig Cook 4 (5)
USA: Ryan Fisher 3 (6), Greg Hancock 16 (6), Gino Manzares 1 (3), Ricky Wells 4 (5)
Sweden: Daniel Nermark 5 (6), Peter Ljung 11 (6), Dennis Andersson 2 (5), Jonas Davidsson 0 (3)