Prague HatTrick Hero Vaculik Living His Boyhood Dream

Vaculik thanks a partisan Prague crowd. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

Slovak star Martin Vaculik admits watching FIM Speedway Grand Prix action in Prague as a child inspired him to become a triple winner of the Orlen FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic – Prague on Saturday.

The Zarnovica-born racer stormed to victory in Marketa Stadium’s record-breaking 30th SGP final ahead of Swedish star Fredrik Lindgren, reigning Speedway GP world champion Bartosz Zmarzlik and fourth-placed Dominik Kubera.

The roar grew louder with every turn of his wheels as Vaculik accelerated clear to claim a popular win at the sold-out Czech capital venue, packed with local fans, as well as an army of his supporters from across the Slovakian border.

Vaculik joins Speedway GP icons Jason Crump, Nicki Pedersen and Tai Woffinden in becoming a three-time winner of the longest-running SGP event. Watching the sport’s legends in Prague as a child grew Vaculik’s love for speedway and he was elated to complete a hat-trick of wins in his adopted home event. 

He said: “What a feeling! Believe me, this is amazing. I don’t really know what to say right now. I have so many positive emotions.

“I remember when I was a junior. I raced on this track in Prague, and I had so many junior meetings here with my friends from the Czech Republic. I came here with my father and learned speedway and how to ride.

“The Speedway GPs here stay in my memories too. Once a year, I came here with my father to watch the GP and for me, it was ‘Wow!’ All my idols were there, and it was amazing.

“Now I am here, and I am part of Speedway GP. I am very pleased about that. I really enjoy it and I am very happy that I am in the position I am. I am really thankful for that.” 

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Vaculik on the back wheel. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

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Lifting the Prague trophy. PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

World No.3 Vaculik admits seeing off 2023 Speedway GP top two Lindgren and Zmarzlik was no easy task as he held on for another famous win.

He added: “Freddie and Bartek are top-class riders. No matter if it’s a normal heat, semi-final or final or even practice, it doesn’t matter. If we go from the tapes, it is always very tough. I am super happy I won.”

Vaculik paid tribute to the legions of fans from Slovakia, Czech Republic and beyond who cheered him to victory.

He said: “I want to say a big thanks to them – I really appreciate it. I felt the energy from them, and I am really pleased about that. I thank all of the fans who came here to support me, Slovak fans, Czech fans and all the other fans who were behind me. I am very thankful.” 

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Prague top trio Martin Vaculik (centre), Fredrik Lindgren (left) and Bartosz Zmarzlik (right). PHOTO: Jarek Pabijan

Runner-up Lindgren was delighted to turn a tough run of recent SGP results around as the four-time Swedish champion bounced back from scoring seven championship points in Polish capital Warsaw and three at the German round in Landshut

He said: “It’s a big relief for me really. I have been going through a really tough time. The Landshut one was absolutely terrible.

“I have been very down mentally and thinking what to do. But we had a good day of testing over the weekend in Sweden. We ironed out a few issues with the equipment.

“I had the Swedish Championship on Tuesday and got that good feeling back. I managed to lift the title and I came to Prague with a lot more hope than I have had over the last few weeks. Hopefully this will kickstart my season again and I’ll be back to normal.” 

Lindgren produced a huge pass to overhaul Zmarzlik for second place in the final and was delighted to hit top speed when it mattered most.

He added: “I had good speed at the end of the meeting, I felt. I was pushing really hard on the outside. It was very, very deep – there was a lot of dirt. I managed to get some good drive and get past. Bartek counter-attacked as well, so I had to work really hard for it.” 

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Fireworks as the Speedway GP riders are presented in Prague. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

Third-placed Zmarzlik is still waiting for what would be a record-breaking 24th Speedway GP victory. But in the meantime, he admits he is just enjoying his racing after extending his championship lead by scoring 16 to move 12 clear of nearest rival, Aussie star Jack Holder.

The Pole said: “I am not really looking at this record. I am really happy with what I have done, and I love racing on the bike. I just want to enjoy the racing. This is the most important thing for me.

“Of course I am trying to win every round. I can make mistakes, but I have been in the final again and that’s my minimum plan done. I am really happy because Prague can be very good or very bad for me. I am very happy to be in the final again.” 

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Bartosz Zmarzlik battles for the lead. PHOTO: Taylor Lanning

Next up for the SGP stars is the 3P Logistics FIM Speedway GP of Sweden – Malilla on Saturday, June 15 – a weekend which also features the 3P Logistics FIM SGP2 of Sweden – Malilla, the opening round of the 2024 FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship on Friday, June 14.

Speedway GP race day also features the FIM Speedway Youth World Cup (SGP4) for 11-13-year-olds on the Saturday afternoon at 12:00 CET, which sees a number of the youngsters who took part in this weekend’s SGP Academy in Prague competing for the sport’s newest world title on 190cc machines. 

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