PERRIS, Calif. – Team USA launched its 2014 Speedway World Cup preparations with a series of private training sessions at Perris Raceway in late January and February. Ten invited riders took part with team manager Billy Hamill and captain Greg Hancock spending time coaching their fellow squad members.
The World Cup is speedway’s own version of the Motocross of Nations. For 2014 the top nine countries in the world compete in a seven-day tournament, July 26 through August 2, which includes events in England, Sweden and Poland.
Team USA finished an astonishing fifth place in last year’s Speedway World Cup competition. Despite a small American rider pool, Team USA finished ahead of the traditionally dominant teams from Great Britain, Sweden and Russia to earn its best final placing in a decade. This means for the first time since 2007, Team USA goes straight to the final stages of this year’s tournament and does not need to progress through a qualifying round.
Joining two-time world champion and Speedway Grand Prix series rider Hancock at the Perris Raceway training camp were fellow 2013 World Cup team members Ricky Wells and Gino Manzares. Also in attendance were 25 year-old Aaron Fox, former motocross rider Tyson Burmeister, and up-and-coming teenagers Max Ruml, Rocco Scopellite, Dillon Ruml and Broc Nicol. Hamill himself also put in laps while watching over the squad with team director Steve Evans.
Manzares and Fox have both landed contracts to race for British Premier League teams in the 2014 season with the Ipswich Witches and Edinburgh Monarchs teams, respectively. Along with Hancock, Wells and the British-based Ryan Fisher, Team USA has its largest rider pool racing in Europe in nearly a decade, though it is still a small number compared to its main rivals. In speedway terms, the European team competitions are very much the major leagues.
Team manager Hamill explained, “We have 10 riders out here and it was very promising for our first training sessions. We are perhaps the only country preparing like this so early and we have big plans and aspirations. We are getting Gino and Aaron ready for their first seasons in Europe and this is a pretty exciting time for American speedway.”
Hancock, entering a groundbreaking 26th -straight season in Europe commented, “Last year was much more successful than we anticipated. It shows we are a nation that can still be a world leader. When we put the stars and stripes on our chest it’s everything – we are a proud country and we want to show people.“
Team USA will name its nine-rider World Cup roster in June, from the American riders based in Europe and those racing on the domestic American scene desperate to get a spot on the roster.