The destiny of the FIM Ice Speedway World Championship will be decided when racing returns to Heerenveen after an enforced two-year break and the effects of COVID-19 along with the current events in Eastern Europe will make this a particularly unpredictable event.
None of the MFR riders who currently lead the scorers will be allowed to race due to the present political situation although they retain the points that they have already scored in the championship. To replace them a number of Substitute riders have been called. See the starting list HERE
The revised Starting List presents a more even field with the chance of some exciting racing with an opportunity for some of the western riders to collect points at the expense of their absent rivals and a podium place, at least, is a real prospect for them.
Johan Weber has perhaps the best chance of success. Currently in 5th place the German would need only 16 points over the two days to climb above the present leader. Weber is on his best form and until recently has been able to race in the eastern leagues so has a good deal of match practice.
Sweden’s Martin Haarahiltunen is another who will hope to take advantage of the situation. Now fully recovered from the injuries of last year he enjoyed a successful weekend in his home country by winning both the Swedish Individual Championship and the Nordic title on successive days. He has 14 points to his credit after the first event.
Harald Simon was not able to race in the first two Finals in Togliatti due to visa problems but will be looking to make an impression in Heerenveen after winning the European Championship in Poland last weekend. His fellow Austrian Franky Zorn was also hoping to make a successful return to the ice after injuries threatened an early end to his season but the veteran has had to concede defeat and has withdrawn. He will be replaced by Jo Sætre who will be the only Norwegian in the field.
The home fans will be excited by the latest Dutch prospect Jasper Iwema who posted his best result in Togliatti with 14 points and is rapidly gaining experience on the ice after a successful period in MotoGP. He has become a popular character around the ice speedway tracks and will not be short of local support in Heerenveen along with fellow Dutchman Niek Schaap whose limited experience and lack of race practice may restrict his scoring.
Of the remaining riders, many of whom have limited racing experience at this level, much will depend on good luck, reliable machines and confidence in their ability to compete with some of the world’s best. Enthusiasm and optimism might overcome some of the limitations.
Jimmy Hörnell has shown some spectacular form this season and was runner up in the Nordic Championship. Ove Ledstrum has had a disappointing season and is far better than his recent scores suggest. Finnish champion Aki Ala-Riihimäki is feared for his unorthodox moves but if he can stay out of trouble he could cause an upset to the more fancied riders. He recently celebrated his 56th birthday and will be out to prove that age is no barrier despite having been confined to a wheelchair for some time after an off track accident some years ago. Lukás Hutla is the best known of the three representatives from the Czech Republic but has disappointed recently and his progress has been slow after a promising start to his ice career.
The Wild Card for this event will be Germany’s Luka Bauer bronze medallist at the European Championships.
FIM Jury President will be former racer Jouni Seppanen from Finland and Referee from Sweden Krister Gardell. Racing on Saturday starts at 18.30 and on Sunday at 13.30 and on Friday 1st April will be the traditional meeting for the Roelof Thijs Cup commencing at 18.30.