Reigning champion Martin Haarahiltunen moved to the top of the 2024 FIM Ice Speedway World Championship standings following an intense second day of competition at the opening Final of the year at Inzell in Germany.

The stylish Swede, who is aiming to claim a hat-trick of consecutive titles this season, did not win the Grand Final. That honour went to surprise fifty-eight-year-old veteran victor Aki Ala-Riihimäki from Finland who was the eighth and final rider to go though from January’s Qualifying round at Örnsköldsvik in Sweden. However back-to-back second-placed finishes over the weekend gives Haarahiltunen a slim advantage ahead of the Finn and Saturday’s winner Max Niedermaier who was fourth today in front of his home crowd.

Following a very productive weekend in Bavaria, Finland’s Heikki Huusko sits fourth in the points with two third-placed finishes leaving him four points adrift of the series lead.

The result hands Haarahiltunen a two-point advantage over Ala-Riihimäki – who this season is racing a prototype-machine with an extra-long wheelbase – and Niedermaier, with just two points-paying days of action remaining in two weeks’ time at the Thialf Ice Stadium at Heerenveen in the Netherlands.

There was simply no let up to Sunday’s action from the Max Aicher Arena with non-stop thrills and spills keeping the knowledgeable capacity crowd on its feet. Following twenty dramatic Heats, the four riders lining up for the Grand Final were the same as on Saturday, although the end result was very different.

After his heroics on Saturday, there was to be no fairy tale finish to the weekend for birthday boy Niedermaier who turned thirty-six yesterday, but Ala-Riihimäki produced a dream performance in a restarted Grand Final after the red lights were lit when he crashed along with Haarahiltunen in opening corner chaos at the first attempt to get the afternoon’s main race off the line.

From the restart Haarahiltunen appeared to struggle when the tapes went up, though he slotted up the inside to take the lead before Ala-Riihimäki swept underneath him and was never headed again as he pulled clear to take a commanding victory – and the drama did not end with the chequered flag. In an all-or-nothing push for third that demoted Niedermaier to fourth, Huusko out braked himself at the end of the race and ended up in the safety barriers after collecting Haarahiltunen.

The FIM Ice Speedway World Championship now concludes with two days of racing in Heerenveen on 6-7 April. The venue was the scene of Haarahiltunen’s first world championship title in 2022 so he surely must start as favourite, although a number of crashes at Inzell along with a pre-season injury means he has just two weeks to get back to full fitness.

To livestream all the action from day two at Inzell and both days at Heerenveen click here.