Triple world champion Nicki Pedersen insists the pantomime boos never slowed him down as he returns to celebrate the 20th FIM Speedway GP of Great Britain – Cardiff this Saturday.

Pedersen will be jetting into the Welsh capital, where he topped the podium in 2003 on his way to his first Speedway GP world title.

The Dane looks set to get a great reception as he fights his way back from a broken hip and pelvis suffered in a PGE Ekstraliga match on June 5.

Pedersen has always divided opinion with his tough racing style, meaning he often got a mixed reception when he lined up at Principality Stadium. But the Odense-born ace admits he didn’t mind if he was booed or cheered as he competed in Britain’s biggest arena motorsport event.

He said: “I never had a problem with the booing. Some of the fans were cheering and some were booing. But I still sell tickets. People want to come and watch me. If they want to boo me, they are more than welcome.

“You see many people do that and then you see them later on in the restaurants or in the town, and they come up with their kids and get an autograph.

“It is what it is. I have never had a problem with that. Sometimes it boosts me even more. Then I am free to go and do whatever I want to do on the track. I have never done things for anyone else; I have always done things for myself.

“If anyone thinks it’s good, that’s a bonus for all of us. It’s win, win. I have always been extremely strong in my mind. It didn’t ever affect me at all and I can’t say why. Some people would get affected by it and think ‘they don’t like me.’ But then it comes down to them having a problem with themselves rather than with the crowd.

“There always needs to be a hero and there always needs to be a villain. There need to be characters and obviously I have been one of them. When I won it, everyone was cheering. I probably had boos halfway through the night anyhow, but it’s part of the game. They still respect me.”

Pedersen looks back on his 2003 victory with huge pride. Speedway GP was staged using a 24-rider knockout format from 1998 to 2004. This meant Pedersen had to fight his way through the pre-main event to take on the top eight riders from the previous round in Avesta.

“I think I had 11 starts and ended up doing nine races on that night,” Pedersen recalled. “I had two or three crashes too. But it was a fantastic night and great to win, especially in a place like Cardiff. I did that and it was a very nice feeling.”

Victory in Cardiff has helped to elevate the careers of a host of world-class stars and it was certainly the ideal confidence boost for Pedersen in the first year when he truly emerged as a world-title contender. He said: “When you win a Grand Prix, you are up there and you know anything can happen if things fall in the correct place. When you win a Grand Prix, you just get hungrier.

“I continued from there. Me, Jason Crump and Tony Rickardsson were in the top three at the last Grand Prix in Hamar. Cardiff was one of the steps towards getting where I did at the end of the season and being in the fight for the World Championship.”

Aussie ace Crump was also chasing his first Speedway GP gold medal, having won silver in the previous two seasons. But Pedersen’s Cardiff win was just the boost he needed to make sure he got there first.

“Finally it looked like Jason was going to take over from Tony,” Pedersen said. “Jason had been fighting for the World Championship for several years more than I had. He couldn’t really get over Tony. Finally he got above him, but then, from the sidelines, another Dane came along and I took it from him at the last minute.

“I just got things working. I was 26 years old that year and I was very young. But I knew how to be consistent and tried to be strong, do my job and not think too much about things.

“I also had a good team around me. We were fighting and we were honest with each other. We were working extremely hard and just taking it step by step. We were not arrogant – we knew it was a tough season.”

Celebrate 20 years of Speedway GP in Cardiff on Saturday with all tickets including entry to Sunday’s FIM SGP2 of Great Britain, featuring the sport’s under-21 stars. Secure your seats at Principality Stadium online here now: https://bit.ly/3ixX9wQ

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