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Greig just misses out as Cecchini wins opener! FIM Flat Track World Championship Round 1 – Race Report

Greig just misses out as Cecchini wins opener! FIM Flat Track World Championship Round 1 – Race Report

Francesco Cecchini (Zaeta) ensured that a new era of FIM Flat Track competition opened with a familiar name on top, as the six-times World Cup winner claimed honours on the opening night of the newly-formed World Championship.  The Italian ripped through the heats with four unbeaten rides before taking a hard-fought victory in an entertaining Final in Pardubice.

Cecchini might have banked the 25 available points from the Czech Round but it was only on the last lap of the Final that he hit the front, Lasse Kurvinen leading in the early stages and fending off his rival’s early challenges.  As the pair came off turn two on lap nine Kurvinen made a momentary error, and that was enough for Cecchini to finally breakthrough on the inside.  A perfect start to the 2020 season sees the Italian extend his unbeaten run in FIM competition that stretches back to 2016.

This was a promising display, though, from Kurvinen: a runner-up result in only his fifth FIM Flat Track appearance matching his previous best result from Misano last year.  The Finn was consistent and fast during the Qualifying Heats, dropping just a single point in his fourth ride after failing to make progress from the back row.  And although he was beaten on this occasion by Cecchini in the Final, he will clearly prove a thorn in the Italian’s side throughout this campaign.

Francesco Cecchini – Image by Petr Makusev/Sport Photo.cz

It was a strong night for the Italian contingent as a whole, as they locked out three of the top four positions, with Daniele Moschino digging deep to take the final step on the podium.  Just days after a crash in the Italian Championship that left him with facial cuts and an ankle injury, Moschino was calm and cautious during the Heats to qualify seventh.  That left him fighting through from the second row of the grid but he found something extra for the Final, moving immediately up to fifth off the line and picking off Mikko Koskinen for fourth by the end of the opening lap.  From there, Moschino battled with fellow countryman Kevin Corradetti, eventually finding his way through for third, but by then the race had entered its closing stages and he had left himself with too much work to do to bridge the gap to the lead duo.

Tim Greig with his set up in the Czech Republic

The biggest surprise on the night was the underwhelming performance of the Spanish contingent.  Of their quartet only Guillermo Cano and Ferrán Cardús were among the top twelve that made the Final, and they were restricted to fifth and sixth.  The Honda Artbox team had a generally challenging evening with Hideyuki Okada withdrawn after a third-ride incident and Masatoshi Ohmori ninth in the Final.  But Guillermo Cano had been unbeaten during his four heats only to lose out in the 12-lap dash that settled the Championship points.

Cano’s fellow countryman Cardús, meanwhile, was hampered by a second-ride fall that forced him to do things the hard way, making it onto the back of the grid for the Final after victory in the Last Chance Qualifier.  Heat Fifteen winner Gianni Biorgotti was the other rider who progressed from the LCQ, although he was unable to move forward and eventually finished tenth.  Manuel Hagleitner and Jiri Kraus were the other Heat winners, Kraus the only Czech rider to score on home ground.

Britain’s lone representative Tim Greig enjoyed the experience missing out on the finals by just one spot, finishing in 21st place.

Tim said of the experience “After a few years away from Flattrack racing I grew in confidence every race. It took a little while to adjust to the bigger track and different track surface than we’re used to in the UK. I ended up just missing out on the finals by 1 place in 21st place. It’s good to get this first race under our belt and I am looking forward to Round 2 in Germany on the 17th now that we know what it’s all about!”

This was FIM Flat Track’s second visit to the Svítkov Speedway Stadium, following on from the Czech Cup staged there back in 2013, and although spectator attendance was restricted by local health requirements to 2,000 on this occasion there was a good atmosphere in the paddock at the start of the new World Championship era.  Francesco Cecchini’s victory in Pardubice means he leads 2020’s three-Round series heading to Diedenbergen for the German Round in just two weeks’ time.

Image courtesy of Petr Makusev/Sport Photo.cz

Winner: Francesco Cecchini (Zaeta): “Right from free practice I had a great feeling with the bike, I didn’t change anything to do with the set-up, I just concentrated on the result.  It was my first time on this track and it is really beautiful there, not many tracks in the world are like Pardubice.  In the first heats it had a lot of grip, but in the Final things became a little bit more complicated with some holes developing.  I tried not to make any mistakes, and on the third to last lap I managed to get the better of my opponent.  I am very optimistic about this season, I feel good about myself and with the bike and I will try to do the best I possibly can.”

Second: Lasse Kurvinen (LK-Racing Polaria KTM): “Pardubice was only my sixth Flat Track race ever and my first time leading in the Final.  I pushed 100% throughout, but on lap nine I made a small mistake, running a little bit wide and I almost had a big highside so Cecchini got through.  Three heat wins, though, is a really good result.  I particularly enjoy fast tracks; a place like Pardubice creates so many different racing lines.  But every track is so different and I am still learning – starts, grip, suspension, transmission – I still have so little experience.  I don’t want to think about medals yet.  I enjoyed this meeting, now I’ll go home and prepare the next race in peace and take things step-by-step.”

Third: Daniele Moschino (KTM): “Only six days ago I was in hospital after a fall in the Italian Championship, so I was really unsure whether I would be able to ride or not.  But I gave it a go cautiously in the Heats and I saw that my body was reacting well, so I decided to really give the Final my best.  The track here is spectacular, perhaps the best I have raced in the eight years I have been doing Flat Track.  We don’t really have tracks like this in Italy but the top five riders in our national Championship are of a really a very high level, so we do all ride well in these international competitions.”