Dutchman Jannick de Jong began his quest to regain the individual Long Track World Championship by winning the first Final in Germany on Thursday. His 24 points included a win in the final and places him one point ahead of Frenchman Mathieu Tresarrieu.
2015 champion de Jong had looked on top form but dropped points to the German pair of Michael Hartley and Jorg Tebbe in Heat 9 then again to Hartel and Czech Joseph Franc in his next ride. After recovering his composure he completed the meeting without further defeat and looks a favourite to collect a medal at the end of the series. Tresarrieu was level with the de Jong going into the final race but was restricted to second place by the Dutchman who had selected the favoured inner gate.
On a warm and sunny afternoon the hero for the many local fans in Herxheim was young Michael Hartel who, although not as consistent as the leading pair, completed the meeting in third place and his two wins against the former champion will have been a great confidence booster.
Czech Republic representatives Haynes Stichauer and Josef Franc hover below the top five with Franc collecting two wins in the qualifying heats only to be forced to retire in his semi final race.
Great Britain had the largest number of qualifiers but enjoyed a disappointing afternoon, Top man was European Champion James Shanes who slipped after he had started with two wins and a disqualification in his semi final put paid to his rostrum hopes. The experienced Richard Hall and Glen Phillips both left the track with little to show for their efforts and former Grand Prix start Chris Harris could make no impression despite his current top form on the speedway tracks.
Leading positions after the first round:
1. Jannick de Jong (The Netherlands) 24 points
2. Mathieu Tresarrieu (France) 23
3. Michael Hartel (Germany) 19
4. Stefan Katt (Germany) 18
5. Theo Pijper (The Netherlands) 16
6. Hynek Stichauer (Czech Republic) 16
7. Josef Franc (Czech Republic) 14
8. James Shanes (Great Britain) 13