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The 2012 Speedway Word Championship kicks off in New Zealand on Saturday, March 31, with two Aussies in action – Jason Crump and Chris Holder

For the first time since 2002, world speedway GP racing returns to the Southern Hemisphere this weekend, with New Zealand hosting the opening round of the 2012 championship.

Australia will be represented by Jason Crump and Chris Holder in the 16-rider field, with exciting youngster Darcy Ward not accepting an invitation to compete in the 2012 championship.

For the Aussies, it’s probably the closest GP to a ‘home’ event, with the Western Springs Raceway in Auckland – long by GP standards at 413m -- just a three-hour flight from Crump’s base on the Gold Coast. Meanwhile, Holder will be making a longer journey from the UK, where he has already started domestic racing this year.

“This is the first time in 19 years that I have spent six months at home in Australia and it has done me a world of good.” said Crump.  “I have trained harder than ever so I am physically and mentally ready, my bikes are ready and I want to start winning GP’s again.

“My engines have had a good working over by a couple of talented Aussies and I can’t wait for the racing to start again. But I am not being over confident as I know all the other riders have been working hard as well.”

“There will be a lot of Aussies flying into Auckland to see the Grand Prix so I will have lots of support from them.  I will be doing my best and going hard for that top spot on the podium.”

As well as training hard, Crump, a three-time world speedway champion, took time out of his schedule to compete in the Red Bull Race Off event at this year’s Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park, taking on fellow Aussies Robbie Maddison, Rick Kelly and Samantha Reid, former F1 star David Coulthard, and professional drifter Mike Whiddett.

American veteran Greg Hancock is the defending world champion, winning the 2011 title from Swede Andres Jonsson, Poland’s Jaroslaw Hampel and Crump. Holder was seventh.

Hancock also won the last GP in the Southern Hemisphere, which was held in Sydney in 2002.

Other potential race winners in New Zealand will include Russian Emil Sayfutdinov and Danish duo Kenneth Bjerre and Nicki Pedersen.

The full entry list for New Zealand is as follows:

•    Greg Hancock (USA)
•    Andreas Jonsson (Sweden)
•    Jaroslaw Hampel (Poland)
•    Jason Crump (Australia)
•    Tomasz Gollob (Poland)
•    Emil Sayfutdinov (Russia)
•    Kenneth Bjerre (Denmark)
•    Chris Holder (Australia)
•    Fredrik Lindgren (Sweden)
•    Nicki Pedersen (Denmark)
•    Chris Harris (Great Britain)
•    Antonio Lindback (Sweden)
•    Bjarne Pedersen (Denmark)
•    Peter Ljung (Sweden)
•    Hans Andersen (Denmark)
•    Jason Bunyan (New Zealand) -- wildcard

The 2012 championship calendar is:

31 March, Auckland, New Zealand
28 April, Leszno, Poland
12 May, Prague, Czech Republic
26 May, Gothenburg, Sweden
09 June, Copenhagen, Denmark
23 June, Gorzow, Poland
28 July, Gorican, Croatia
11 August, Terenzano, Italy
25 August, Cardiff, Great Britain
08 September, Malilla, Sweden
22 September, Vojens, Denmark
06 October, Torun, Poland

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Published : Thursday, 29 March 2012
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