Germany’s Max Niedermaier snatched a dramatic Run-Off win from fast Finn Heikki Huusko to claim overall victory at Örnsköldsvik’s Kallehov track this afternoon as the Swedish city hosted the Qualifying Round of the 2024 FIM Ice Speedway World Championship.
The pair were locked together on fourteen points each after the action-packed programme of twenty Heats was completed with each rider scoring four wins and one second-placed finish. When they met in the second Heat of the afternoon it was Huusko who drew first blood, but when the top step of the podium was on the line it was Niedermaier who ran out winner in sub-zero conditions around five-hundred kilometres south of the Arctic Circle.
With eight places up for grabs in the pair of 2024 FIM Ice Speedway World Championship Finals at Inzell in Germany on 23-24 March followed by Heerenveen in the Netherlands on 6-7 April, competition was fierce among the sixteen riders from eight nations who took to the ice.
Following the first block of four Heats it was Huusko along with his compatriot Max Koivula, Germany’s Johann Weber and Jimmy Olsén from Sweden who shared the lead and Huusko, Koivula and Weber then added a further win to their scores in the second block.
After losing out to Huusko in his opening Heat of the afternoon, a win second time out brought Niedermaier back into contention and the German – who raced just twice last season – then reeled off three victories in a row to book his place in the Run-Off where he sealed the deal.
Huusko’s hopes of a perfect afternoon were dashed when he finished second to home hero Jimmy Hörnell Lidfalk in his penultimate Heat which set up the Run-Off where he was forced to settle for second again. The third step of the podium was filled by Koivula who ended the afternoon with three wins, a second and a third.
Weber, who finished second in the FIM Ice Speedway World Championship in 2022 before being sidelined through injury last year, also scored three wins and a second-placed finished, but a disqualification in his fourth Heat race put him out of contention for the victory and left him tied on eleven points with Olsén.
Another rider who sat out last year’s series – although his absence was due to his participation in a reality television show, not injury – was Jasper Iwema from the Netherlands. A talented road racer who has competed in the FIM Grand Prix World Championship, Iwema ended the afternoon in sixth with a victory in his third Heat.
The remaining two Qualifying places were claimed by Lidfalk and Finland’s Aki Ala-Riihimäki who narrowly made it through with victories in his final two Heats off-setting two disqualifications.
The top eight will now face defending champion Martin Haarahiltunen from Sweden along with Austria’s Franz Zorn and Germany’s Luca Bauer who finished second and fourth in 2023. Harald Simon from Austria, who finished third last season, will be unable to compete because of health issues and Germany’s Markus Jell – who was sixth – will take his place.
Sweden’s Niclas Svensson, who was fifth in 2023, is also sidelined with a back injury and he will be replaced by his father Stefan who ended last year in seventh.
They will be joined in both Finals by two FIM-selected permanent wild card riders and one local wild card.