As predicted by many, the new star of ice speedway Nikita Bogdanov won the final on the first day of the new season in Togliatti. Some 3500 spectators braved freezing temperatures of around 0oC to see the young rider from Ufa take the top podium position in Final 1.
Despite a shaky start in the qualifying races when he was beaten by Igor Kononov and Dmitry Khomitsevich, he recovered his confidence and continued unbeaten for the rest of the meeting to reach the final in his first World Championship event. There he met both riders again and at the first attempt he managed to overtake them both but had to start again after the race was stopped when Johann Weber fell. For the restart he made no mistake and left the second bend with a clear lead which he held until the chequered flag. He has been seen as a future star but on this performance he has already arrived.
The MFR riders dominated the meeting taking six of the top seven places. Current champion Dinar Valeev had a disappointing meeting, his early season injury and lack of practice left him scoring only 10 points in the qualifiers and failing to reach the final. He is already 10 points behind the leader and has a mountain to climb if he is to retain his title. Dmitri Koltakov missed the cut, two points adrift of the finalists.
Johann Weber had a meeting to remember and was the only foreign rider to trouble the home riders. Unfortunately, his hopes of a podium place were destroyed when he fell in the final but he can be satisfied with the achievement of reaching that stage.
There were good performances too from Dutchman Jasper Iwema who recorded his best result but veteran Franz Zorn who had motor problems during practice did not produce the form he is capable of and will be disappointed with his result.
The meeting was marred by an accident in Heat 14 which resulted in local wild card Nikita Toloknov suffering a serious leg injury after clashing with Bogdanov on the first bend. He was taken to hospital where surgery is being performed.
It was not a good night for the Swedes with Martin Haarahiltunen and Ove Ledström both attracting disqualification in their first rides. Aki Ala-Riihimäki was also a disappointment scoring only a solitary point in the meeting which included two disqualifications.
Harald Simon was not able to take part as visa problems prevented him from travelling. Another absentee was Referee Aleksandr Lyatosinskyy who is a victim of Covid and was replaced by local official Vyacheslav Gladchenko from Salavat.
Full results can be found HERE
Final 2 takes place this afternoon with the first race starting at 11.00 (CET).
Follow the results live at HERE