The two Qualifying Rounds for this year’s World Championship took place in Finland and Sweden last weekend and the riders to compete in the Grand Prix series are now known.
The Russian line-up has a familiar look with Dimitry Khomitsevich and Daniil Ivanov taking the top two places in Kauhajoki, Finland with Dinar Valeev and newcomer Nikita Toloknov qualifying from the Örnsköldsvik round in Sweden. These four will be joined by current champion Dmitry Koltakov who is seeded directly to the final rounds. An absentee will be Igor Kononov who sustained serious leg injuries in a road accident last month whilst returning from a Russian Championship meeting in Kamensk Ural which sadly also resulted in the death of his father and mentor Alexander. Andrej Shishegov has a licence from Khazakstan and will represent that country in the series.
Sweden will also have a strong representation with four of their nominees Martin Haarahiltunen, veteran Stefan Svensson and son Niklas, and Ove Ledström all coming through although Ledström had to endure a run off in Finland with Charley Ebner and Stefan Pletschacher to secure his place.
Günther Bauer had been in good form during his pre-season trip to the training camps in Russia but hopes of progressing were dashed when he contracted pneumonia and was forced to withdraw from his Swedish round on doctor’s orders. Max Niedermeier and Hans Weber and will be joined by wild card Stefan Pletschacher as Germany’s representatives although Bauer has the small consolation of a place as third reserve in the list of nominations.
Joining Pletschacher as a permanent wild card will be Austrian Franz Zorn who was surprisingly relegated to seventh place in his qualifier after suffering mechanical problems. Charley Ebner will be the other Austrian in the series.
The opening event will take place in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 2nd and 3rd February with subsequent rounds in Shadrinsk, Russia, Berlin and Inzell in Germany and the final event in Heerenveen Holland. A preview of the season will be published later.