Grand Prix: Martin Smolinski shocks the field as he wins opening Grand Prix
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @graemebailey
Last Updated: 05/04/14 3:39pm
The Grand Prix season began in spectacular fashion as German international Martin Smolinski took the opening GP in New Zealand on debut.
Reigning world champion Tai Woffinden failed to reach the semi-finals, although, as he was carrying injuries, he will not be too disheartened with his seven-point return, while the likes of Darcy Ward and Greg Hancock also missed out on making the latter stages.
It is unbelievable, I have worked 20 years for this
Three-time champion Nicki Pedersen looked the man to beat all evening at the Western Springs raceway Auckland, going through the knockout stages undefeated, but he was upset by Smolinksi in the final.
1 - Nicki Pedersen 17
2 - Krzysztof Kasprzak 13
3 - Martin Smolinski 15
4 - Fredrik Lindgren 13
5 - Chris Holder 11
6 - Kenneth Bjerre 10
7 - Jaroslaw Hampel 8
8 - Tai Woffinden 7
9 - Andreas Jonsson 7
10 - Niels-Kristian Iversen 6
11 - Greg Hancock 6
12 - Matej Zagar 6
13 - Darcy Ward 5
14 - Troy Batchelor 4
15 - Jason Bunyan 2
16 - Chris Harris 0
Pole Krzysztof Kasprzak actually had the first pick in the final and he went for the favourable gate one, whilst former Wolves ace Fredrik Lindgren had second pick after defeating Pedersen in his semi-final.
But neither could make their selected gates stick. Kasprzak made the gate with Lindgren missing out and the Polish star led for the opening two-and-a-half laps as he looked destined for the win - until Pedersen dived up his inside.
Then, as Pedersen was defending from Kasprzak, Smolinski came from nowhere to roar through on the inside off bend two on the final lap, giving him a lead he managed to retain through to the chequered flag.
"It is unbelievable, I have worked 20 years for this, we have had a lot of trouble in the pits last few years but we have shown how much pace we have," said a delighted Smolinksi.
"I never give up, and my team has worked so hard - it is like boxing take a step back and then go for it."
Chris Holder was the pick of the Antipodeans as he made the first semi-final, but he and Jarek Hampel failed to progress through from it.
Holder's good friend Ward saw his night brought to a premature end in Heat 14, as Smolinski straightened up of the final turn and wiped out of the Poole star.
It was also a night to forget for the second Brit on show, as Chris Harris failed to muster a point on his GP return.