SWINDONS’ Leigh Adams had to give best to a man half his age in the first speedway Grand Prix of the season in Prague on Saturday night.

For Adams, who is 38 on Tuesday, it was mission accomplished as he earned the podium finish he craved to get his world series off to a solid start.

The bonus for Adams was that dual world champion and series favourite Nicki Pedersen didn’t make the final.

On the flip side, there is clearly a serious new challenger to the world championship.

Emil Saifutdinov, the 19-year-old Russian who rides with a Polish passport, was well known to the speedway elite having won the last two runnings of the World U21 Championship.

He has also made a sensational start to his season for Bydgoszcz in the toughest domestic championship in the world, Poland’s Extraleague with double-figure scores at every meeting.

Still, to win on his debut Grand Prix outing came as a surprise Although beaten in the early heats, Saifutdinov clearly had pace to burn and a hard-charging style that bordered on the reckless as he touched the rear wheels of more than one opponent he was chasing.

When he got to the front from the start, however, he was unstoppable.

Just imagine, until he picked up his Grand Prix ride, he had made a verbal agreement to sign for the Robins in 2009!

Saifutdinov apart, it was a rather disappointing opening to the Grand Prix series riders out of with berth 4 having a disproportionate advantage and not a single overtaking manoeuvre in the first seven races.

Adams won’t be complaining, though. After a couple of early thirds, he won his last three qualifying heats, the final one nabbing Greg Hancock in a photo finish with a home-straight charge.

Saifitdinov had his measure in the semi, however, showing the guts of a champion to get up off the floor to win the re-run.

And then in the final, Adams hit the gate to lead at the first corner, only to drift wide, letting the the young Russian, plus Freddie Lindgren and Jason Crump all pass him on the inside.

They finished in that order but Lindgren had done enough in his earlier races to lead the championship standings after round one, with Adams in a handy fourth – and his home track of Leszno in Poland next on the Grand Prix circuit.