July 17, 2024
Speedway Hub - British Speedway News

Swedish Young Gun Henriksson targets as SGP2 Series launches in Malilla

Swedish Young Gun Henriksson targets as SGP2 Series launches in Malilla

Swedish shooting star Casper Henriksson has his sights set on an FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship medal as he flies the home flag in the series-opening 3P Logistics FIM SGP2 of Sweden – Malilla on Friday.

Henriksson stormed to victory at last Saturday’s qualifier in Macon, France to book his place in SGP2 for the third straight season.

The three-round series launches at Malilla’s Skrotfrag Arena – the first of three FIM Speedway events there this weekend as the 3P Logistics FIM Speedway GP of Sweden – Malilla takes place on Saturday night at 19:00 CET, with the FIM Speedway Youth World Cup (SGP4) for the sport’s youngest stars aged 11-13 kicking off Saturday afternoon at 12:00 CET.

Henriksson hopes to start a packed weekend of racing with a Swedish win as he goes for glory in SGP2 alongside a talented field, featuring riders from seven different countries – with Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Latvia, Ukraine and Norway all represented.

The Lejonen rider finished fifth in the 2023 championship, taking second place at the final round in Vojens last September and fourth spot at round two in Gorzow last June. He is the highest-ranked returning rider, with none of last year’s top four competing in 2024.

Casper Henriksson is one of Sweden’s 2024 SGP2 contenders. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

Henriksson hopes to start his title quest off with a big performance in front of a partisan Swedish crowd.

He said: “Hopefully I will have a home advantage at the Malilla track. I have ridden here many times. Last year we had the Swedish Under-21 Championship here and I scored 15 points. I have some good memories of Malilla, so I am looking forward to going back.

“It’s good for the fans and Swedish speedway as well to get a Swedish winner in Malilla. Hopefully I can do that this year.

“It’s a good feeling to get into the series. Last year I was so close to a medal – I came fifth overall. I am trying to go for a medal this season.

“When I look at the starting list, I can see that I have beaten everyone. If I have a good day and everything is working, it can be a perfect night and hopefully a perfect season as well.”

Henriksson battles Vojens SGP2 winner Damian Ratajczak in 2023. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

SPEEDWAY GP STAR OF THE FUTURE?

Henriksson’s form in last season’s SGP2 series marked him out as one of the young Swedes with the potential to follow world No.2 Fredrik Lindgren on to the Speedway GP stage in the future. He will also be competing with fellow Swedish talent Philip Hellstrom-Bangs, who took seventh spot in SGP2 last year.

Henriksson races with Speedway GP icons Bartosz Zmarzlik and Dominik Kubera at his Swedish club Lejonen and would love to join them and Lindgren in Speedway GP one day.

He said: “That’s the main goal. It is hard to get into the series with the qualification rounds, but it has always been a dream. I am going to do my best to be in that series because for many speedway riders, it’s the main goal in their career to go and ride in the GP.”

Hellstrom-Bangs also flies the Swedish flag. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

NEW FOR 2024

For the first time ever, SGP2 events will feature Qualifying Practice. Riders will take to the track in four groups of four, with each quartet having two blocks of two minutes to set the fastest lap time they can.

The rider who clocks the quickest lap gets first choice of starting positions for the evening’s SGP2 event, with the next fastest rider choosing second and the 16th-placed rider selecting last.

As part of its vision for the sport’s next generation of riders, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports has made the FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship part of Speedway GP weekends since 2022, staging them at some of the sport’s most famous racetracks.

Henriksson admits racing the full Speedway GP format in SGP2 is the ideal preparation to hopefully step up into the senior SGP World Championship in the years to come.

He said: “It’s a great opportunity. It’s good that it’s the same format so that you can be more confident and not get surprised when you are in Speedway GP for the first time. I really like having everything the same as the big guys in the GP.”

Bastian Pedersen – nephew of Speedway GP legend Nicki Pedersen – joins SGP2 for 2024. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

THE CONTENDERS

Henriksson and Hellstrom-Bangs are joined in flying the Swedish flag by round one wild card Anton Jansson, who races for Swedish club Smederna in the Bauhaus Elitserien.

Denmark has the most representatives in this year’s SGP2 line-up with five riders. They include 2023 SON2 silver medallist Jesper Knudsen and Bastian Pedersen – nephew of triple Speedway GP world champion Nicki Pedersen.

They are joined by 2022 FIM SGP3 top two Mikkel Andersen and Villads Nagel, plus William Drejer, who finished third in the 2023 FIM SGP2 of Denmark – Vojens, despite starting the night as a track reserve.

Poland’s two-time SON2 gold medallist Wiktor Przyjemski returns to SGP2 after a year’s absence, with compatriots Jakub Krawczyk, Sebastian Szostak and Polish Silver Helmet winner Bartosz Banbor all making their series debuts.

Latvia’s Francis Gusts is the most experienced rider in the field as he appears in his fourth straight FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship series. It will also be his last after he turned 21 on January 2. If he was two days older, he would have been ineligible to compete.

Ukrainian racer Nazar Parnitskyi steps into the full line-up after serving as first substitute rider in 2023. He blazed to a 15-point maximum at his qualifier in Ludwigslust, Germany, making him the highest-ranked rider going into the championship.

The series also features rapidly-rising Norwegian international Mathias Pollestad, who was sixth in 2023, and 2022 British Under-21 and Under-19 champion Leon Flint, who finished seventh at the 2022 FIM SGP2 of Great Britain – Cardiff.

3P LOGISTICS FIM SGP2 OF SWEDEN – MALILLA STARTING LINE-UP (in FIM ranking order with rider numbers):

785. Nazar Parnitskyi (Ukraine)

355. Sebastian Szostak (Poland)

43. Casper Henriksson (Sweden)

388. Bastian Pedersen (Denmark)

505. Wiktor Przyjemski (Poland)

117. Jesper Knudsen (Denmark)

110. Jakub Krawczyk (Poland)

545. William Drejer (Denmark)

999. Mathias Pollestad (Norway)

144. Francis Gusts (Latvia)

22. Leon Flint (Great Britain)

243. Philip Hellström-Bängs (Sweden)

137. Bartosz Bańbor (Poland)

108. Villads Nagel (Denmark)

97. Mikkel Andersen (Denmark)

16. Anton Jansson (Sweden – wild card)

17. Sammy van Dyck (Sweden – first track reserve)

18. Rasmus Karlsson (Sweden – second track reserve)

WHERE TO WATCH

Coverage of the 3P Logistics FIM SGP2 of Sweden – Malilla can be enjoyed via Max, discovery+ and Eurosport platforms in markets where these are available. Viewers in the USA can tune in on MAVTV, with beINSPORTS providing live coverage across Asia. Fans in other nations can tune in on Staylive.

Words by SpeedwayGP – Feature Image by Jarek Pabijan

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