Current champion Dmitry Koltakov started his 2018 challenge where he left off last year and took first place in the opening round of the Lukoil FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship in Kazakhstan on Saturday in front of 4000 spectators at the Alau Ice palace in Astana. He dropped only two points during the meeting and banked 19 points towards retaining his title, beating Sweden’s Martin Haarahiltunen and fellow Russians Dmitry Khomitsevich and Sergey Karachintsev in the Final.It was a sensational debut for the 27 year old Haarahiltunen who had won his first ever race in this competition in Heat 3 and was the only westerner to trouble the Russians. Ove Ledstrum reached the semi final stage despite a disqualification in Heat 18 when he fell after clipping the back wheel of Stefan Svensson but none of the other Swedes made the cut. The Austrians had a similar result with Harald Simon finishing last in Semi Final 1 but neither Franky Zorn nor Charly Ebner able to reach that stage.
Ebner as the next available Substitute Rider had been drafted in to replace Russia’s Dinar Valeev who was forced to withdraw due to a broken collar bone received in a Russian Super League meeting last weekend. Another rider missing from the line up was Jan Klatovsky from Czech Republic who has not yet recovered from a back injury he collected at the Qualifying Round in Finland last month. He was replaced by substitute Stefan Svensson.
The German representatives had a disappointing afternoon with Günther Bauer finishing last in all his races and obviously still feeling the effects of the foot injury he sustained in Sweden. Johan Weber had endured a nightmare journey to Astana and had been delayed for 36 hours en route due to document problems. He opted to miss practice in order to recover some rest but was still below his best and he withdrew from his last two rides with an ankle injury after falling in Heat 16.
The Final saw Haarahiltunen lined up against the three best Russians and sensationally saw him come from fourth place to second. Although he was unable to claim the scalp of champion Koltakov, his performance remains one of the most remarkable debuts in Ice Gladiator history and his progress in this series will be followed with close interest.
Leading scores from Final 1: 1.Dimitri Koltakov (Russia) 19; 2. Martin Haarahiltunen (Sweden) 17; 3. Sergey Karachintsev (Russia) 17; 4. Dimitri Khomitsevich (Russia) 15 ; 5. Daniil Ivanov (Russia) 14; 6. Andrey Shishegov (Russia) 11 – Wild Card; 7. Harald Simon (Austria) 7; 8. Ove Ledström (Sweden) 6; 9. Stefan Svensson (Sweden) 5; 10. Franz Zorn (Austria) 5; 11.Charly Ebner (Austria) 5.
Final 2 takes place on Sunday afternoon 4th February in Astana at 13.30 local time. FIM Jury President will be Italy’s Armando Castagna with Alex Lyatosinksyy from Ukraine as Referee.