Nicholls faces an anxious wait

SCOTT Nicholls came of age as a Grand Prix rider in Sydney on Saturday. The Ipswich star finished second behind Greg Hancock in the inaugural Australian Grand Prix and now faces an anxious few days waiting to hear whether he has been awarded one of the seeded places for the 2003 series.

By Elvin King

SCOTT Nicholls came of age as a Grand Prix rider in Sydney on Saturday.

The Ipswich star finished second behind Greg Hancock in the inaugural Australian Grand Prix and now faces an anxious few days waiting to hear whether he has been awarded one of the seeded places for the 2003 series.

"I want to be in next year," said Nicholls, the first English rider to claim a rostrum place since Mark Loram in June 2000. "Hopefully this performance will clinch my place.

"It's finished off the season great for me and hopefully next year I can go another stage further, do myself more justice and do what I know I'm capable of and what the expectations of other people are."

Nicholls started superbly, winning the first ever Grand Prix race at the magnificent Stadium Australia, home of the 200 Olympic Games.

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"The first two races were good and everything was going to plan. Gate one definitely helped me out, it was a good gate position and the three races I won were from that gate.

"It was advantageous at the start but I also had gate three a couple of times and gate four twice.

"In my third race, I ran a third, which was about the only blip of the night that I was disappointed with.

"Then I beat Tony in an eliminator. I think he made a bit of a mistake, he overshot the corner a little bit and went off the grippy patch and left the door open for me.

"It was an opening I was going to take with both hands.

"I did have a stroke of luck in the semi-final. I hope Mikael's OK as you don't want to see that, but I was in a fairly good position at the time of the crash.

"I was just about to cut back between the pair of them, but I'm glad I didn't because there would have been a big old pile-up if I had.

"Had all four of us still been in the race, I like to feel I could still have done it anyway.

"However, like I've said before, I've certainly had my fair share of bad luck this season and when a bit of good luck comes my way, I'm not going to let that stand in the way of what I've achieved tonight.

"It's a good end to the season after winning the British Championship just before we came out here.

"It was a great result for me, for Greg and for the whole GSR team, the perfect end to the season.

"It might not be the most lucrative sponsorship package out there but at least we've stuck together the whole season which has got to say a lot.

"We definitely went forward together and it worked well, so hopefully if I'm in the GP next year, we can take the team another stage further."

In a thrilling final race, Nicholls came from the back to pass Rune Holta on the inside of the fourth bend and made the same movement to pass Jason Crump on the next circuit.

He came close to catching American Hancock on the line.

The 20 points the 24-year-old picked up moved him up to 13th in the final GP standings and will give him an excellent chance of a wild card entry next year.

After winning heat one in front of a 30,000 crowd, Nicholls made the most of Sebastian Ulamek falling in heat seven after a bad start.

In the re-run he made no mistake with a tapes to flag victory. Into the main event, Nicholls finished third in heat 13 before coming through a tough eliminator four races later after another good gate.

Heat 21 saw Nicholls produce an excellent pass on the already crowned world champion, Rickardsson, to reach the semi-finals for the second time this series.

As the riders went into the first bend, Lukas Dryml reared up and hit Karlsson, resulting in Drmyl being excluded and Karlsson being carried away on a stretcher with head and knee injuries and unable to take his part in the re-run.

This left Nicholls and Hancock to ride round and into the final bend.

Crump, second behind Rickardsson for the second successive year, drew two poor gates in both the semi-final and final, but said: "I am happy with my performance. Tony is a hard man to beat but that is the challenge we must set ourselves.

"It was a fantastic night for Australian speedway and all the Aussie boys, like Ryan and myself, are so pleased to have been able to race in our home country and at such a fantastic stadium.

"Promoter David Lander did a terrific job and next year we can give him an Australian winner."

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