Australian speedway champion Jason Crump heads into the penultimate round of the 2003 world title at Bydgoszcz in Poland on Saturday night with an all-consuming mandate - to wrest the championship lead from great rival Tony Rickardsson.

After a brilliant victory in the Czech Republic on September 6, the Jawa-backed Crump has now closed to within 2pts of Rickardsson (115-113) in the nine-round title, with the tight leader board also containing Dane Nicki Pedersen (114) and fellow Aussie Leigh Adams (107).

Crump, 28, has been the dominant rider in the last four speedway grands prix, with his output of 77pts including two superb victories. The first of those triumphs came in Denmark on June 28 as he finally hit his straps after a fickle start to his eighth successive world championship campaign.

The dual world number two also knows how to win at the 25,000-seat Polonia Stadium in Bydgosczc, which first hosted a round of the world title in 1998. The eight-time GP winner wasn't prominent on that particular evening, but a victory in 2001 and a fourth place last year have since represented excellent returns. Polonia also hosted the 'European' round of the world title in 2002, where Crump finished second behind Pedersen.

Meanwhile, Rickardsson, who competes in the same Polish domestic league team as Crump, has also forged a strong bond with Polonia over the years - a victory and two seconds since 2000 - setting the scene for a cut-throat encounter on September 20.

"Bring the rest of the championship on!" says Crump. "I've worked exceptionally hard to draw level with Rickardsson and Pedersen over the last five or six rounds, and now I'm ready to move my way past - as simple as that.

"I'll say it again, but my form has been exceptional, and I'm proud of the way I have moved into championship calculations despite running out of fuel and suffering mechanical failure in a few of the rounds. In past years, those sorts of mishaps may have de-railed my form, but I've just put them to the back of my mind and moved on. The Polish people love their speedway, so I hope we can put on a great show for them this weekend. It's going to be huge."

Crump's first outing at Polonia will be in heat nine, where his opposition in the four-lapper will include 2002 winner Tomasz Gollob. Further afield, a victory in the final would see Crump become the first rider to win successive GPs since countryman Ryan Sullivan in rounds 2-3 last year.

As it stands now, Crump and Sullivan are two of only five riders to win successive GPs since the world championship went multi-round in 1995. The other three members of the exclusive club are Tommy Knudsen, Rickardsson and four-time world champion Hans Nielsen.

 

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