It was an NGK 1-2 on the winners’ podium at the Betard Scandinavian FIM Speedway Grand Prix.
NGK-sponsored triple world champion Nicki Pedersen said he never lost faith in his ability to beat the world’s best after defying years of injury strife to win in Malilla ahead of NGK stablemate Slovenian star Matej Zagar for his first SGP win since October, 2015.
It has been a tough road back to the top for Pedersen whose 2016 and 2017 seasons were both ended by separate fractures to the same vertebra in his back, leaving him fearing for his career.
Pedersen bounced back this year, only to suffer a broken bone in his hand at a meeting in Poland in April.
But he refused to slow down and is now tenth in the standings – just seven points short of the top-eight automatic qualification places for SGP 2019.
Pedersen said: “It’s always easy to say, ‘he’s finished’ and things like that. But my family and I always believed in me. I know where I’m standing. I always look at myself in the mirror and the day I know I am finished, I wouldn’t even get on the bike.
“It has been uphill. I have broken my back two times. I haven’t quite been there, and the engine hasn’t been where I wanted it. But we just kept on pushing and working and getting the points.
“All we wanted to do was plug away and get the points. As the meeting went on, we thought ‘whoa, we can reach the final or even get on the rostrum.’ Step by step, we got up there.
“It’s so easy to say, ‘I want to win’, but it’s a very long journey along the way. It’s about getting everything back together.
“I felt I had a good start to the season, but then I had big, big injuries again. I banged my head twice and crashed in a league match at Gorzow and in the Warsaw Grand Prix. That knocked me out for some time – my hand is still not 100 percent, but it’s getting a lot, lot better.
“The form hasn’t been there, but I have the racing in me and I never give up before the fat lady sings. I proved that tonight.”
Second place gave Zagar’s SGP 2019 qualification hopes a huge shot in the arm and he now stands ninth in the World Championship on 50 points – just three adrift of eighth place.
He said: “It hasn’t been easy, but finally I am finding my feet. There are still four rounds to go and I want to make progress. Speedway Grand Prix is my life and I want to race here. I enjoy it. I love Speedway. The Grand Prix is where I want to be.”
However, it was a disappointing night for NGK-sponsored four-time World champion Greg Hancock and Emil Sayfutdinov who scored three points and six points respectively. Hancock is currently in seventh position in the championship with 56 points – six points behind Sayfutdinov who 29 points behind the current leader Britain’s Tai Woffinden is.
NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd Marketing Manager Mark Hallam said: “It was a tremendous achievement by Nicki to win the Grand Prix after so many serious injuries and with Matej finishing second a great night for NGK.”
NGK – a leading supplier of original equipment (OE) spark plugs, glow plugs and NTK Lambda and other engine management sensors – is a long-standing supporter of Speedway and sponsors a number of top riders as well as the Wolverhampton Wolves Speedway team.
Next up for the SGP stars is the MIB Nordic Gorzow FIM Speedway Grand Prix of Poland on August 25.
About NGK SPARK PLUG: Worldwide: NGK Spark Plug is one of the leading automotive and technical ceramics suppliers, with its corporate headquarters in Nagoya, Japan and sales organisations and production facilities all over the world. The automotive side of the company specialises in the fields of ignition and sensor technology, supplying Original Equipment and Aftermarket customers across the globe. Its product portfolio for the Aftermarket comprises spark plugs, glow plugs, ignition coils and leads under the NGK Ignition Parts brand, whilst oxygen and temperature sensors, NOx sensors, mass air flow (MAF) and manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensors operate under the brand NTK Vehicle Electronics. With more than 14,500 employees, the company’s automotive and technical ceramics activities generate a total annual turnover of around 3.1 billion Euros worldwide. NGK Spark Plug is represented on all continents and has 41 group companies, 24 production plants and five technical centres. NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd is a leading supplier of original equipment (OE) spark plugs, glow plugs and NTK Lambda and other engine management sensors, plus ignition coils, to the independent UK automotive aftermarket.
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