It was not a huge surprise, but Russia maintained their supremacy in Ice Speedway by winning the first FIM Ice Speedway of Nations on Sunday afternoon in Togliatti sealing their victory in a thrilling Final heat.
It had been a two-day event and the new formula provided keen racing throughout. On Day 1 Russia were supreme winning all their races with maximum points. Sweden also enjoyed a successful afternoon and finished the day only four points behind the host country and the same margin ahead of third placed Austria. Germany trailed in fourth position but provided the hero of the day in reserve Johann Weber. A faller in his first race, he was left with a spike injury to his arm which required a trip to the local hospital. Stitches were needed but, unfazed, Weber returned to the track in time to take another ride which he won. Ice racers are a truly tough breed.
Day 2 welcomed riders and fans with a temperature of -4o and on a well-prepared track which produced some very good racing, Russia continued to collect full points from all their races. There was drama when the Swedes and Russians met in Heat 9 as Martin Haarahiltunen was leading the two Russians when his partner Niclas Svensson fell and was disqualified. In the restart the Russians made no mistake and took five valuable points.
Austria were continuing their progress to the bronze medal place with Franz Zorn leading the charge, but Charly Ebner was not able to add more than 4 points to his overnight score and they gradually fell further behind the Swedes. Germany relied too heavily on Max Niedermaier who contributed 21 of his country’s total of 34.
The return of Kazakhstan to Ice Speedway at this level is very welcome and their thrilling battles particularly against the Czech Republic and Finland teams justified their inclusion.
The race formula of the meeting provides for a ‘Big Final’ race between the top two teams at the end of Day 2 to find the champions and the destination of the gold and silver medals. It was Sweden who faced Russia in this decider and the drama continued with Haarahiltunen again showing his ability to match the Russians leading them for the first two laps with a major surprise looking possible. However, the host team held their nerve as first Ivanov then Koltakov passed the Swede to claim their first Ice Speedway of Nations title and delighting the local fans.
The new format has proved to be a success with riders and fans, and it seems likely that this competition will stay as a permanent feature in the Ice Speedway calendar but for now the focus returns to the individual championship which now moves into western Europe with the next round in Berlin in two weeks’ time.
1 Russia 60 points
2 Sweden 52
3 Austria 38
4 Germany 34
5 Finland 24
6 Kazakhstan 22
7 Czech Republic 21
Pic © Good-Shoot