Speedway rivals unite to keep Auckland event
Fierce rivals on the track, some of speedway's greatest names have united off of it to call for Auckland to remain on the world championship circuit.
The world's 15 best riders, and Kiwi wildcard entry Jason Bunyan, got their first view of the Western Springs track this morning ahead of Saturday night's opening round of the 2014 FIM World Championship in Auckland.
Saturday's meeting - which promoters hoped would attract a crowd of at least 20,000 fans - was the only round of the 12-meeting world championship to be held out of Europe.
Western Springs promoter Bill Buckley signalled last month that it was unlikely the event would continue at the venue beyond three years.
America's Greg Hancock - a two-time world champion - said Saturday would be a ''sad day'' if it doubled as the event's farewell.
''I love [Western Springs] because it is so nice to get out there and let the bike go,'' he said.
''Bill Buckley is an amazing guy. What he has done for Western Springs, let alone speedway, is pretty incredible.
''I take my hat off to that guy. Without people like him in the world, it wouldn't be as interesting a place. I would be sad to see the event leave Auckland.''
Over the past decade Hancock has repeatedly locked horns on the track with Denmark's three-time world champion Nicki Pedersen.
But just three days out from Saturday's world championship opener, Pedersen joined his rival in calling for Auckland's three-year tenure on the circuit to be extended.
''I hope definitely that they can do something,'' Pedersen said.
''I really appreciate what Bill has done for the Grand Prix series. Everyone becomes like a family when we come to New Zealand.
''Everything has been well prepared and been absolutely fine. We are on the other side of the world, we are a long way from home and everything could be hectic and difficult for us. But it has been fantastic and great racing.''
Pedersen said if New Zealand lost its hosting rights it would be a purely financial decision.
Flying Pole, Jaroslaw Hampel - who won last year's round at Western Springs - added the venue was one of his favourite circuits.
He said the chance to visit New Zealand, even just for six days, was something he and the other riders gunning for the world title looked forward to.
''And it is a wonderful part of the world,'' he said.
''I have spent a few good days [in Auckland] ... it is a nice place.''