With the completion of the qualifying rounds in Sweden and Finland the line-up for the 2018 LUKOIL FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship chase is now known and with the opening event taking place early next month the build-up to the start of the competition is gathering pace.
Russian riders are again prominent with holder Dmitry Koltkov seeded to the final series and four other qualifiers who entered the competition through their results in this year’s Russian Championship. Former World Champions Ivanov and Khomitsevich are joined by Sergey Karachintsev and Dinar Valeev, both seasoned performers at this level. A major casualty from the Russian eliminators was current world number 2, Igor Kononov who literally slid out of the reckoning when falling in the run off with Karachintsev for the vital 5th place in the Russian Final.
Sweden has four entries with Ove Ledstrum returning for his third consecutive championship and newcomer Martin Haarahiltunen qualifying from the Finnish round. Niclas Svensson and Jimmy Olsen came through a tense qualifier in Sweden which saw veteran Stefan Svensson losing out in a run off battle which resulted in his disqualification and a hospital trip for Olsen. Germany’s Gunther Bauer was another visitor to the same hospital after a freak accident which resulted in him running over his own foot! His consolation was a nomination as one of the permanent Wild Cards so his participation is secure alongside fellow German Hans Weber.
Newcomer Jasper Iwema is the surprise nomination as the other permanent Wild Card. A former Moto3 road racer, the Dutchman has adapted well to the different demands of ice racing and, in only his second year of racing was the highest scoring non-qualifier from the Swedish round. He will be the only representative from The Netherlands this year.
Franz Zorn again looks to be the rider most likely to threaten the Russian supremacy. He has been dominant in Swedish League this season and beat a class field in the recent open meeting in Weissenbach in his native Austria. He is joined by his compatriot Harald Simon, another with considerable experience in the World Championships.
Jan Klatovsky will be the sole representative of the Czech Republic after collecting 11 points in Finland and his competitive style will again be welcomed by his many fans. At his best he is more than capable of upsetting the form book.
The opening event will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan on 3rd and 4th February with subsequent rounds in Togliatti, Russia, Berlin and Inzell in Germany and finally Heerenven in Holland.