email@example.com (Rich Jones)
Tai Woffinden is already Britain’s most decorated speedway rider – but he goes on the hunt for world title number four with no shortage of motivation.
Woffinden will again fly the flag for Great Britain as the showpiece Speedway Grand Prix series finally gets underway in Wroclaw, Poland tonight (Friday).
The Scunthorpe-born daredevil saw his bid for another world title ended before it began last year as he broke his back and shoulder blade in a crash.
The trials and tribulations of speedway are nothing new to Woffinden, who twice broke his collarbone during his stunning 2013 world title win.
“Pain is just weakness leaving the body” reads one of the numerous tattoos which adorn Woffinden’s body, which has withstood plenty of crashes and injuries over the years as an inevitable cost of riding a 500cc motorbike without any brakes.
With three world titles already against his name and a young family to now go back to, he could be forgiven for losing some motivation and pondering whether that inevitable cost is worthwhile.
Instead, he is aiming sky high and being driven on by his desire to win seven world titles and break the six-title record held by Ivan Mauger and Tony Rickardsson.
“There’s not really anything else to chase, so you have to set those goals that are borderline impossible,” he explains.
“It gives me something to work for so every single day I wake up motivated to be the best I can be and try and make it happen.
“When you’ve won it three times you have to look further than four to be hungry to achieve more.
“You can get caught up just looking in the short term and trying to chase that one down, but if you set that goal a little bit further down the line you can try and grab them along the way.
“It’s a tough ask but I’ve just turned 30 and I feel like I’ve got time to do it, I just have to make sure I keep focused and keep aiming high.”
Asked how long he will give himself to chase that goal, Woffinden replies: “I haven’t got a date, we’ll just see where we’re at. I take it year by year.
“If I wake up one day and say ‘I’m not interested any more’ then I’ll stop.
“But at the moment I still enjoy it, I still love the sport and as long as I’ve got that passion and enthusiasm I’ll keep going.”
Woffinden has spent the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix series living in Poland, where action was able to continue as planned despite the British league campaign being cancelled.
He was recently joined in his Wroclaw apartment by wife Faye and their two daughters, who are making the most of the family time.
Tonight’s season opener involves a short walk to what is his home circuit in Poland rather than a flight across the continent.
“Obviously it’s been a bit of a strange year for everyone, so it’s nice to get the show on the road and get back to some sort of normality.
“It’s been really good. It’s nice to have the girls here and we’re just taking one day at a time and getting through it.
“It’s just nice to be together now because I was out here on my own the first few weeks. We’re making the most of it.
“Becoming a dad hasn’t changed my outlook I don’t think, it’s just doing my job is doing my job then I come home and have family time.
“I try and keep it separate, but you know it’s nice to come home to my girls and I think being in a good head space is only a good thing.”
Whilst fatherhood has not changed Woffinden, age and experience has made him a more calculated and level-headed rider than the box-office youngster that burst onto the scene.
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“I think it comes with age – I’m 30 this year!” He says.
“That’s life, isn’t it, things change in your life and you change along the way.
You just try and become the best person you can be and the best you can at what you do, and I think I’ve probably become more calculated as a rider with age.”
Woffinden is also well aware of what went wrong last season in a year which is well and truly behind him.
“Breaking my back was the main reason,” he says. “Then coming back too early when the bone wasn’t healed yet and not being ready.
“Not being sharp, everyone else had been riding for two months whilst I was sat at home resting my back.
“When you’re at that level you can’t give them that advantage but that’s what I did, so it was a tough year.
“But this year I’ve been racing in Poland, I’m feeling sharp and we’ve got everything sorted and I know when everything is in place I can be up there.”
Whilst individual immortality is on Woffinden’s radar, there is still one more thing to tick off the to-do list.
He has been outspoken in the past regarding his frustrations with the Great Britain setup.
Their wait for a team world title has extended beyond 30 years with a new setup now in place to try and finally get back on top.
This year, Woffinden might have a golden opportunity to do just that.
He is expected to line-up alongside in-form Robert Lambert, the new European Champion, in the Speedway of Nations in Manchester in October.
“You don’t really get many opportunities like that,” he says.
“Me and Rob are going well, so we’ll just wait and see because a lot can happen between now and then, especially with the way the world is at the moment.
“Manchester at the end of October – it could be a wet one!
“That’s the only thing I haven’t won in the sport, so we just keep trying year on year and every year we seem to be there or thereabouts but never quite there.
“It’s on the achievement list, it needs to happen before the end of my career, and I’d love to get it ticked off sooner rather than later.”