With a short break in the individual World championship, Ice Speedway turns its attention to the team event at the Mega-Lada Stadium in Togliatti, one of the World’s best purpose-built track racing venues.
It is forty years since the FIM Team Ice Speedway Championship started and this year for the first time the competition has been relaunched as the FIM Ice Speedway of Nations, a concept known to Motocross and Trial disciplines and successfully introduced to track racing in 2018. The new race formula will see seven teams, each with two riders plus one reserve, riding in pairs over forty-two heats and will end with a ‘winner takes all’ final where the top two teams race for the gold medal and championship title.
On home ground, Russia will once again be a clear favourite to retain the title having failed to win gold on only four times in the history of the competition and they will track the same team that were unbeaten in last year’s final. Their three selected riders are all individual FIM Ice Speeedway World champions and currently sit at the top of the leader board in this year’s series so it would be a major surprise if they do not collect the gold medal on Sunday. Main interest will be centred on whether they can repeat last year’s maximum performance and there are still different opinions on which teams might join them on the podium. Sweden, runners up last year, saw their chances of springing a surprise reduced with the news that Martin Haarahiltunen now seems unlikely to be riding following the injuries he collected in Shadrinsk last weekend.
Ove Ledström and captain Niclas Svensson have not enjoyed the best of form so far this year and will miss the support of one of the few westerners who have challenged the domination of the Russians recently. However, they both scored highly in last year’s final and will be expecting to challenge the hosts again.Injury problems are also affecting the Austrian’s prospects, and much will depend on the fitness of veteran Franz Zorn who is still recovering from the leg and foot injury he collected in Khazakstan during final one. He will be supported by Charley Ebner and Josef Kreuzberger, but will miss the experience of the absent Harald Simon.
Germany might be weakened with Stefan Pletschacher still suffering from a painful arm and shoulder, but latest reports suggest that he has arrived in Togliatti and is recovering. Captain Max Niedermaier needs a speedy return to form but Johan Weber will be boosted from his performance in Shadrinsk last weekend and is full of confidence.Khazakstan have not featured on the podium since their bronze medals in 1995 and 1996, but their return to the competition is welcome although, realistically, their prospects are limited along with those of Finland and Czech Republic, neither of which have been able to select their strongest team.
Racing in Togliatti will start at 16.00 local time (13.00 CET) on Saturday and 14.00 (11:00 CET) for Sunday’s afternoon meeting. Whatever the result, an exciting weekend’s racing is in prospect.