The 23rd Speedway Grand Prix series will get under way on Saturday 29 April and bookmakers are offering juicy odds about the ageless defending champion, Greg Hancock, going back to back for the first time in his incredible career.
Hancock, who has raced in each of the previous 22 Speedway Grand Prix editions, claimed his fourth title in 2016 after taking out the championship in 1997, 2011 and 2014. Hancock, who will celebrate his 47th birthday between the third and fourth rounds of this year’s 12-round Speedway Grand Prix competition, is not only one of the world’s most remarkable sportspersons but also one of its most gracious – no-one has a bad word to say about the American veteran who burst on to the scene in the late 1980s after being mentored by two-time world champion, former CHiPs television star Bruce Penhall.
Several bookmakers, including Marathonbet, are offering odds of +850 about Hancock becoming the fourth rider to win five or more speedway world titles – the others are Ivan Mauger (six), Tony Rickardsson (six) and Ove Fundin (five). One thinks that those bookmakers have made a rick in quoting such long odds about Hancock because the American’s starting speed and consistency marks out him as a contender even though he is old enough to be the dad of some riders.
The race to the first corner is pivotal in speedway races, particularly those that take place on temporary tracks in large, multi-purpose stadia such as Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium and Stockholm’s Friends Arena, all of which are Speedway Grand Prix venues. Hancock is what is known in speedway as a great gater, meaning that he gets away from the tapes very well and exits the first turn in good position in most of his contests. Hancock’s consistency – he won last season’s Speedway Grand Prix championship despite being victorious in just one of the 11 rounds – means that, barring injury – something that has the potential to befall any rider at any time – he is likely to be in the title hunt for all of the six-month campaign.
Hancock, whose Speedway Grand Prix form figures over the last six years are, in chronological order, 1-3-4-1-2-1, warrants more respect than bookmakers are showing him. Hancock won last term’s Speedway Grand Prix series by nine points from Tai Woffinden despite withdrawing early on in the Speedway Grand Prix of Australia final round after he had made mathematically certain of the championship crown.
Woffinden is vying with Jason Doyle for Speedway Grand Prix favouritism at almost half of Hancock’s odds. Woffinden has won two editions of the Speedway Grand Prix competition. Doyle led last year’s Speedway Grand Prix series with two rounds to go – he was five points ahead of Hancock – but he sustained a serious injury in the third heat of the Speedway Grand Prix of Poland III and ended up fifth overall. One does not have an issue with both Woffinden and Doyle being shorter odds to win the Speedway Grand Prix tournament than Hancock but the difference between the prices is too great.
The Speedway Grand Prix series starts in Slovenia and then stops off in Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland again, Germany, Sweden again, Poland for a third time and Australia, with the Australian final round scheduled for Saturday 28 October.
Greg Hancock to win the title – Each Way
Speedway Grand Prix 2017