With the 2023 FIM Long Track World Championship now entering the second half of the series, the top riders on the planet will resume their battle for supremacy at the season’s fourth Final this coming Saturday (20 August) at Scheessel in Germany.
Series pacesetter is Britain’s super-experienced Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris who has come out on top at the two previous Finals, but the forty-year-old will have to fight for every available point if he is to maintain and even extend his slender one-point advantage.
Following the opening two Finals of the championship at Herxheim in Germany and Ostrów in Poland there was a three-way tie for the lead between Martin Smolinski from Germany, Britain’s Zach Wajtknecht and Josef Franc from the Czech Republic, although this all changed last time out at Marmande in France in mid-July.
After claiming a career-first victory at Ostrów, Harris carried his momentum into Marmande where his dramatic win lifted him from fourth to first as Franc – who won at Herxheim – dropped off the pace after failing to make the Grand Final on a tough night for the forty-four-year-old.
Smolinski – who won the title in 2018 – sits just one point behind Harris and has been showing great form this season to claim the second step of the podium in Poland and France, though the thirty-eight-year-old is still counting the cost of a mechanical issue that saw him trail in last in the Grand Final at the opening round.
At twenty-five years old, Wajtknecht is very much the young gun of the championship contenders. The construction technician lies third, just three points behind his compatriot, but after taking victory at the last two Finals of 2022 on his way to the series silver he is still chasing a first victory this year.
Despite the disappointment of Marmande, Franc holds fourth in the standings, and he is now ten points behind Wajtknecht and needs to score solid points on Saturday afternoon if he is to keep his title hopes alive. He will also be looking to stay ahead of fifth-placed Lukas Fienhage, World Champion in 2020, who he leads by a single point after the German placed fifth in France.
With such a strong field of riders there is no shortage of challengers and fans have yet to see the best of 2021 champion Romano Hummel from the Netherlands, however the biggest challenge to the top-three could very well come from a pair of wild card riders.
Dutchman Dave Meijerink made his 2023 series debut in Marmande where he impressed with a fighting fourth in the Grand Final and Scheessel will see the eagerly awaited return to Long Track of Erik Riss.
The twenty-seven-year-old has concentrated more on Speedway in recent years and the German – who took the gold medal in 2014 and 2016 – will be aiming to shake things up at the front on home soil.
Starts will be vital on the one-thousand-metre Scheessel track as riders look to get themselves into the best possible points position before the series concludes next month with the last two Finals in Morizes in France and Mühldorf in Germany.
The action from Scheessel will get under way with the first heat at 14:00 local time.
The full series is available as a Pay-Per-View broadcast via a livestream package on the Tapes Up TV channel. For more details click here.