July 17, 2024
Speedway Hub - British Speedway News

Swedish legend Tony Rickardson backs SGP4 Young Guns to entertain in Malilla

Swedish legend Tony Rickardson backs SGP4 Young Guns to entertain in Malilla

Six-time FIM Speedway world champion Tony Rickardsson is backing the SGP4 class of 2024 to deliver even better racing as the FIM Speedway Youth World Cup returns to Swedish venue Malilla at 12:00 CET on Saturday – with free entry for all spectators.

The brand-new class for the sport’s youngest riders aged 11-13 was launched in 2023 as part of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports and the FIM’s vision to provide an entry-level category for young riders to begin their journey towards Speedway GP.

Legends including Rickardsson will be on hand to offer coaching as part of an unforgettable two-day experience, which follows the launch of the SGP Academy, which took place in Prague two weeks ago.

This year’s SGP4 event sees 16 riders from nine different countries and four continents compete over 20 heats on the 190cc SGP4 bikes, designed by Rickardsson to train the champions of the future.

The 2023 event saw a crowd of over 1,000 spectators cover the grass surrounding the Malilla training track to watch the young guns battle it out, with Denmark’s Elias Jamil carrying off the title with a 15-point maximum.

Fans flocked to Malilla for the launch of SGP4 in 2023. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

Rickardsson was elated with the public response to the new championship last year. And he’s backing this year’s riders to deliver a Saturday afternoon of racing to remember ahead of the evening’s 3P Logistics FIM Speedway GP of Sweden – Malilla.

He said: “Last year, we didn’t know what we could expect racing-wise. If the racing is anywhere near as good as it was last year, I think we are in for a cracker.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the racing is even better this year because now some of the riders have their own bikes that they have been training on. I think we will see some unbelievable young kids with super, super nice riding skills going around the racetrack here on Saturday. I am really looking forward to seeing what they are going to come up with.

“I think the whole series now has a bit of momentum. I think we have a very good platform with the bike and concept we have.

“It really is about spreading the sport to new areas and also making it easier for new families to enter the sport. We just need to continue to work hard, try to spread the good word and build the momentum we have now.

Returning for 2024 – 2023 SGP4 runner-up Cooper Antone. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

The 190cc SGP4 bikes may be smaller than the 500cc powerhouses raced in Speedway GP, but that doesn’t mean they deliver less than half of the action. Rickardsson knows his SGP4 students will leave everything on the track in their quest for glory.

He said: “The energy you see on the racetrack … You can really feel it up in the stands. You can sense how eager everybody is to just get racing. You don’t need to motivate anyone to get to the tapes. Sometimes it’s about trying to calm everybody down – including the parents and the riders!”

Three of the 2023 SGP4 competitors return to Malilla for Saturday’s showdown – Aussie sensation Cooper Antone and Denmark’s Niklas Bager, who were second and third respectively last year, plus American star Kensei Matsudaira.

One familiar name for the host nation will be Eddie Ljung – son of former FIM Speedway World Cup winner Peter Ljung – who purchased an SGP4 bike shortly after the championship’s successful launch in 2023.

Rickardsson coaches the SGP Academy kids in Prague. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

This year’s SGP4 event also features its very first female rider, Nyklová Štěpánek of the Czech Republic.

Rickardsson is down in history as one of the sport’s all-time greats. While the 20-time Speedway GP winner built his reputation on being ultra-professional, he insists it’s important for the SGP4 riders to enjoy the experience of a friendly competition before progressing to the sport’s senior categories.

“I know the racing will be very hard and tough,” he said. “But the riders should try to enjoy it now because it’s going to get really serious when they get older.

“They should take their time and enjoy the atmosphere and the whole weekend together with their families and all the GP riders as well.”

A number of the SGP4 class of 2024 took part in the first-ever SGP Academy at Prague’s iconic Marketa Stadium from May 30 until June 1, as Rickardsson was joined by four-time Speedway GP world champion Greg Hancock and former Czech Republic international Tomas Topinka in passing on some pearls of wisdom to the young riders and their families.

As well as on-track coaching, riders took part in media and social media training, as well as going behind the scenes in the Speedway GP pits and TV broadcast truck, receiving a seminar from the FIM and taking part in the rider parade ahead of the Orlen FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic – Prague on June 1.

Rickardsson admits that weekend left him even more energised for SGP4 in Malilla. He said: “It went really well. On a personal note, it gave me a lot of energy to meet up with all the kids and the families. I felt charged up going home from the event and I hope the families had the same feeling.

“It was a great two days of practice on the racetrack. It also gave them a little bit of an insight into what the GP weekend looks like.

“Very few kids have actually had the opportunity to look into how a GP weekend is run. I really hope a few of them are going to make it all the way into the GP.

“Now they have a little bit of an understanding of all the work around a GP. It’s not only about riding the bike. It’s about attending all the meetings, interviews and press conferences too. I feel we have started to prepare them a bit for what’s going to come.

“When we had the kids lining up with the GP riders for the parade, I saw some of the parents were actually crying because of how happy they were. That reaction will stick with me for a long time.”

2024 SPEEDWAY YOUTH WORLD CUP (SGP4) RIDER LINE-UP:

1. Kensei Matsudaira (USA)

2. Niklas Bager (Denmark)

3. Eddie Ljung (Sweden)

4. Sonny Spurgin (Australia)

5. Augusto Camoriano (Argentina)

6. Texas Johansson (Sweden)

7. Erik Barth (Germany)

8. Cooper Antone (Australia)

9. Andzejs Smulkevics (Latvia)

10. Harald Fohlin (Sweden)

11. Adrian Axelsson (Sweden)

12. Brady Landon (USA)

13. Tino Stjernegaard Olsen (Denmark)

14. Fabian Magnusson (Sweden)

15. Arsen Mykulchyn (Ukraine)

16. Nyklová Štěpánek (Czech Republic)

Words by SpeedwayGP – Feature Image by Jarek Pabijan

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