Denmark's Nicki Pedersen is the new world speedway champion after remarkable scenes in Hamar this evening. He was handed the title after a refereeing decision excluded his main rival Jason Crump from the semi-final. Greg Hancock won the final after a rerun from the new world champion - who himself caused a point of debate.

The first three pre-qualification heats were precursors to the appearance of the first main contender - Tony Rickardsson - in heat four and a rare start at such an early stage. And how he served up an early warning that he meant business. A rapid start propelled him in to an ever-growing lead leaving Andeas Jonsson chasing shadows. What did the watching Crump and Pedersen make of it one wonders. Whatever it was, they certainly knew that they couldn't count out the defending champion.

Two eliminators followed which Todd Wiltshire, Lars Gunnestad, Mikael Max and Jason Lyons all negotiated successfully but Joonas Kylmakorpi, Tomasz Bajerski, Peter Karlsson and Bo Brhel did not.

Rune Hotla ran away with heat seven with Ronni Pedersen winning an elbow-to-elbow race with Mark Loram for second as Jonsson made no impressions. Rickardsson had heat eight won twice only to have it called back twice after falls by Andersen and Bjarne Pedersen. At the third attempt, Ryan Sullivan got the drop from the gate.

Piotr Protasiewicz won the first of the "races for gates" followed home in Indian file by Scott Nicholls, Tomasz Gollob and Greg Hancock. In the next, Crump and Nicki Pedersen would clash. Might only be for gate positions next time out but the psychological advantage could be decisive. Crump took it determinedly as Pedersen dropped out from third place.

The retiring Todd Wiltshire rode his final GP race in the elimination heat 11 where his last place meant elimination and was joined by fellow countryman Lyons and Bjarne Pedersen and Loram stayed alive. Jonsson and Andersen then saved their respective skins in the next as Gunnestad and Max tumbled out.

No worries for Nicki Pedersen in heat thirteen as he comfortably beat Holta. Sullivan then held off Richardson who in turn held off Loram in heat fourteen with a disinterested Gollob playing tail-end Charlie. Nicholls then won heat fifteen by a long way from Ronnie Pedersen leaving the more fancied Jonsson and Adams looking at an eliminator next.

Did heat sixteen see the first real clue as to who would be world champion. Bjarne Pedersen sprung a surprise to win the heat as places chopped and changed behind him. Crump got a little out of shape on the first turn as Rickardsson claimed second place. But Crump charged through to wrestle second place from Rickardsson who was then relegated to last place by Hancock. Result meaning that Rickardsson simply had to finish first or second in the very next heat - an eliminator - or he wouldn't be winning his sixth world title tonight.

He found himself on the outside of Gollob, Protasiewicz and Jonsson but could find no way back after a tardy start. Jonsson and Gollob pulled away up front as Rickardsson struggled eventually finding a way past Protasiewicz far too late. Adams lined up in the next eliminator anxious to avoid a similar fate though a second behind Hancock kept him in it as Andersen and Loram's participation ended.

Crump and Pedersen met again in heat nineteen with Crump disadvantaged by the ineffective gate four. Pedersen got away well off the inside position with Crump blasting hard and fast around the boards only to be pushed out of room by Richardson also fighting for drive but going in to the side of Crump as both riders hit the dirt. The referee deeming Richardson at fault.

Then more shenanigans in the rerun. Pedersen moving out to take Crump's line and letting Nicholls break clear. But in mid-race, Pedersen hit a rut causing his machine to lift and the rider way out of control eventually having to bale out with Crump just managing to take avoiding action. Pedersen out of the race to give Crump and automatic semi-final place. That ended the fading hopes of Adams and meant that should Pedersen not negotiate his eliminator, Crump would be handed the world championship.

Home hero Holta gave the Norwegians cause for cheer by winning the next race and claiming a semi-final spot along with Bjarne Pedersen leaving Sullivan and Ronni Pedersen one last chance.

Pedersen then lined up in heat twenty-one in full knowledge of what was at stake. First or second would mean he could still be champions. Third or fourth would mean he could not. He coped with that tremendously well to win it with ease from Jonsson. Still he or Crump would win the big prize.

Richardson got out of shape on turn one of heat twenty-two causing Gollob to change line and bale out before the air fence got him. Richardson excluded and out. Hancock and Gollob completed the semi-final line-up after the former won the rerun by a mile and the latter barged under Ronni Pedersen hard but fair.

Crump's eyes must have shone bright after Nicki Pedersen emerged from the first turn scrimmage in last place in the first semi-final. Had it stayed like that then Crump would have been champion. But then it all changed as Pedersen opened up the throttle and charged through up the inside of both Gollob and Nicholls through turns three and four to snatch and hold the required second place behind Bjarne Pedersen. Now the pressure was squarely on Crump.

What drama followed. Crump, like Pedersen before him, didn't enjoy the best of starts and found himself in third place entering the back straight for the first time. In a do-or-die effort he sped upsides Holta and dived inside entering turn three into a gap that probably wasn't quite there. But what Crump did do was take Holta's leg away sending the Norwegian flying across the track and in to the fence. Now the pressure was squarely on the referee as his he now held the destination of the world championship in his hands. If he deemed Crump at fault then Pedersen would be champion.

Breath was held and fingernails were bitten in silence while the decision was awaited. After a short time the white exclusion light went on meaning Nicki Pedersen was world champion 2003, Crump would be world number two for the third straight year and after nine GPs the title was decided on a refereeing decision. Incredible. Almost academically, Hancock and Jonsson claimed the last two final places to face Bjarne Pedersen and the new world champ.

And that new world champion certainly did not take things easy in the final. A hard first turn saw him move out and clip the left leg of Andreas Jonsson in an almost mirror image of the Crump incident. This time the referee deemed Jonsson at fault when arguably he was not. Hancock nipped away smartly to win the rerun from Nicki and Bjarne Pedersen.

Should Crump have waited for a better opening, was he impetuous or was he right to go for it hard seeing what was at stake. A big decision with massive implications. Nicki Pedersen was the beneficiary and it's he who will carry the title of world individual speedway champion for the next twelve months.

Grand Prix of Norway, Hamar:

Result
Greg Hancock
Nicki Pedersen
Bjarne Pedersen
Andreas Jonsson

Scores from Hamar
Greg Hancock 25
Nicki Pedersen 20
Bjarne Pedersen 18
Andreas Jonsson 16
Rune Holta 13
Scott Nicholls
Jason Crump 11
Tomasz Gollob
Leigh Adams 8
Ronni Pedersen 8
Ryan Sullivan 7
Lee Richardson 7
Tony Rickardsson 6
Hans Andersen 6
Mark Loram 5
Piotr Protasiewicz 5
Jason Lyons 4
Lars Gunnestad 4
Mikael Max 3
Todd Wiltshire 3
Tomasz Bajerski 2
Peter Karlsson 2
Bohumil Brhel 1
Joonas Kylmakorpi 1

Final GP standings 2003
Nicki Pedersen 152
Jason Crump 144
Tony Rickardsson 127
Leigh Adams 126
Greg Hancock 121
Tomasz Gollob 111
Scott Nicholls 102
Rune Holta 98
Ryan Sullivan 94
Andreas Jonsson 76
Piotr Protasiewicz 63
Lukas Dryml 58
Mikael Max 52
Bjarne Pedersen 51
Tomasz Bajerski 51
Lee Richardson 45
Hans Andersen 41
Mark Loram 32
Todd Wiltshire 30
Jason Lyons 29
Peter Karlsson 28
Ronni Pedersen 23
Bohumil Brhel 21
Krzysztof Cegielski 15
Tomas Topinka 13
Jaroslaw Hampel 13
David Howe 8
Peter Ljung 7
Roman Povashny 6
Matej Zagar 5
Sebastian Ulamek 4
Charlie Gjedde 4
Izak Santej 4
David Ruud 4
Lars Gunnestad 4
Robert Dados 3
Rafal Kurmanski 3
Simon Stead 3
Joonas Kylmakorpi 3
Ales Dryml 3
Sandor Tihany 2
Rafael Szombierski 2
Magnus Zetterstrom 1
Chris Harris 1
Jesper Jensen 1
Denis Stojs 1
Josef Franc 1

 

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