With the Finnish qualifying round cancelled due to warm weather, Saturday’s race in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden the only chance to gain on the six remaining places for FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators competition for 2020.
For the top three riders on the day it was relatively easy racing as Igor Kononov (RUS), Franky Zorn (AUT, pictured) and Jasper Iwema (NED) cruised through the qualification dropping 0, 2, and just 3 points respectively. It was sweet revenge for Zorn and Iwema who on the same team in Sweden, Strömsunds MC, but where throughly beaten by hosts, ÖMK Rundbana just a week before this World Cup qualifier.
Harold Simon (AUT) and Ove Ledström (SWE) finished in fourth and fifth on the same points, and the deciding factor was the Austrian had beaten the Swede, who racing on his home team track, in Heat 9 into second place behind the charging Kononov.
However, that was nothing compared the drama that awaited Ledström's teammate at the Ö-vik club, Swede Martin Haarahiltunen and SMK Gävle's Czech rider, Lukas Hulta.
Hulta started relatively poorly collecting two third places in his first two heats. He then dropped just one pint in his final three heats to finish on an impressive 10 points.
Harrahiltunen had a clear lead in Heat 6 when is bike inexplicably stopped allowing Ledström to steam past to collect maximum points. The Swede later revealed his fuel pipe had fallen out. He had been lotted to take the final heat, number 20 and knew that only a win would enable him to draw level with Hulta and force a race off for sixth place and with that, automatic qualification for the Ice Speedway Gladiators competition.
And Harrahiltunen, did it taking first and rushing to the depot for last minute tinkering before the head-to-head with Hulta.
The Czech rider did not finish when the two met on opposing teams the week before in the Swedish league and in Heat 4, the Swede had also triumphed over his rival. And after 58.6 seconds it was three times lucky for Harrahiltunen who gained that all important automatic qualifier. That means that ÖMK Rundbana will have four representatives, all Swedes, in the World Championships, as Harrhiltunen and Ledström joining Niclas and Stefan Svensson.
The FIM also allows two wildcard place for the Ice Gladiators matches and it may well be that they take pity on Hulta and was so close to gaining that final place in Örnsköldsvik.
But at the moment we know that these top six from this qualifier with join the Svenssons, Russians Daniil Ivanov, Dmitry Koltakov, Dinar Valeev, Dmitry Khomitsevich and German Hans Weber for the World Chairmanship which starts on 1 February in Almaty in Uzbekistan.