The Ice Speedway Gladiators move into Western Europe for the remainder of the season as the Lukoil FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship resumes with Final 3 at the Horst Dohm Eis-Stadion in Berlin next weekend.
Since the excitement of the last round in Togliatti there has been little respite for our heroes as important international and domestic meetings have taken place. The Russian Super League Finals, European Individual Championship and Swedish National titles have all reached their climax and each could influence the destiny of the world title.
With the Russian season effectively completed, the top four in the current world championship can concentrate their efforts on the medal chase. Dmitry Koltakov with a sixteen point advantage over his nearest rival has made major strides towards retaining the title he took in 2017 for the second time but he has two former champions, Daniil Ivanov and Dimitri Khomitsevich chasing and determined to get their hands on a gold medal.
This season has not been the happiest to date for the Austrian representatives; Harald Simon collected a knee injury in Khasakstan which has still not responded to treatment and caused his withdrawal from the European Final as the rider struggles to be fit for Berlin and the remaining rounds. Franz Zorn was in excellent form in the pre-season events but has not been able to consistently replicate this in the championship and needs to put behind him an unhappy meeting in Togliatti and focus on regaining his expected place on the leader board.
Martin Haarahiltunen has been the surprise of the championships so far but failed to reach the final stage on both days in Togliatti. He blames his performance there on a bout of influenza but is now clearly back to his best and he was crowned Swedish Champion in Hallstavik last weekend beating Niclas Svensson and Ove Ledström in the Final. His confidence high, he can be expected to be challenging the Russians again in Berlin.
Ledström too has recovered from injuries and reached the semi final on the second day in Togliatti so a stronger challenge from the Swedes in Berlin can be anticipated.
The European championship in Vjatskije Poljany was taken by Russia’s Igor Kononov, World number two in 2017 but sadly missing from this year’s line up. However the meeting signalled a return to the top level for Jan Klatovsky after he had missed the early part of the season through injury. The Czech Republic rider was challenging for a medal in the final before a clash with Russian Nikita Bogdanov saw him relegated to fourth place.
A casualty in Russia was Dutchman Jasper Iwema but despite a broken fibula he will take his place in Berlin hoping to add to both his experience and point scores in his debut season.
The German fans will be expecting an improved result from their riders, none of whom yet feature amongst the leading scorers.
Gunther Bauer has unfortunately had to withdraw due to recurring problems with his foot injury but Johan Weber together with Wild Card Max Niedermaier should feel more comfortable on home ice and Reserves Stefan Pletschacher and Tobias Busch could trouble some of the established field if they are called upon to ride. Bauer’s place is taken by Stefan Svensson the next available Permanent Reserve.
1.Dimitry Koltakov (Russia) 80
2. Daniil Ivanov (Russia) 64
3. Dimitri Khomitsevich (Russia) 60
4. Sergey Karachintsev (Russia) 59
5. Martin Haarahiltunen (Sweden) 44
6. Harald Simon (Austria) 26
7. Ove Ledström (Sweden) 24
Racing in Berlin commences on Saturday at 17.00 with the traditional Sunday afternoon start at 14.00. FIM Jury President will be Swede Tony Olsson with Christina Turnbull from Great Britain the Referee, There is an additional treat for fans on Thursday when the German Championship takes place at 17.00.
FIM Ice Speedway