Duncan On Ice
What do you do when it has been 5 months since you last saw speedway and at least a further 2 months before you can get the bike out of the garage? Go to the ice racing of course!
The long winter nights in Trondheim are subsiding and the temperature is now above freezing...at the moment. As England struggles through the worst winter for many years it is business as normal here, although 3 weeks of -3 to -15, 24 hours a day is not usual at sea level.
My 5 minute drive to the forest to go cross country skiing was swapped with the 4 hour drive to Ostersund Sweden to see the 2009 Swedish pairs final on February 27th.
The border to Sweden is only 1 hours drive away but we rise several hundred meters. The Scandinavian winter has also seen more snow than normal, we drive through Are, recently voted as one of Europe's top 10 ski resorts.
The frozen lake below us is a hive of activity with Snow scooter hire, Porsche car hire and go-carts all available for Joe Blogs punter to throw his money at and have some fun on the ice. The mountain above is sparkling white in the early afternoon sunshine and I do wish I had my snowboard...but my first taste of live ice racing awaits.
In Ostersund the general snow depth is around 1 meter and the track, center green (white!) and car park have been cleared.
The pits are full of the most frightening motorcycles I have seen, with the general homemade look and 200 spikes per tyre I can only compare with Mad Max without the sand. The Riders are generally older than the average speedway rider and you could say that they look as if they have seen a battle or two!
After the rounds in the pits of saying hello to the known faces from the summer sport its time to pay our £8 and join the other 80 or so spectators on the back straight. Cut oil drums filled with logs are burning to ward off the cold. There is a barbeque and coffee but the ice cold cans of cola don't seem to be selling. Minus 6 is not too bad tonight but it is snowing, has been for an hour and will continue to do so for the duration of the meeting.
The track lights come on 15 minutes before the start and a road brush and two ploughs clear the track. The track preparation is as regular as in normal speedway but the crushed ice is pushed to the center. As the riders enter the track for race one I notice some other differences that had not entered my head. The white line is blue and the tapes are red!
As the tapes go up I must admit that I am amazed at the quality of the racing, this is the Swedish elite, including world finalists, and it shows. Plenty of passing.
The riders give it full pelt down the straights and drop it over on its side with a gentle touch of throttle until they are about three quarters of the way round then it is full gas again. Some choose the wide smooth ride about 1 meter from the fence, others dive in tight and can't hold the corner...but somehow they do and avoid a crash. There are a few crashes but everyone walks away, nobody gets hit by the spikes so no blood. One of the Jamtarna boys crashed in training the week before and needed 50 stitches.
Race times are about 60 seconds, 5 seconds under the speedway track record. The ice record is 53 seconds. The engines give out about 20 horse power less than speedway bikes but it is drive all the way.
The next weekend the club will be having an open day where you can try an ice bike and I must admit it is very tempting...But my boy is ski jumping that day so I can't make it, that's my excuse and I'm sticking by it!
The spectacle of ice racing can be highly recommended if you are abroad in the winter and have the chance to take in a meeting.
Just for the record, the results on the night were as follows:
SMK Gavle 27
"Must admit that I had a bit of a fascination for ice speedway during the 70's and 80's, always thinking that the ice gladiators were even more fearless than their shale cousins. The sport was certainly dominated by a handful of riders during this period - Gab Gadirov comes to mind. Not keeping up with the speedway hardcopy press these days, it's great to read about some ice action."
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