As widely anticipated, the Russian team retained its MOTUL FIM Team Ice Speedway Gladiators World title after 42 thrilling heats over two days in Togliatti. They went ahead with a maximum win in the very first heat and were never headed after that, dropping only 2 points and finally winning with a total of 58 thanks to a maximum score on the second day. Sweden were runners-up with the Finnish team in third place.
Local hero Daniil Ivanov, continuing his fine form led the way for the home team and was unbeaten in the eight races he contested. He was well supported by Dmitry Koltakov and Reserve Sergey Makarov who was given seven rides.
Sweden finished a creditable second with a vintage performance from Stefan Svensson who at 55 years of age showed the way to many of the younger competitors. The veteran from Örnsköldsvik scored 28 points out of a total of 43 helped to secure the Silver medal for the first time since 2010. His son Niclas was making his debut in this competition and was delighted to take three points against the German team when replacing his father in Heat 40. Earlier in Heat 27 the two had made history by becoming the first father and son to ride together in the same heat in this competition.
Mats Järf took a break from Ice Speedway last year and this meeting was the first race he had started this season. Showing no signs of rustiness he scored a remarkable 32 points out of Finland’s total of 36 and provided some spectacular overtakes thanks to his slowness from the starts. Had he received more support from teammate Antti Aakko the Finns might well have pressed the Russians and the Swedes to a closer finish but unfortunately Aakko was suffering the effects of a crash in the World Individual Championship last week in Krasnogorsk. Although he tried gamely during the first day’s racing he struggled with his wrist injury and, clearly unfit, he withdrew from the meeting for Day 2.
Austria were another team whose ambitions were restricted by injury and the withdrawal of Franz Zorn whose season was ended in an accident in Krasnogorsk. Last year’s runners up were expected to provide close competition to the Russians, but without Zorn the two man team could manage only fourth place despite a good performance from Harald Simon.
The remaining teams were disappointing and lacked the strength in depth that is needed to compete at this level. Jan Klatovsky for the Czech Republic, Günther Bauer for Germany and Poland’s Grzegorz Knapp all battled to keep their teams in contention and only Stefan Pletschacher’s 6 points enabled the Germans to equal the points of the Austrian team although ending in fifth place on count back.
The Poles’ battling fourth place of 2013 was not to be repeated with Michal Knapp, nephew of Grzegorz unable to give sufficient support on his debut.
Track conditions and organisation were excellent although the sub-zero temperatures and the counter-attraction of the Winter Olympics in Sochi may have affected the number of spectators. Those who attended will have returned home warmed by a Russian victory and having seen one of the best Ice Speedway Team Finals for some years.
Results & Classification <media 34224>HERE
Photos FIM Good-shoot