Ice Speedway fans who could make it to today’s Day 2 of racing were treated to the ultimate final experience – a race off that decided the entire 2021 World Championship.
Dinar Valeev has two World Championships bronze medals from 2019 and 2020 to his name, but now can add his first ever gold after a superb performance in Togliatti today.
Start as you mean to go on
Valeev and yesterday’s winner, Dmitry Khomitsevich, both completed the preliminary rounds dropping just a single point making the latter the most successful rider over the weekend and favourite to take home his first World Championship gold since 2016.
And as yesterday, it was Igor Kononov, searching for his second ever World Championship medal, and reigning champion, Daniil Ivanov who were just behind them. Both riders dropped only two points in the first 20 heats.
That meant of the four favourites the reigning champion had scored the least points over the weekend, pointing to the fact that Ivanov was about to miss the medals for the first time since 2017. Incredibly, it is only the second time he has not medaled in 11 years.
The Day 2 Final
The four Russians were on the starting grid for the final with Khomitsevich knowing that as long as he beat Kononov, he was almost certainly going to be crowned World Champion. However, the pressure seemed to get to the 2020 Silver medalist, as he crashed out trying to overtake on the outside ruining his chance for a Day 2 medal and blowing his chance for the Gladiators’ Gold.
Instead, it was Valeev who kept his cool winning the Final to secure the Round 2 victory with Kononov and Ivanov behind him to take the final medals.
But who had won the World Championship?
Fans were forced to get their calculators out to try and work out what going on. And incredibly, after 42 heats today’s first and second placed riders were tied on 36 points each leading to a race off with the ultimate prize awaiting the winner.
The Race Off
The pair had raced against each other four times over the weekend with honours were even – Kononov having won both their meetings on Saturday and Valeev the victor in their Sunday heats.
A tremendous race-off saw Valeev have the advantage into the first bend to take a narrow lead, but closely chased by Kononov, who then headed the race on the third lap with a wide sweep around the outside on the top bend. Valeev was not to be beaten, however, and a dramatic pass on the run in to the chequered flag brought him the win and a well-deserved first gold medal.
For the second day in a row it was the Austrians who shone from non-Russian nations. Harald Simon was the highest scorer with two heat victories against European option. He would the finish the entire competition in 7th, just one point behind compatriot, Franky Zorn, who himself took one heat victory, also against all European opposition.
50 year old, Zorn, was the highest scoring European in the whole competition in fifth just just 8 points behind fourth placed, Ivanov. But there was also success for Germany as Markus Jell made it a trio of victories from riders from the old continent.
Valeev was very pleased with his performance and his mechanics team threw him in the air to celebrate the well deserved crown as 2021 FIM Ice Speedway Gladiators World Champion.