||Last Updated: Feb 10th, 2016 - 17:53:08
The Ice Speedway spotlight turns to team racing on February 13 & 14 as the 2016 Astana Expo FIM Team Ice Speedway Gladiators World Championship Final takes place over two days in Togliatti, Russia.
Seven National teams riding in pairs compete against each other over 42 heats of full blooded Ice Speedway.
Holders Russia, have failed to win this title on only four occasions since the competition was inaugurated in 1979 and will again be favourites. Their team includes defending individual champion Dmitry Koltakov, current world number 3 Dmitry Khomistsevich and, as reserve, ice speedway legend Nikolay Krasnikov. They will provide formidable opposition to any team trying to wrest their title away.
Sweden has been the most successful of the non-Russian teams but has still managed only three gold medals in the 37-year history of the championship. Despite finishing in fourth position last year, Team Manager Ola Westlund maintains his faith in the future of Swedish ice racing by selecting the same young squad with Ove Ledström, Niclas Svensson and Daniel Henderson as reserve.
Austria has taken a medal in seven of the last eight team finals and appear once again to have the best chance of upsetting the Russians. Captain Franz Zorn is joined by the experienced Harald Simon who will provide some strong support if he has recovered well from the injury he sustained at the Challenge meeting in Stromsund. In the wings will be Reserve Manfred Seifter, making his debut in this competition. He has impressed in his World Championship meetings this season to date and is sure to provide strong support if called upon to ride.
Finland also look to have a solid team with skipper Antti Aakko available again and seemingly fully recovered from last year’s back injury problems. Joining him will be Mats Järf hero of the 2014 Bronze medal-winning team when he scored 32 out of Finland’s total of 36 points. Reserve will be Tomi Norola.
Switzerland is still battling to make an impression in the international ice racing scene but at the end of last year its two riders made the long journey to Kamensk-Uralsky in Russia for some intensive training under the watchful eye of three times world champion Anatoli Bondarenko. The Russian legend will be their Team Manager in Togliatti and captain Martin Glarner with newcomer Beat Dobler will be expected to make a greater impression than the previous Swiss teams.
It is a family affair for the Czech Republic team with the Klatovsky brothers, Antonin and Jan and their father Antonin senior who will be Team Manager. Reserve will be Pardubice rider Rade Hutla who performed well in the recent Czech Championship. Whether the Czechs can improve on their third place in 2015 will depend upon whether the Klatovsky ‘fire’ can be ignited.
Germany finished a disappointing fifth last year in front of their home fans in Berlin and will be determined to commit that performance to a distant memory. The squad still has a familiar look and Gunther Bauer will again captain the team from the reserve position with Stefan Pletschacher spearheading the team alongside Max Niedermaier.
Racing at Togliatti’s Anatoly Stepanov Stadium starts at 16.00 hours local time on Saturday and 14.00 for Sunday’s afternoon meeting.
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