Queenslander Troy Batchelor will bring the number of Australian riders in this year's Speedway Grand Prix Championship to three after seizing a fulltime opportunity to replace injured Russian Emil Sayfutdinov.
Although having raced as a wildcard in the past, Batchelor will have his first Grand Prix as a permanent fixture on ‘home' soil at the Grand Prix of New Zealand early next month.
Young Russian, Sayfutdinov's career has been punctuated by injury, one sustained in August last year has put him out of the back end of the 2013 Championship and conspired to leave him on the sidelines. He cites a lack of fitness along with a financial dispute with his Russian club (leading to a financial struggle) as the primary reasons to relinquish his place.
26-year-old Batchelor has been on the fringe of the Grand Prix paddock for some years. He declared the Australian Championship this past January his final opportunity to make it into the qualification rounds for 2015. Nevertheless, injuries sustained at round two put him out of round three and therefore off the rostrum at the end of the Championship.
He is elated by the opportunity being granted to him by Speedway Grand Prix organisers, BSI-IMG:
“My life has been turned upside down (by this decision),” said Batchelor. “I was happy with being one of the reserves. To say I'm a fulltime GP rider now is unbelievable.
“Obviously it has been no secret that I've been pushing hard to get into the series for a little while now. I had a go at Torun when I covered for Tomasz Gollob on October 5 and it was amazing to race my first Grand Prix.
“If you told me this was going to happen two weeks ago, I would have said ‘no way!' Who would have thought that Emil would have pulled out?
“It's a great opportunity and one I'm going to take with both hands. I won't be taking it lightly in any way.”
Batchelor is now in a race against time to get the appropriate equipment together and build a Grand Prix setup for the first round, which is only one month away, before the return to Europe where each fortnight (approximately) a Grand Prix takes place.
He will join 2012 World Champion, Chris Holder and two times World Under 21 Champion, Darcy Ward in Australia's strongest fulltime representation in the Grand Prix Series since the early 2000s.