After the special excitement of the Team Final on the hard natural ice of Shadrinsk, most of the competitors make the 1100km trip to return to individual racing and to the softer artificial ice of Togliatti where Final 2 of the LUKOIL FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship takes place next weekend.
Reigning World Champion Dmitri Koltakov holds a four-point lead after Final 1 and, fresh from leading his country to a gold medal in Shadrinsk, will look to strengthen his position on home soil before the competition moves to Western Europe for the second half of the season. It will be no easy ride however and he can expect stiff opposition from two Togliatti favourites in Daniil Ivanov and Wild Card Igor Kononov both of whom ride for the local Mega Lada team in the Russian Super League. Two times world champion Ivanov currently sits in third place in the table but still has the will to regain the title he last won in 2014. Kononov took the silver medal last year but surprisingly failed to survive the Russian elimination round and this will be the only opportunity he has this season to compete at World Championship level.
Currently fourth in the standings after an amazing debut in Final 1, Martin Haarahiltunen now has to live up to the reputation he established in Astana. The 27 year old former moto cross rider is the leading non-Russian competitor at this stage and will certainly be in contention for a medal place if he continues to display the form which he showed in Khazakstan two weeks ago.
Franz Zorn won his first World Championship medal, a silver, in the 2000 final in Assen and although he has since been a constant presence in the competition he has never been able to repeat that success apart from bronze medals in 2008 and 2009. He was disappointed with his results in Astana which he put down to the effects of the long journey but looks to have regained his form in helping Austria to a third place in the Team Championship. Harald Simon on the other hand collected a knee injury in Kazakhstan which caused his withdrawal from the team event and may yet impact on his availability for Final 2.
One who has recovered from injury is Jan Klatovsky and he left his home in Czech Republic on Sunday to travel in good time to Russia. His lack of practice might limit his points haul and he has a lot of catching up to do but he will be sure to feature in the action whenever he can.
Of the remaining riders Sergey Karachintsev is the only Russian not to have won a championship medal and, if he can repeat the success he enjoyed in Astana, is well placed to remedy that this year. Swedish ice speedway is enjoying some renewed success thanks to the performances of their younger riders and much is now expected from Ledström, Olsen and Svensson. The Germans have disappointed so far but both Bauer and Weber are experienced racers and will be looking to improve their position ahead of two rounds in their home country next month.
FIM Jury President will be Pavel Ondrasik from Czech Republic with Denmark’s Jesper Steentoft the Referee.
Anatoly Stepanov Stadium - Key Facts
• The Anatoly Stepanov Stadium in the Russian city of Togliatti is a purpose built speedway stadium and one of the few which caters for both ice racing in the winter and speedway during the summer months.
• Superbly equipped and with a capacity of 15,000 spectators, it is considered to be one of the best venues in the world for track racing sport.
• It is located in Togliatti a city of some 720,000 people on the banks of the Volga River and named after a famous Italian Marxist but which is now better known for the manufacture of Lada cars.
Racing on Saturday 17 begins at 16.00 local time (13.00 CET) with a 14.00 (CET) start on Sunday.
Be heard with #FIMicegladiators #LUKOIL
Follow the results LIVE on FIM ISG APP Download it now!