Ice Speedway attention turns to team matters this week as the 2014 MOTUL FIM Team Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship Final returns to Togliatti, Russia. Seven teams will compete over two days to decide the destination of the trophy and, although the home team, with 11 consecutive victories in this competition, will be clear favourites to take the gold medals, there will be huge competition from the other teams hopeful of surprising the hosts.
The Austrian team ran the Russians to a very close finish last year in Sanok, Poland and only a run off separated the teams after 48 exciting races over two days. They had selected the same team again this year and would have been optimistic that they could go one better this weekend. However the injury to their number one rider Franz Zorn has forced his withdrawal and he remains in hospital in Austria with lacerations sustained in a Heat 3 crash in Krasnogorsk last weekend. His replacement has not yet been announced.
The German duo of Bauer and Niedermaier will need to raise their game to have any hope of matching the Russians’ speed. Neither has been in the best form so far this season but their combined experience will be an asset against the less-fancied teams. Racing in the individual series, Stefan Pletschacher has been able to have some race practice in a season where the availability of suitable tracks has been a major problem due to the mild weather. He may be given the opportunity to contribute to his team’s performance.
For Finland, Antti Aakko the 34 year old carpenter from Oulu has shown the best form of the non-Russian riders in the World Championship so far but needs the support of stronger partners to challenge the rampant locals although reserve Tomi Tami has performed well in the Swedish league matches held to date.
Sweden themselves are in a transitional state with several younger riders progressing in national meetings and promising a brighter future for a nation that has won this title only twice in its history. For now, however, they rely on evergreen Stefan Svensson who will be joined by newcomer Per-Anders Lindström with Svensson’s son Niclas as reserve.
For Czech Republic and Poland, Jan Klatovsky and Grzegorz Knapp are capable of testing the best of the opposition but may find their team’s opportunities limited by the inexperience of the others.
What seems certain is that all competitors will ride with that extra pride that comes with representing your nation, which can often produce surprising upsets of form.
Russian fans will flock to the splendid Anatoly Stepanov Stadium in Togliatti to support their team at the meeting which is held over two days with a start time of 17.00 local time (GMT+4) on Saturday 8th and 14.00 on Sunday 9th.
FIM Jury President is Christian Bouin from France with Sweden’s Krister Gardell as referee.
Starting list <media 34182>HERE</media>
Captions from top to bottom:
Anatoly Stepanov Stadium in Togliatti
2013 Podium in Sanok, Poland