When the tapes go up on the opening Final of the 2024 FIM Long Track World Championship powered by Anlas, Kineo and HKC Koopmann at Herxheim in Germany tomorrow afternoon (9 May), the rider everyone will be aiming to beat is reigning champion Martin Smolinski.

The thirty-nine-year-old from Munich won last year’s title to go with his 2018 crown following a close-fought, adrenalin-charged campaign that saw Smolinski forced to come from behind to snatch gold at a dramatic deciding Final staged at Mühldorf in Germany.

With the prospect of completing his hat-trick of FIM Long Track World Championships this season a very real possibility, Smolinski – who is an engine-tuning specialist – has been working hard to ensure he is fully prepared for the challenge ahead of him.

Preparations are still ongoing,” he said. “I will be racing with GM engines and as an engine tuner I prepare the engines myself and we are in good shape for 2024. Now it’s extremely busy because a lot of customers are also riding with my engines.

Smolinski is a fierce competitor with a racing résumé that includes an FIM Speedway Grand Prix win in New Zealand in 2014. His ability to thrive when the going gets tough was a deciding factor in his 2018 title – which he won by a single point – and again last year following an intense season-long battle with Great Britain’s Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris.

Working under pressure, at the limit, keeping a clear head in extreme situations is my speciality.
The final score is settled at the end. It felt wonderful to win last year, especially with an artificial hip. I came back after a year without racing and showed what I can do – it shows that I have been working at the highest level with my team for years.

His father was an event commentator so racing has always been very much a family affair for Smolinski who started out in a sidecar outfit with his current mechanic at the age of five before swiftly going solo.

He was also a silver medallist in 2012, 2019 and 2021 and Smolinski is using this wealth of experience to put something back into the sport by helping to develop the next generation of stars.

Fun and motorsport – that was and is my motto which I want to pass on to the children in my Smolinski Performance Academy to help them progress.

For now, though, his focus is centred solely on Herxheim’s Waldstadion and getting the defence of his title off to the strongest possible start at the first of this year’s five Finals and while he is clearly confident – “I am very fast on this track” – he knows he is going up against a full field of very fast and talented riders and cannot afford to be complacent.

Everyone has to be beaten to become World Champion – you can’t underestimate anyone.

All five of this season’s Finals along with the FIM Long Track of Nations can be streamed LIVE on FIM-MOTO.TV for just €34.90. To sign up click here.

The action from Herxheim gets under way with the opening Heat at 13:30 local time. For more information click here.