It is quite difficult to know with precision when and where someone had the idea of putting a motorcycle on ice. This was obviously held in countries where climatic conditions allowed this practice. The first records of racing on ice date from 1924 in Sweden; in the early 30s, motorcycles with a low frame had the tyres fit with short studs, skidding a bit sideways in the curves. Races were held on tracks designed on frozen lakes. Then longer studs were used, allowing the rider to be faster and to take very low angles in curves. This was introduced in a race in Stockholm in 1933. Ice Racing appeared then just before the Second World War in the Soviet Union – first as a demonstration in 1938, then in March 1939 in the first official competition in Moscow.
After the war, national Championships developed in Scandinavia and the USSR and spread to some central Europe countries such as Czechoslovakia and Germany. Enjoying a great popular success in several places, international meetings started to be organised in the late 50s with 500cc single cylinder machines mounted in frames adapted from Speedway machines, while national Championships were also run in other classes (125cc, 350cc, sidecars).
In 1961 international events were organised in Ufa and Moscow with riders from Finland Sweden, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. The Swede Björn Knutsson (runner-up in the Speedway World Final that year and future Speedway World Champion in 1965) won the Series. Later, the events held in Helsinki and Stockholm were won by Soviet rider Boris Samorodov, from the city of Ufa.
The first FIM Cup was then organised in 1963, gathering riders from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Sweden and Finland. Five races took place in the USSR and five others in Sweden and Finland. The winner was Boris Samorodov. With such a success the competition became a European Championship in 1965, organised in 5 elimination meetings and five finals (the four best results counting towards the Championship), all of them held in the Soviet Union. Again the winner was Boris Samorodov; he was followed by a rider who was to become the greatest Ice Racing rider of all times: Gabdrakhman Kadyrov.
Kadyrov On Top
The European Championship became a World Championship in 1966, with semi-finals held in Leningrad and Novosibirsk, and finals in Ufa and Moscow – all events held over two series of heats, one on Saturday evening, the other on Sunday afternoon. Grabdrakhman Kadyrov clinched his first title, ahead of Victor Kuznetsov and Czechoslovakian Antonin Svab. Boris Samodorov, 5th that year, took the title back in 1967, but it was to be his last one. Kadyrov then dominated the Ice Racing scene until 1973. In 1968, he won his second title; in 1969, the Championship was run over one final event only – which he won. In 1970, the final was held for the first time outside the USSR, in Nässjö, Sweden, and it was the first title for a non-Russian rider: Antonin Svab finished with the maximum of points, 15, one more than Kadyrov, as he had won their direct confrontation in heat 4. The Swede Kurt Westlund ended in third position. Then Kadyrov was back at the top for three consecutive years: in 1971 in Inzell (West Germany), Nässjö in 1972, and in 1973 in Inzell again – Inzell would become a traditional venue for Ice racing events.
In 1974, in Nässjö, another Czechoslovakian rider, Milan Spinka, dominated the final winning all his races and clinching the World title ahead of Russians Zibrov and Kadyrov.
Then riders from the Soviet Union would dominate Ice Racing for several years. In 1975 in Moscow, a new generation of riders showed up at the top: Sergei Tarabanko won four consecutive titles from 1975 to 78, and Anatoli Bondarenko two in 1979 and 1980.
Team Competition Introduced
Team competitions had already been organised since the 60s - when, at the initiative of the Russian Federation, an Ice Racing World Championship for Teams was introduced in 1979. Obviously, the Russians were big favorites and their individual domination would be repeated in the team contest. But in 1983, a big surprise came from the German team, composed of Max Niedermayer, Helmut Weber and Günther Brandt, who won the title in Berlin, followed by the Swedish team, the Russians being only third – their worst result ever.
In the Individual contest, 1981 was the turn of Vladimir Liubitsch, while Sergei Kasakov, after various runner-up placings, clinched two titles, in 1982 and 1983. In 1984 the final was held in Moscow, but the Swedish rider Erik Stenlund spoiled the party, winning in front of Suchov and Ivanov. In the Team final, held in Deventer (Netherlands), the USSR and Sweden were even at the end; the Russians won the run-off. The Swedes would have their revenge in 1985, winning easily in front of the USSR.
In the Individual Championship, though, Vladimir Suchov won his third title in Assen. Stockholm welcomed the 1986 final and the spectators were expecting a second title for their star Erik Stenlund. But it was time for Yuri Ivanov to get the first of his three World titles; Vladimir Suchov was second and Stenlund third. The second title of Yuri Ivanov was clinched in Berlin in ‘87. But Erik Stenlund was still a match winner: in 1988 in Eindhoven, he clinched his second individual World title.
The Russian reaction also came in the Team Championship after the loss of the 1985 final: the Russian team won all Team finals from 1986 until 2010 except two of them, against the Swedes: lead by veteran Per-Olov Serenius, in 1995 and again in 2002.
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