Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Riders’ view - Reflections on a Season!

Photo FIM Good Shoot

At the end of another crowded Ice Speedway season we caught up with a few of the riders before they returned home to a more normal life and asked them for their thoughts on the 2017 Championship, the highs and lows and the new venues at Shadrinsk and Heerenveen.

Dmitry Koltakov regained the individual world title this year and we asked him whether his preparation had been different:

 “This year we paid much more attention to the bikes’ preparation. I myself had to focus on results and being more determined to get back the title. First and foremost every World Championship’ success means hard work. It’s not easy at all and for every race and every season my team and I do a huge amount of work when preparing the bikes. No doubt, it’s very important to gain proper physical form and to be ready for the championship mentally.

There were no easy rounds, just as there are no cheap victories. Every final was difficult but the most difficult for me was perhaps the race in Almaty: all the weekend long I had fever and therefore it was more difficult for me to compete physically.
The most remarkable moment for me was that feeling of victory when I became the World Champion in advance, after the fourth session in Heerenveen. I just remember the smiles and happy faces of my fans, those people who supported me, spectators, my teammates.
I’m quite satisfied with my results and my position at the top so I am not planning any major changes for 2018. Now I need a couple-of-weeks-rest from sports, some time, which I can spend with my family and my loved ones. Then I will start preparing myself for the next season with cycling and motocross training a must.  I’d like to thank FIM and all the officials for the great work done this year!”

Veteran German favourite Günther Bauer felt that:
”Generally the season went good for me. I’m satisfied with it. As for improvements it was mostly work on the bike. We had to change some things when preparing for the races.
I thought that the most difficult meeting was in Shadrinsk. I remember it was not easy to find the set up for the bikes, possibly because of the extreme cold we faced there. The best races for me this season were Togliatti and Inzell.
The two new venues this year were both interesting. Shadrinsk was not easy at all. It’s a long way to drive, very cold but very good place for racing. I enjoyed that event. Speaking about Heerenveen, I can say that it’s the greatest venue I’ve ever ridden at. It’s really a big advantage to have this place in our calendar.
There were two moments that I especially remember. The saddest one was when the bike’s engine broke in Togliatti in the middle of the race. The greatest one was when my team won the medals of the Team World Championship in Inzell.  Riding together with my son Luca was really exciting, I enjoyed it. It gave me so much power and motivation one couldn’t expect. I hope to meet him on the racetrack in future.
Now my plans for the next few months will be to get back to work. Ice racing is my hobby and passion and I must work when the ISG season ends.   My first target for 2018 is to find the sponsors.”

Austrian star Franz Zorn was his usual enthusiastic self:
“The season started well for me. My goal was to be on the fifth place at least. I was on the first place in the qualifying round 2 in Stromsund. I won some international races held in Europe while preparing for the 2017 ISG season. In Togliatti, on both days I qualified to the final heats series. Of course during the season I had my ups and downs, for example in Heerenveen where I injured my shoulder in the second heat on Saturday. Overall, the season was not bad, my sponsors were satisfied and I hope to have a chance to participate in the series next year.
It was great to have more practice in the beginning of the season. In Stromsund I had very good training sessions. The weather was just perfect and we made 11 ice tracks on the lake. I hadn’t made many improvements to the bikes, so the most important was training for me. 
The easiest round was in Togliatti: organization, ice preparation, everything was perfect for me. It was the first time for a long while that I’ve qualified into the Final heat. The most difficult for me was Heerenveen, as I got injured in the very beginning of the first day and it was not easy to continue through the event.
As for the new venues, it’s great to have them on the calendar. Both of them were perfect and I hope to race at both of them again in the future.”
And as if to emphasise the ‘esprit de corps’ that exists amongst the riders he cited as one of the
highlights of the season:
“A very special moment was to meet an old friend of mine, with whom we raced in the past in the World Championship, It was a great to see Valery Pertsev again!”
(Pertsev was one of the top Russian riders of the 1990s and a regular rival)

Young Swedish hopeful Niclas Svensson was in his second season in the world championship although he needed a nomination from FIM after surprisingly failing to qualify:
“Well, the season started not so good; in the qualification round I had two exclusions and therefore didn’t qualify for the finals series. I was really lucky to get nominated by the FIM into the finals, to have a chance to show, to prove that I’m a good rider and I can do more. To tell the truth I’m not satisfied with my results this year as I had some crashes and injuries but I feel that every round of the WC gave me experience I need. I’m more stable now compared to myself last year. I pushed the limits further. I feel that I’m stronger and my bike is a little better.
Perhaps the most difficult round for me was the race in Almaty. I injured my knee and it was difficult to carry on at the same level. In Heerenveen when I changed the bike I felt so good, that I was able to stand against all the big boys altogether.  
The two new venues were very enjoyable in different ways. It was great fun to compete in Shadrinsk where the organisers managed the race very professionally and smoothly. It was a nice place to be in, people were very friendly and hospitable. I was really impressed to see tribunes being packed for hours during both days while it was minus 24 degrees outside. It was unbelievable. Heerenveen was just another great experience: modern covered arena, artificial ice, etc. I hope that both places will stay in the calendar in future!
My goal for next year is to be in the ISG Final Series again. Having all that experience with me, I’m sure I’ll do better next year, hopefully with fewer accidents! I’ll do my best to qualify into the final heats to be one of the top four. I aim to defend my Swedish championship title as well.  
I think that there were two highlights for me this year. First, that feeling of absolute joy, when I got promoted into the Final series this year.  Second, when I was finishing the last lap in the semi-final heat in Heerenveen, I was so close to get to the final heat. I knew I was never that close to the final, and I felt that all my efforts, all the hard work done have paid off and I’ll take it with me next year!
And racing with my father? I’m already used to meet him on the racetrack. It’s never easy to compete with him, and he is hard to beat!”

With the time to look back now over, the riders and their teams return to their homes, to their families and to a more regular routine, but before long they will be back in training for next year, back in the workshops to find new ways of improving their performance and looking ahead in anticipation of another great year of Ice Speedway to come. 

Graham Brodie