The 2019 FIM Ice Speedway World Championship is ready to take off again on Saturday when, after last year’s visit to the Kazakhstan capital of Astana, the series returns to the beautifully located Medeu stadium in Almaty on 2/3 February.
For some time, Sweden has battled against the supremacy enjoyed by Russia, but with a strong representation could have the best chances for some years of breaking this domination.
Veteran Stefan Svensson is again joined by his son Niklas and Ove Ledström, mentored by ice race legend ‘Posa’ Serenius, and will be hoping to improve on his luck and stay fit throughout the campaign.
Sensation of 2018, Martin Haarahiltunen survived a fitness scare after a costly fall during practice for the Russian Super League in Shadrinsk, which left him with a sore rib although he is unlikely to let this interfere with his aim to provide more shocks this season.
Dmitry Koltakov, Dmitry Khomitsevich and Daniil Ivanov have collected six gold medals in this competition since 2013 and will resume their rivalry again in Almaty. Dinar Valeev and newcomer Nikita Toloknov complete the qualifiers from Russia which looks likely to continue its superiority.
Unfortunately, Russia’s Igor Kononov, Germany’s Günther Bauer and Czech favourite Jan Klatovsky will all be missing from the start line due to either injury or illness.
Austrian Charly Ebner secured the last qualifying place in Finland, though Franz Zorn’s season to date has been marked by motor problems. He was unable to make the top six result needed from his Swedish qualifier, however a permanent Wild Card awarded by the FIM Track Racing Commission will allow him to resume his battle with the Russians.
The other permanent Wild Card has gone to Stefan Pletschacher, a regular competitor over recent years who will not join compatriots Max Niedermaier and Johann Weber due to a late injury in a bid to restore some German pride.
Wild Card for this event will be Sergey Serov with Vladimir Cheblokov in to replace injured Pletschacher and Denis Slepukhin and Pavel Nekrassov as reserves. Russian Andrej Shishegov also rides with a Kazakh licence to add to local interest.
An interesting battle can be expected, and Friday’s practice will be particularly important. Not only is it necessary for safety reasons, but with the Medeu Stadium at almost one thousand seven hundred metres above sea level, the highest ice race track in the World, riders need to test their engines and adjust them to perform at their best in the thinner air.
Racing will start at 15.30 local time on Saturday evening with Sunday’s afternoon meeting starting at 13.30.
After Kazakhstan the competition moves to Russia where the City of Shadrinsk will hold the second round on 9 / 10 February following their successful staging of the Team Final last year. One week later Togliatti will host the Team competition, rebranded as Ice Speedway of Nations before the riders move into western Europe for the remainder of the individual series.
The beginning of March sees the first of the German rounds in Berlin and Inzell following two weeks later. Finally, the climax of the championship will be held in the splendid Thialf Stadium in Heerenveen in The Netherlands.
2/3 Feb - Final 1 - Medeu, Almaty, Kazakhstan
9/10 Feb - Final 2 - Torpedo Stadium, Shadrinsk, Russia
2/3 Mar - Final 3 - Horst Dohm Ice Stadium, Berlin, Germany
16/17 Mar - Final 4 - Max Aicher Arena, Inzell, Germany
30/31 Mar - Final 5 -Thialf Stadium, Heerenveen, Netherlands
FIM Ice Speedway of Nations
16/17 Feb - Anatoly Stepanov Stadium, Togliatti, Russia