Great Britain hero Robert Lambert dedicated the Lions’ famous Monster Energy FIM Speedway of Nations world-title triumph to injured star Tai Woffinden as 32 years of hurt ended in Manchester on Sunday.
British duo Lambert and Dan Bewley won the Grand Final 5-4 to send the National Speedway Stadium into raptures. Despite being beaten by Polish icon Bartosz Zmarzlik, the Lions filled second and third place after Maciej Janowski crashed dramatically on the first lap.
The Brits had not won a world team title since England lifted the 1989 World Team Cup at Bradford. Lambert, Bewley and under-21 star Tom Brennan were not alive 32 years ago.
So Lambert was elated to bring generations of agony to an end on a night GB triumphed without their triple world champion Tai Woffinden, who crashed out of Final 1 in a frightening incident in heat 18 on Saturday, damaging the MCL ligament in his knee as well as his ribs.
Lambert dedicated the victory to Woffy and insists he, replacement star Bewley and Brennan couldn’t have done it without the Scunthorpe-born maestro.
Former European champion Lambert said: “We did it for Woffy and gave him everything we could. Hopefully he is sitting at home proud in front of the TV watching this. Tai was texting our mechanics throughout the meeting and telling us things he could see from his perspective. It was good.
“We have had a hard weekend with Tai getting injured. But obviously we had a strong guy to come into the team in Dan.
“I was born in 1998. It’s the first time in my lifetime that I have seen Great Britain as world champions, apart from Woffy being a world champion as an individual.
“It’s a great feeling and I am going to treasure this gold medal for as long as I live.
“We did it with such a young team as well. Me and Dan went out and did the business in the last race at such a high level against the two best Poles in the world. It’s such a great feeling for us and also Team GB. I am very, very proud of everyone involved.”
When Janowski hit the deck on bend four, Lambert continued to chase Zmarzlik furiously for the lead – not realising GB were in a winning position as they held second and third – with four points for the heat winner, three for second, two for third and zero for last place.
Lambert said: “I was still going for it. I wasn’t aware that Janowski was down at all. I didn’t know what was going on behind. I didn’t know if Dan was at the back. I didn’t know what was going on.
“I just knew I needed to get some points and get past Bartek if I could. I didn’t look behind me for the whole race.
“I only realised we had won when I was looking at Dan, asking ‘are we No.1? Did we get it?’ Then I saw the fans going nuts.”
Lambert paid a warm tribute to everyone who backed the Brits to an historic triumph in Manchester.
He said: “I want to say thanks to all our background supporters, who have given us all the help, managing director Rob Painter and Vicky Blackwell. The whole support team we have behind Team GB is incredible.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do that without all of them around us and it’s a proud moment for us, my family and everyone around me now as we soak up this atmosphere and this moment of being world champions.
“I want to say thanks for all the support the fans gave us today. This is my first time back racing in Britain after a couple of seasons away. I have definitely missed the cheers from the British supporters. I really appreciate them and it is something special to my heart.”
Janowski was visibly heartbroken after his Grand Final fall as Poland took a third straight silver medal in the Monster Energy SON.
While their wait for a world title goes on, he was still proud of a performance that saw the Poles top the heat score chart over two days, scoring an astonishing 74 points from a possible 84.
But Janowski was gutted to suffer a fall at the worst possible moment. He said: “I tried my best, but I got to a part of the track where it was very hard to exit the corner and I fell off. I tried to do my best for my team and I made a mistake.
“We have done a great job and we are a team – our mechanics did some extremely hard work. Maybe it looked easy on the track, but we went through a lot of different changes, trying to find the best setup.
“Tonight we did enough for a silver medal. We have a great team – just one mistake cost us everything.”
Denmark finished second on the score chart with 68 points to reach the Grand Final Qualifier – four points ahead of GB, who were third on the qualifying table with 64.
Lambert pipped Madsen for victory on the line in the Grand Final Qualifier, with Dan Bewley beating Mikkel Michelsen to third place as a 6-3 saw the Lions make it into the race for gold with Poland.
While Madsen was disappointed to be left with a second straight bronze medal, he believes the Danes showed their potential to become champions again as they topped the score chart in Final 2 on 39 points.
He said: “We started the meeting well and we felt like we could do it. But when it’s just down to a semi-final and final, anything can happen. That’s the game and it didn’t turn out to our advantage.
“I think we can still hold our heads high. We won the meeting today. It just proves we are up there and can win the world championship.
“Next year we will have the FIM Speedway of Nations in Denmark. Obviously we are disappointed now, but we are going to take the positives from those two meetings in Manchester. Hopefully we can take it a couple of steps further in front of our home crowd.”
FIM president Jorge Viegas was trackside in Manchester and presented the Monster Energy SON medals.
After witnessing Woffinden’s crash in Final 1, he was keen to ensure Britain’s most successful speedway rider still receives his reward, despite being unable to race on Sunday.
He said: “I have ordered an extra medal for him from the FIM. So he will have a gold medal as well. We only had four medals, but I have ordered a gold medal to give to Tai.”
MONSTER ENERGY SON FINAL 1&2 COMBINED SCORES:
1 GREAT BRITAIN 64: Robert Lambert 32, Tai Woffinden 14, Dan Bewley 11, Tom Brennan 7.
2 POLAND 74: Bartosz Zmarzlik 38, Maciej Janowski 31, Jakub Miskowiak 5.
3 DENMARK 68: Leon Madsen 38, Mikkel Michelsen 23, Mads Hansen 7.
4 AUSTRALIA 49: Max Fricke 30, Jason Doyle 15, Keynan Rew 4.
5 FRANCE 47: David Bellego 34, Dimitri Berge 13, Steven Goret 0.
6 LATVIA 42: Andzejs Lebedevs 32, Olegs Mihailovs 8, Francis Gusts 2.
7 SWEDEN 30: Philip Hellstrom-Bangs 24, Pontus Aspgren 4, Jacob Thorssell 2.
Grand Final Qualifier: Lambert, Madsen, Bewley, Michelsen – GB win 6-3.
Grand Final: Zmarzlik, Lambert, Bewley, Janowski – GB win 5-4.