We conclude our Rider Review series with a look back at an epic year for 2017 FIM Speedway Grand Prix world champion Jason Doyle.
Having seen his 2016 title bid cruelly ended by injury in Torun, the Australian icon was determined to make up for that disappointment – whatever the sport threw at him.
Consistency is everything and reaching 10 out of a possible 12 finals is some feat; but doing it while racing two thirds of the season with a shattered right foot is simply staggering.
Doyley started off with a rock-solid fourth place and 12 points at the AZTORIN Slovenian SGP in Krsko, before climbing on to the box with 15 points and third spot in Warsaw.
Another fourth and 10 followed in Daugavpils, before Doyle claimed the Czech lucky charm – celebrating a second straight win in Prague as he aimed to become the ninth rider in 14 seasons to top the Marketa Stadium box, and go on to lift the sport’s top prize in the same year.
Having lost out in 2016, JD didn’t want to read too much into this omen. And he would have been cursing his luck when he broke his foot just over a week later while racing in a Polish Ekstraliga meeting at Torun on June 18.
Once again, Doyle ended up in the city’s hospital, but nothing was going to keep him there for long. He went under the knife the next day to have his foot plated, and set off for Kjærgaard Danish SGP practice in Horsens just four days later.
After getting through Friday’s session, the Newcastle-born star returned to the CASA Arena on the Saturday, determined to score some points. And he produced arguably the SGP performance of 2017.
With a pep talk from sporting idol Mark Webber ringing in his ears; he stormed through the pain barrier to fourth place and a fantastic 15 points.
Despite having to be wheeled to his van on a stretcher with his foot badly swollen and painful after the action, Doyle overhauled Patryk Dudek to top the World Championship and left his rivals wondering just what they had to do to stop him.
He refused to let the injury deny him the chance to compete for his country in the Monster Energy FIM Speedway World Cup as Australia finished second in the Race Off.
And he maintained his momentum in the SGP series with second spot behind Maciej Janowski at the Adrian Flux British SGP in Cardiff.
Doyle’s title bid suffered a setback in Malilla, where he managed just five points and missed out on the semis for the first and only time this year. This allowed Janowski to top the standings going to Gorzow.
But he didn’t stay there for long as Doyle picked up third place and 14 points at the Edward Jancarz Stadium, before another third at the IPONE German SGP in Teterow – this time with a super 17.
Having come so close and missed out last year, Doyle wanted to close out the world title race as quickly as possible. So an awesome 18 points and a third straight third-place finish in Stockholm was just what the doctor ordered.
He went to Torun, determined to leave as world champion and bury the ghost of the two brutal crashes he had suffered there. But Dudek had other ideas.
The Pole blazed to his first ever SGP win and 18 points, and with Doyle tallying 10, it saw the title fight go to a last-round decider at the QBE Insurance Australian SGP in Melbourne.
JD didn’t just want to lift the championship in front of his home fans; he wanted to win it in style.
He flew past Piotr Pawlicki and Tai Woffinden in race 10 to claim the victory that sealed gold. And he didn’t stop there. He gave Melbourne its second straight Aussie winner as he took the chequered flag ahead of Woffinden, Bartosz Zmarzlik and Dudek in the final.
The taste of Aussie champagne quickly dulled the pain of his broken foot. And with that now fixed and plenty of time to rest, the new world champ is looking forward to a Happy New Year as he defends his crown in 2018.