For a special Christmas Rider Review, we look back at a man who made history in 2017, FIM Speedway World Championship runner-up Patryk Dudek.
When the Polish icon won the GP Challenge at Vetlanda with a 15-point maximum in 2016 to book his SGP spot, he was always tipped to make an impact on the sport’s top stage.
But he didn’t just make an impact; he came within 18 points of the ultimate debut series as he became the first rider to reach the FIM Speedway Grand Prix top two in their maiden series since the competition was launched in 1995.
Many young riders struggle for consistency in the early stages of their SGP adventure. But Dudek is no ordinary rider.
He introduced himself to the world with third place at the AZTORIN Slovenian SGP in Krsko, piling up 13 points in what was only his second ever SGP following his wild-card appearance in Warsaw in 2016.
He notched nine in the next round at PGE Narodowy, reaching the semis. But he played his part in history in Daugavpils on his way to topping the World Championship for the first time in his career.
Dudek finished second to Piotr Pawlicki at the Rietumu Bank Latvian SGP, with Maciej Janowski third. This saw the trio complete only the second all-Polish podium in the series’ history.
The Zielona Gora favourite maintained first place with fourth in Prague and 13 points, before getting back on the rostrum with third at the Kjærgaard Danish SGP in Horsens, scoring 14. But it wasn’t enough to stop Jason Doyle defying a broken foot to draw level on 65 points.
Dudek tallied 10 in Cardiff, before falling short of the semis for the first time all season with five points on Swedish Elitserien home track Malilla – a shock result, but one matched by leader Doyle as Janowski snatched top spot heading to Gorzow.
At this point, Dudek was the only full-time SGP star in the field yet to win a round. And he came agonisingly close in Gorzow, with Tai Woffinden producing a fantastic final ride to overhaul him for the win, with the 25-year-old taking 13 points and second spot.
Dudek added 11 to his tally in Teterow, before struggling to six in Stockholm to miss only his second semi of the year.
But he produced a dream turnaround in Torun, getting revenge on Woffinden for his Gorzow heartbreak to head the Brit in the final and claim his first SGP triumph at the Marian Rose Motoarena.
More significantly, his 18 points ensured Doyle’s bid to seal the World Championship went to Melbourne, with only the Bydgoszcz-born rider able to deny him gold.
It wasn’t to be as JD won both meeting and title on an unforgettable night at the Etihad Stadium. But Dudek had every cause for celebration too as he ended the year with fourth place on the night and 15 points, taking his final total to 143.
If Dudek delivers even more consistency in 2018, he could pose a huge threat to Doyle and his rivals once again. But there’s no doubt the competition will be far more wary of a man who clearly means business for many years to come.