There is a strong tradition of father and son participation in top-flight motorcycle sport – think Graziano and Valentino Rossi in MotoGP, Harry and Stefan Everts in MXGP and Martin and Dougie Lampkin in TrialGP – although very rarely do two generations of the same family compete directly against each other.
Well, at the end of January at Örnsköldsvik in Sweden at the Qualifying round for the 2023 FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship we saw the Swedish father and son pairing of Stefan and Niclas Svensson both battling for a place in the finals at Inzell in Germany on 18-19 March.
On this occasion thirty-two-year-old Niclas claimed victory while sixty-four-year-old Stefan only lost out on second place after a dramatic run-off with Lukas Hutla. The result was all the more remarkable given that Stefan officially retired last year before deciding to return to action to celebrate his fourth decade in the sport.
“I thought I would try to reach another World Championship final,” said Stefan. “[It was] a fun thing after forty years of fighting, but the fact that I reached third place was a big surprise to me.”
Stefan has his brother, Lage, to thank for his involvement in Ice Speedway and from there it was perhaps a natural progression that Niclas would eventually get involved.
“Lage took me to a competition in February 1983. After the race we went down to the pits and talked to a rider. Then we asked if there were any ice racing bikes for sale. He said, ‘buy mine, this is not a sport for me, I ride too slow.” I could not dream that forty years later I would qualify for the World Championship finals.
“Niclas has followed my sport with interest, but I never pressured him to start. Then one winter he said he wanted to try. It was with mixed emotions – very happy, though at the same time worrying because you know that the sport is not completely harmless.”
The Ice Speedway community is incredibly close-knit and this family feel is one of the factors that makes the sport so special.
“Yes, there is a great atmosphere in this sport,” said Stefan. “We help each other and the friendship is great. Maybe it is because it is cold and the bikes are always difficult to handle – they have to be lifted or rolled on rubber or wooden surfaces – so everybody helps each other.”
The big question leading into Inzell is what motivates Stefan more – personal or paternal pride?
“It would mean a lot to win such a big competition in my fortieth anniversary season, but it would mean just as much if my son Niclas were to win. Probably even greater joy.”
The finals of the 2023 FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship take place in Inzell in Germany on 18-19 Marchand will be broadcast live on fim-moto.tv.