German history-maker Celina Liebmann says she relishes the challenge of competing in a male-dominated sport as she becomes the first female rider to race in an FIM Speedway final series.
Liebmann, 20, has been handed the wild card for the Prague FIM SGP2 of Czech Republic at Marketa Stadium this Friday and cannot wait to take on the sport’s brightest young stars in the newly-revamped FIM Speedway Under-21 World Championship.
In a new era of FIM Speedway under new global promoter Discovery Sports Events, the championship has been rebranded as SGP2 and takes place on the same stage as the Prague FIM Speedway GP of Czech Republic on Saturday.
If staging the first-ever SGP2 round was not historic enough for the Prague club, they were also keen to give Liebmann the biggest chance of her career to date, inviting her to serve as their wild card.
The Bavarian, who hails from Albaching – 50km east of Munich, scored a very solid six points at her SGP2 qualifier in Daugavpils, Latvia on May 7, beating a host of riders who race in Europe’s top leagues. Liebmann also competed in the Polish Second Division with Wittstock last season and races regularly in Germany’s many competitions. She holds no fears about testing herself against the SGP2 stars in the Czech capital.
“I know all these guys and I have raced against all of them on the 250cc bikes,” she said. “I am really motivated for Prague. I am really looking forward to it.
“When I heard the news about my call-up, I was shocked. I was completely over the moon. I never thought I would get the wild card.
“My mum had bought tickets for a concert for me and her that weekend, but now I am going to Prague instead and it’s the biggest chance I have ever had.”
Speedway lacks high-profile female-only events, but that hasn’t deterred Liebmann from mixing it with the sport’s male stars. “Maybe a women’s race sometimes would be nice,” she said. “But I want to race against boys. I can improve myself much more.”
No female stars have reached such heights in the sport and a big performance in Prague will further cement Liebmann’s status as the First Lady of world speedway.
“I have always wanted to be the number one 1 girl in the world,” she said. “I see myself as the number one girl – I don’t know any others who have achieved the success I have. At the moment, I want to go as high as I can reach and do my best.”
Despite her ambition, Liebmann is determined to enjoy the experience of racing in such illustrious company this Friday and pledged not to let the occasion get the better of her.
She said: “I am always relaxed on the track and also on World Championship days. I am excited now, but on the day I will be relaxed. I will just listen to my favourite music and have fun with my friends. I want to have fun on the track. If I have fun, I score points.” Celina is the daughter of former German ice speedway international Jurgen Liebmann, who won FIM Team Ice Speedway World Championship bronze medals in 2001 and 2003.
While she was only two years old when he retired from the ice, Celina admits it was her father who guided her on to the speedway stage as she took her first laps at Bavarian club Olching.
She said: “My dad said ‘come, we will go to Olching and you can see the juniors’, and they said I could ride. I got on a bike and rode. I did it and my dad has since said ‘I never thought you’d ride for so long and be so successful.’ He is really proud.”
François Ribeiro, head of Discovery Sports Events, is delighted to see Liebmann handed the chance of a lifetime as the group works to raise the profile of the sport’s young stars and give them more opportunities to shine on some of speedway’s biggest stages.
He said: “We were already hugely excited for the first-ever SGP2 round and our excitement has only grown with the news that Celina will be racing in Prague.
“With a fine performance in the qualifying rounds and in her league competitions, this opportunity is well deserved and we all look forward to seeing her race at one of the sport’s most iconic venues.
“I wish Celina and her SGP2 rivals the very best of luck this Friday and we cannot wait to see the next generation of Speedway GP riders on track.
“This season sees Discovery take the FIM Speedway Under-21 and Under-16 World Championships under the SGP umbrella for the very first time as SGP2 and SGP3. We also look forward to the launch of SGP4 in 2023 as six-time world champion and SGP global ambassador Tony Rickardsson develops a new bike and category to introduce our youngest riders to the sport.”