Reigning champion Martin Smolinski got the defence of his title off to the best possible start when he clinched victory in the opening Final of the 2024 FIM Long Track World Championship powered by Anlas, Kineo and HKC Koopmann on home ground at Herxheim in Germany this afternoon.

The thirty-nine-year-old dropped points in his first two Heats before finding his form to win his next three races and then powered to victory in the Grand Final. However, it was no walk in the park for the two-time champion from Munich who was forced to fight hard in the programme’s deciding race to narrowly beat Great Britain’s Zach Wajtknecht and Lukas Fienhage from Germany to the top step of the podium.

The first of the season’s five scheduled Finals saw Germany’s Erik Riss on top in the opening Heat before Wajtknecht defeated Smolinski and Fienhage led home last year’s championship runner-up Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris from Great Britain to share a three-way tie for the lead after the first block of racing.

Riss won his second Heat which put him clear of the chasing pack before mechanical issues in his next two races dropped him down the order. After chasing Great Britain’s Andrew Appleton across the line in his second Heat, Smolinski then claimed his first win of the afternoon which tied him for the lead following three blocks of racing with Wajtknecht, Fienhage and Harris on ten points each.

With the top three riders qualifying directly to the Grand Final and the next five going into the Last Chance Heat the pressure was on with two blocks of Heats remaining and both Smolinski and Wajtknecht added a pair of wins to their totals to progress in style.

With three wins and a third from his first four Heats, Fienhage – the champion in 2020 – booked his place in the programme’s deciding race with a third-placed finish in his fifth Heat with Riss, Harris, Appleton, Dutchman Dave Meijerink and French series newcomer Jordan Dubernard lining up for the Last Chance Heat.

Riss, whose chances of progressing directly to the Grand Final were effectively ended in his fourth Heat when a bike problem dropped him from first to third on the final lap, made no mistake and claimed a clear win from Harris as the pair booked their places for the dramatic showdown on the fast, perfectly-prepared circuit.

Deciding that gate one offered an advantage, Smolinski went straight to the inside for the Grand Final as Wajtknecht, Fienhage, Riss and Harris lined up outside him and it proved to be a wise choice as he threaded himself into an early lead with Wajtknecht slotting into second ahead of Fienhage.

Roared on by his home fans, Smolinski led ahead of a fierce fight for second with Wajtknecht picking a succession of wide lines as he traded passes with Fienhage. With little more than a bike’s length separating the top three, Smolinski celebrated victory with a huge wheelie as Wajtknecht narrowly edged out Fienhage on the run out of the final turn to the chequered flag and Harris came home fourth after Riss pulled out with another suspected mechanical problem.

The series now heads to Marmande in France on 13 July for the second Final of the year.

All 2024 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.

For more information on the 2024 FIM Long Track World Championship powered by Anlas, Kineo and HKC Koopmann click here.