Once again, the limitations brough about by Coronavirus, travel restrictions and other factors have forced a shortened season for the championship. Unfortunately, Berlin was forced to withdraw its application due to ice problems at the Horst Dohm stadium and a proposed new track in Khasakstan needs work to both the track and facilities which will not be completed in time for this winter’s series. It is hoped that both venues will be included in the calendar for 2023. More recently the organisers at Inzell have confirmed that due to government-imposed restrictions they will not be able to run their proposed final in March.
With qualifying complete, the permanent riders for the 2022 FIM Ice Speedway world championship have been confirmed along with the nominated substitute riders and a full list can be found HERE.
So, by nationality, who are the likely winners and who will be crowned champion at Heerenveen in April?
MFR have a long history of producing the top riders in this form of racing and only seven times since 1966 have they not won a gold medal. Missing from their squad this year is four times winner Daniil Ivanov who has a total of ten medals from this championship. A major accident in December left him with internal injuries which needed immediate surgery and brought an early end to his season. Despite his absence the MFR entries include 4 former world champions so last year’s winner Dinar Valeev will have to be on his best form if he is to retain his title. Sensation of the season so far has been 20 year old Nikita Bogdanov who followed his European Championship win in December by taking his country’s individual title and sailing through the World Championship qualifier in Sweden with an unbeaten maximum. He will undoubtedly be a significant player in this year’s title chase.
Austrian duo Franz Zorn and Harald Simon return to the championship and represent two of the most likely to challenge the eastern based riders. Zorn, a bronze medallist in 2008 and 2009 has recovered from an injury he picked up during practice for the European Championship in Poland. He has been training in Sweden and declares himself fully fit and ready for the competition.
Sweden will have two representatives in Martin Haarahiltunen and Ove Ledström and both are well equipped to handle the level of racing that the World Championship requires. Fellow Scandinavians Max Koivula making his world championship debut and veteran Aki Ala-Riihimäki will provide the Finnish challenge.
The Czech Republic provided gold medallists on two occasions in the 1970 but have struggled to repeat that success in the recent decades. Lukás Hutla will be flying the flag for them again as the nation looks recover some of its earlier success. Germany will be hoping for a similar effort from their two riders Franz Mayerbüchler, another debutant, and Johann Weber with Dutchman Jasper Iwema continuing to gain experience at this level.
Despite a shortened season the fight for the championship should provide us with its usual standard of quality racing and another season of memorable ice speedway is in prospect.
FIM/ Graham Broodie