FIM Ice Speedway World Championship Finals 3 & 4. Togliatti, Russia 8th & 9th February 2020
After their visit to Kazakhstan, riders and machines are transported to Togliatti home of the Lada vehicle factory and where Finals 3 and 4 will take place on 8th and 9th February. The Anatoly Stepanov Stadium is one of the best-appointed track racing venues and has seen several major events held there. It is a stadium which stages regular conventional and ice Speedway and will host the first Russian Speedway Grand Prix in August, but it will be the ice racers who will take centre stage next weekend as the FIM Ice Speedway World Championship rolls into town.
Daniil Ivanov and Igor Kononov are both members of Togliatti’s Mega Lada team in the Russian Super League so could be said to have some home advantage. Knowledge of the track and the condition of the ice could be an important factor, but it would be foolish to ignore the impressive form of Dmitry Khomitsevich who has been virtually unbeatable in that league this season. Current champion Ivanov holds a four point lead over Khomitsevich and will be confident of increasing this over the two Finals on familiar ground.
In Almaty, Harald Simon enjoyed one of his best events of recent times with a third place in Final 1 and at 52 years old with his recent injury problems behind him the experienced Austrian could prove to be one of best riders from outside Russia. By contrast his fellow Austrian Franky Zorn had a poor meeting and was lucky to avoid injury in a spectacular crash with Hans Weber on Sunday afternoon. Weber also escaped without serious damage although he spent a night in hospital before being discharged with no broken bones but there must still be some doubts about his fitness during a busy few weeks for the tough Bavarian.
Martin Haarahiltunen was unable to reproduce the heroic rides of his debut at Almaty last year and Sweden’s top rider will need to raise his game if he is to be in the medal hunt this season. He has been racing alongside Khomitsevich for the Kamensk-Ural team in the Russian League so will feel familiar with the conditions. At the moment he shares equal points with the Svenssons, Niclas and Stefan.
There are two Dutchmen in the line-up for this year and both arrived in Togliatti on Tuesday to prepare for the weekend’s events. Jasper Iwema has recovered from a nasty looking fall in Final 2 when he high-sided on the exit to the second bend and is looking fit and ready to race. There was some surprised reaction at the beginning of the season to the nomination of Bart Schaap as a permanent rider for the series and at 19 years of age he is the youngest rider in the field. However, what he might lack in age and experience he will compensate with great enthusiasm and is a great prospect for the future. He missed the Finals in Almaty due to visa problems so makes his debut on Saturday.
Wild Card for this event is Evgeniy Saydullin, another Mega Lada team member who could well upset some of the more favoured riders and please the local fans.
Racing in Togliatti starts at 13h CET on Saturday (16h local time) and at 11h CET on Sunday (14h local time).