Over 7000 spectators braved the sunny but very cold conditions at the scenic Medeu stadium in Almaty on Saturday afternoon to see the start of the new season. Despite some engine problems due to the high altitude and difficult track conditions they were treated to some close racing.
It was predictable that the Russian riders would lead the points chart at the end of Day 1 but few might have selected Dinar Valeev as winner of the first Final. Fifth in the world last year, he posted his intention of improving on that position this year with a 17 point haul and a strong position as riders go into the second day on Sunday.
Holder Dmitry Koltakov had a less successful start to his title defence, dropping points to compatriots Ivanov and Khomitsevich in the qualifying rounds then suffering a disastrous semi final when a broken chain saw him eliminated. His 13 points leaves him in 5th place and 6 points behind leader Daniil Ivanov.
Martin Haarahiltunen still recovering from his recent injury was again the best of the western riders and a seventh place for Ove Ledström has boosted hopes for a Swedish success.
Franky Zorn disappointed and it seems has still to resolve all his engine problems. A spectacular crash in Heat 11 and a later disqualification did little to improve his situation but Johann Weber will feel satisfied with his 8th position after enduring some tiring travel and mechanical problems.