The 2023 FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship kicked off at Örnsköldsvik in Sweden today with ten riders fighting through the Qualifying round to book their places in the finals in March.

On a bright and sunny day in front of a record-breaking crowd, Swedish riders were up at the front from the start with the home heroes riding high as Niclas Svensson and his father Stefan threatened to pull off what would have been a famous family one-two.
Their dynamite double was denied by Czech star Lukas Hutla who produced a dramatic victory in the twentieth and final heat to force a run-off against sixty-four-year-old Stefan which he won to secure the second step on the podium behind Niclas.

When Niclas was born his father was already nine years into his Ice Speedway career, but the thirty-one-year-old was more than a match for his mentor and held the joint lead at the first interval alongside Germany’s Luca Bauer, Hutla and Austrian veteran Frank Zorn.

After following his father home in their second heat, Niclas then hardly put a wheel wrong as he raced to victories in his three remaining heats to top the scoreboard with a final total of fourteen points.

“I am relieved and also happy of course,” said Niclas. “The track was good and the weather was nice and the big crowd is very good for the club.”

With Zorn and Hutla both topping their second heats to lead at the second interval, heat ten proved to be the turning point with Niclas leading home Zorn and Hutla in the trios’ third race of the afternoon.

Stefan took his second victory in heat eleven to advance to fourth at the third interval, tied with his compatriot Jimmy Olsen and Hutla and just one point behind Niclas and Zorn.

Niclas, Stefan, Hutla and Zorn all won their fourth heats so there was just one point separating the top four heading into the final interval.

With track conditions getting tougher as the afternoon’s programme progressed, Stefan needed all his four decades of experience to defeat Zorn in heat sixteen before Niclas made sure of victory with a win in heat nineteen.

Hutla’s win in the afternoon’s final heat saw him tie with Stefan with three firsts and a third each before the charging Czech triumphed in the run-off for second overall.

“I am very happy,” said Hutla. “Second place is not so bad! My plan was to make six points in the first two heats and that worked out. After that I was comfortable.”

Stefan, who announced his retirement from international Ice Speedway last season before decided to stage a comeback to mark his fortieth year in the sport, had hoped to qualify – although he did not expect to produce such a strong showing.

“I am very surprised,” he said. “I thought I had quite a good chance to qualify for the final, but didn’t expect to be in the top three.”

Today’s top-ten performers now go through to the finals at Inzell in Germany on 18-19 March where they will face Sweden’s defending champion Martin Haarahiltunen alongside four FIM-selected permanent wild cards and one local wild card.

Full Results HERE

Pictures Gallery HERE