The 2022 FIM Long Track World Championship starts this weekend in Poland when current champion Romano Hummel begins the defence of his title in Rzeszow. With six Finals scheduled, organisers will be hoping for a full calendar this year after the restrictions imposed by covid 19 severely affected the championship for the last two years.
Despite the withdrawal of Martin Smolinski and Dmitri Berge from the original list there are still three world champions in a competitive field and the opening Final on the 392m speedway track at the Miejski Stal Stadium should provide some entertaining racing. It is the shortest of the regular venues and hosted the final meetings in 2020 and 2021 but is likely to favour those riders with speedway experience.
The draw and starting list can be found HERE.
So, who are the likely favourites for this meeting? Here are some of the contenders:
Last year Romano Hummel secured his gold medal at this track in challenging conditions. He has been at his best recently winning several Long Track meetings and his spectacular style makes him a crowd favourite. If he can avoid injuries, he must be a firm contender for his second title in 2022.
Mathieu Tresarrieu, four times bronze medallist and champion in 2017 has returned to the championship after taking a break in 2021 and seems to have regained his enthusiasm. He has a long experience in this championship having won his first medal, a bronze, in 2007 and has more podium places than any rider in this competition so cannot be ignored.
Lukas Fienhage had a memorable year in 2020 securing his first FIM medal by winning in the shortened season. Since then, however he has not been able to repeat that form but rides this track well and this meeting could see him return to his best.
Despite the popularity of Speedway, Long Track has never been developed in Poland, a situation that the Polish Federation PZM and working hard to change. Stanislaw Burza is their most successful rider to date and finished third in both the previous rounds held at this track. His limited experience will be tested on the traditional grass and sand tracks in later rounds and Poland’s first medal in this discipline looks still to be for the future. Marcin Sekulla will be the other Polish representative as the Wild Card and speedway specialist Adam Skornicki is a reserve.
Kenneth Kruse Hansen is Denmark’s best prospect for a medal and was the winner here in 2020. Injuries have stopped his progress since then and kept him out of the championship last year but if he is fully fit, he is likely to be amongst the leaders through the series.
Great Britain is represented by two former European Champions in Zach Wajtknecht and James Shanes as well as speedway star Chris Harris and they are all capable of beating the best.
Theo Pijper is the most experienced rider in the line-up. With 98 meetings in 23 years, the Dutchman has the most appearances in the competition since it adopted its current Grand Prix format in 1997 and at 42 he is still showing some of the younger riders the fastest way around the track.
The Czech Republic team narrowly lost out to Germany in the Long Track of Nations last month due mainly to a strong performance by Martin Malek. The team appear here again in individual competition with veteran Josef Franc and Hynek Stichauer also in the Starting List.
Racing in Rzeszow starts on Saturday at 17.00 local time under the supervision of Jury President Thierry Bouin. FIM Referee is Pavel Kubes and Glen Phillips the Race Director.