The 2024 FIM Ice Speedway World Championship, that reaches a dramatic conclusion this coming weekend (6-7 April) at Heerenveen’s impressive Thialf Ice Stadium in the Netherlands, is wide open with just four points separating the leading four riders and firmly in contention for the crown is Germany’s Max Niedermaier.

Bidding to become his nation’s first-ever FIM World Champion in this incredibly specialised and demanding discipline, the thirty-six-year-old currently shares second place with fast Finn Aki Ala-Riihimäki just two points behind series leader and reigning champion Martin Haarahiltunen from Sweden and only two points ahead of Finland’s Heikki Huusko.

Although extremely experienced having first raced when he was seventeen, Niedermaier has been relatively inactive over recent years at the sport’s highest level and has not contested the series since 2019 when he ended the season in eleventh. However, this lack of track time has not held him back and he won both the Qualifying round in Örnsköldsvik in Sweden in January and on the opening day of the first Final at Inzell at the end of March.

Backing up his Inzell win with fourth in the Grand Final on day two has put the title within Niedermaier’s reach and the Bavarian knows that he is a genuine contender for the crown.

I believe that I can become champion, but everything has to go right,” he said. “It is possible, but it is difficult because all the riders want to be world champion.

Niedermaier, who is a farmer by profession, rates his Grand Final victory at Inzell as one of the high points of his career.

It was fantastic. There were a lot of people I knew there as the race was only seventy kilometres from home. It is absolutely my home race. For me, Saturday was one of my best days since I have been riding.”

An Ice Speedway specialist who does not compete in any other discipline, Niedermaier prepared for this year’s series with just a few days training in Sweden ahead of the Qualifying Round and admits that his victory at Örnsköldsvik came as a surprise, although he was confident heading into the event.

While the title would represent the first individual gold in the sport for Germany, in 1983 his nation raced to a shock win in the FIM Ice Speedway of Nations in Berlin and on that occasion his father, also called Max, led the team to victory so the sport is very much part of his heritage.

Of course, the title fight is far from over and standing between Niedermaier and the crown are two days of racing in Heerenveen.

Winning would be amazing,” added Niedermaier. “I would be absolutely delighted, that is every Ice Speedway rider’s dream. It would be my absolute dream.

The action from Heerenveen gets under way at 18:30 local time and will be streamed LIVE on fim-moto-tv.