Nicki Pedersen has started the 2007 Speedway Grand Prix as he left off in 2006 - with a hugely impressive victory.

Denmark's Pedersen was unbeaten in his seven rides in the FIM Meridian Lifts Italian Grand Prix and at times made it look easy when it most certainly was anything but.

Pedersen says that his preparation for the new season has been perfect and that he has worked harder than ever during the winter to be ready for the challenge of regaining the World title he won in 2004.

All that effort paid a handsome dividend in the opening round. He stormed through his five qualifying heats and was never headed in either the semi-final or final.

Greg Hancock was the only rider to match Pedersen during the early stages and the veteran American showed all his usual guts and determination to first get to the final and then overhaul Poland's Wieslaw Jagus for second place.

"It was a tough night," admitted Hancock. "The track was tricky at times but they made a good job of watering it when they did. Nicki was the only rider who looked at ease all the time and he is setting the pace right now."

Pedersen countered: "It is early days but I am very happy with the way things went. I am much fitter than I was last year but there is a long way to go. And we know that Jason (Crump) will still have a big say."

Crump, never quite at his fastest on the big Lonigo circuit, made it through to the final but under the new scoring system did not add to his 12 points.

Pedersen took 24 points from Lonigo with Hancock five behind on 19. Crump, though disappointed, was not too downhearted with 10 more rounds to go. Leigh Adams again showed his class and tenacity but, as so often last year,
couldn't manage to get beyond the semi-final stage on his 36th birthday.

Tomasz Gollob was another beaten semi-finalist but, like his fellow Pole Jarek Hampel, will go to round two in Wroclaw in good spirits.

It wasn't a good night for either Sweden or Great Britain. Andreas Jonsson didn't win a race in his five qualifying heats while Antonio Lindback was never on the pace.

Chris Harris can be pleased with his night's work in his first ever Grand Prix - other than as a wild card - and admits that he learned a lot which will help him as the series unfolds.

Scott Nicholls was never in contention for a semi-final place and his night got even worse when he had a heavy crash in his fourth ride. He gamely came out for his fifth but was in pain though early x-rays suggest that he hasn't
broken any bones.

FIM Meridian Lifts Italian Grand Prix:

N.Pedersen (Denmark) 24, G.Hancock (USA) 19, W.Jagus (Poland) 14, J.Crump(Australia) 12, T.Gollob (Poland) 10, H.Andersen (Denmark) 9, J.Hampel(Poland) 8, A.Jonsson (Sweden) 7, C.Harris (Great Britain) 7, M.Zagar (Slovenia) 5, B.Pedersen (Denmark) 5, S.Nicholls (Great Britain) 4,
A.Lindback (Sweden) 3, R.Holta (Norway) 2, M.Carpanese (Italy) 2.



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