The 2017 Long Track World Championship kicks off in Germany this week with the opening round in Herxheim at the traditional Ascension Day meeting.
The field this year has an unfamiliar look following the decision of current champion Erik Riss and world number 4 Dimitri Berge not to contest this year’s championship as both will be concentrating on their speedway careers for the present time. The later withdrawal of former champion Joonas Kylmakorpi, who has retired from track racing following injury, has left the title chase wide open and the introduction of new riders will add a further element of interest. Predictions at this stage of the year are somewhat premature but the list of riders taking part in the first round provides some interesting possibilities.
Great Britain has the highest number of qualifiers, with the experience of Glen Phillips and Richard Hall joined by the youthful enthusiasm of James Shanes, and former Speedway Grand Prix star Chris Harris, who received one of the 3 FIM Wild cards, making his first bid for the Long Track crown despite having stared his racing career on the Grass Tracks.
The 2015 champion Jannick de Jong leads the Dutch contingent but he will not be feeling complacent and can expect a strong challenge from the younger element, with European Champion Shanes and Germany’s Michael Hartel leading the charge. De Jong is joined by Dirk Fabriek, both hardened veterans of the Long Tracks.
Mathieu Tresarrieu collected the bronze medal last year and will be looking to improve on that in the coming season. As French representative he will have the company of Theo Pijper, the famous rider from Holland who has been riding under French colours for more than 10 years now, and Theo Di Palma, who moves up to take Kylmakorpi’s place in the line up.
Josef Franc and Hynek Stichauer will fly the flag for the Czech Republic, as Stichauer moves up for Erik Riss.
Germany also has only two names on the permanent list with Stefan Katt who received a FIM Wild card, hoping to enjoy a more successful season than in 2016, and Michael Hartel, who moves up to take Dimitri Berge’s place in the line up.
The Wild Card for this meeting will be Max Dilger.
Racing in Herxheim starts at 13.30 local time on Thursday. FIM Jury President is Christian Bouin from France and Referee Great Britain’s Chris Durno.