EUROPE. The Astana Expo FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship gets on track this month with Qualification rounds for the individual series taking place on 7 January in Ylitornio (FIN) and 14 January in Strömsund (FIN). Riders from ten nations have entered the competition this year, hoping to secure a place in the Final series, which will start in Togliatti (RUS) on 4 February.
Ylitornio in Finland opens the competition on Saturday with an entry that includes two of the top Russian riders. Former double World Champion Daniil Ivanov, chasing his third title, will be joined by Dinar Valeev, the latest graduate to the top tier of Ice Speedway, who is making his debut in this competition. Both were contenders for the Russian Individual Championship but will be forced to miss the last round of that competition in Shadrinsk, which is also taking place this weekend due to an unfortunate fixture clash. However, both will be confident of securing their places in the World Championship series with a good performance in Finland.
Three Germans will be taking part in the first round with experienced Stefan Pletschacher and Max Niedermaier joined by newcomer Tobias Busch, better known as one of Germany’s top riders in conventional Speedway, who is making his first attempt at this discipline. Austrians Harald Simon and Charley Ebner will also be joined by a newcomer in the shape of Josef Kreuzberger, whilst father and son Stefan and Niclas Svensson will be representing Sweden.
In Strömsund, Sweden on 14 January, a strong field is set to fight for the qualification places. Russia has nominated Dmitry Koltakov and Igor Kononov but the opposition in the form of local trio Jimmy Olsen, Robert Henderson and Ove Ledström, along with Austria’s Franky Zorn, looks set to provide some interesting racing.
Johan Weber will represent Germany along with another father and son pair in the form of Günther and Luca Bauer, who have been training in Russia and Sweden and will be well prepared for the first serious ice speedway action of the year. Simon Reitsma is the sole entry from The Netherlands and there will also be appearances from Claude Gadeyne of Belgium and Jo Saetre from Norway.
The top six riders from each round will enter the Final Series which starts in Togliatti, Russia on 4 February. They will be joined there by current World Champion Dmitry Khomitsevich, two permanent Wild Cards nominated by FIM and a local Wild Card chosen by the national Federation.
The full Starting List for both meetings can be found in pdf format HERE