This is a relatively low-key event, as you might imagine. No global bidding process for the rights to stage it, no massive infrastructure to be put in place. Even among speedway fans, this isn’t the biggest of big things: although team racing is at the heart of domestic competition, on the global stage it’s all about the individual world championship – nowadays contested through the Speedway Grand Prix series.
There are other big differences between this and FIFA’s big tournament. Notably, if a competitor in the Speedway World Cup falls over, it won’t be because an opponent has brushed past them; it will be because an opponent has smashed into them on a motorbike with no brakes, that accelerates faster than an F1 car!
With qualifying out of the way, the line-ups for the two group contents (or “events”) has been finalised. Event 1 at Kings Lynn, England, on July 26, sees hosts Great Britain (led by world champion Tai Woffinden) against Australia, USA, and Italy.
The winners of each event go straight to the final at Bidgoszcz, Poland, on August 2, where they join defending champions Poland. The runners-up and third-placed teams from each event go to a race-off at the same Polish venue on July 31 to compete for the remaining final place.
What chance of Britain winning? Pretty slim, really, despite the presence of individual champ Woffinden. The Brits haven’t won the title since 1989 (as England), and the Poles, Danes, Aussies, and Swedes (who disappointed last year) are probably more fancied; but one similarity with the FIFA World Cup – it’s likely to be unpredictable.
Photos of Tai Woffinden (top) and race action (above) by Mark Hawkins Photography at the 2014 British Grand Prix in Cardiff.