Scott moves into world top ten
HE'S arrived. Scott Nicholls, Ipswich Evening Star Witches' skipper, followed up his Championship of Great Britain success with a move into the world's top ten.
By Elvin King
Scott Nicholls, Ipswich Evening Star Witches' skipper, followed up his Championship of Great Britain success with a move into the world's top ten.
He sped to third place in an absorbing Slovenia Grand Prix in a humid Krsko on Saturday night – to announce his right to be classed as serious world championship contender.
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The 25-year-old is now in tenth place in this season's GP standings after a night when he proved once and for all that he has the ability to mix it with the very best.
Leigh Adams, after the good fortune of drawing gate one in his semi-final and final, became the fifth different GP winner this year – and Nicki Pedersen moved to join Tony Rickardsson as joint leader with second place.
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Nicholls was third with Tomasz Gollob fourth. With Rickardsson, Gollob and Nicholls on their books Ipswich's struggling Elite League forms bears no relation to the position the club holds on the international scene.
Nicholls, Ipswich born and bred, has suffered more than his fair share of misfortune over his last two full seasons in the GP, but after reaching a third successive semi-final he is finally enjoying the success his skills and professional approach deserve.
Pedersen, who was passed by Adams on the last lap of a thrilling final by Adams, hit the deck three times before Nicholls finished third in his first heat.
In race 14, Nicholls forced himself inside David Howe on the first turn to win well, and in heat 19 he started from gate three in one of the races of the night.
There was passing aplenty before two Poles – Tomasz Bajerski and Gollob – finished ahead of Nicholls with Pedersen third.
This put Nicholls in danger of going out, but he escaped elimination – along with Adams – in heat 21. Nicholls won after a superb gate from the inside, with Adams taking advantage of an error by Rune Holta to grab a rather fortunate second place.
Mark Loram turned in a gutsy showing on his return to the track for the first time since April with a succession of strong races, but he was eliminated after finishing at the back in heat 21.
Rickardsson and Pedersen escaped elimination in heat 22 with a first and second finish – ahead of Ryan Sullivan and Andreas Jonsson.
Nicholls ensured his second GP final – his first in Sydney last October – when he gated from the outside to pass Bajerski going into the third bend of his semi-final. .
Jason Crump forced Bajerski into an error on the second lap before running out of fuel on the final turn so that Pedersen could grab a final place.
Rickardsson and Greg Hancock, who rides at Foxhall Stadium this Thursday with Oxford, were eliminated from the second semi-final.
Nicholls drew gate two for the final and was squeezed out on the first turn. He held off Gollob, after the Pole was pushed wide on the first turn, comfortably for four laps.
Adams got a flier from the inside but was passed by Pedersen on the third lap. However, Adams put the icing on the cake to be a brilliant meeting by roaring inside Pedersen as the riders went into the final corner.
"The hard work seems to be paying off," said Evening Star columnist Nicholls. "I have put together a consistent run and feel as though I have made it into the big time.
"My confidence is high right now, but I must ensure I don't get carried away as there is still plenty more work to be done.
"I have been riding well and felt I was good enough to get to the final in each of the previous two rounds. I am confident and a place on the rostrum for the second time – he was second in Australia last year – means I am going in the right direction."
If Nicholls holds on to his top ten place he will gain automatic qualification to next season's series.
Czech Republic star Lucas Dryml was rushed to hospital unconscious, after a horrendous-looking spill. The Poole rider was challenging Hancock for second place in heat 15 when he caught his footrest in the air fence down the home straight and was sent hurtling over the front of his machine and face first into the track.
Slovenian GP result: 1 Leigh Adams 25pts, 2 Nicki Pedersen 20, 3 Scott Nicholls 18, 4 Tomasz Gollob 16, 5 Tony Rickardsson 13, 6 Tomasz Bajerski 13, 7 Jason Crump 11, 8 Greg Hancock 11.
Standings after five of the nine round series (top 10): 1 T Rickardsson 89 2 N Pedersen both 89pts, 3 L Adams 78, 4 J Crump 72, 5 G Hancock 69, 6 L Dryml 58, 7 R Holta 56, 8 T Gollob 56, 9 R Sullivan 54, 10 S Nicholls 50.