The Cold War was back in Berlin
Early march sees the 44th international ice speedway competition taking place in the Horst-Dohm-Stadium in Berlin.
The spring sun is shining on a white oval of ice somewhere in the west of Berlin’s city center. The oval is blinking and reflecting as the sun melts the surface of
the ice. It’s pretty peaceful in this sporting area just outside of the city center. As the first birds are shyly exercising their songs a brutal sound breaks the peaceful ambience. A smell of burned ethanol instantly lies in the airy breeze and shoots into one’s nose. That’s when the adrenalin starts to kick in.
Some hundred fans of this very special motorcycle sport gathered together enjoying their first beer while in the paddock the last technical controls take place. Abruptly the wild sound dies. The control checks if the killswitches that each driver has to wear around his wrist while racing does kill the engine when the magnetic contact is broken.
While the international competitors get ready Hamburg based mechanic and notorious racer of classic British bikes Jörg Niemeyer and his crew get their classic motorcycles on the track for some show rounds. Besides Jörg’s own BSA and his friends’ Triumph and Ariel there are two classic motorcycle combinations by BMW and Norton. The classic racers have a bit of a struggle with the melted surface but it obviously is good fun to the riders.
While the classics are racing the audience keeps on getting bigger and bigger.
As soon as the sun get’s down the ice is cooled down enough to be solid for the international competition. It’s the world’s best 16 riders that come here to compete in the 7th and 8th grandprix 2017. Special speedway motorcycles of different makes are powered by ethanol fueled engines. Their tires sport a good amount of frighteningly pointed spikes of about 6 cm. To minimize the risk of slaying each other in a collision the fender of the bikes cover as much of the tire
as possible leading to the typical optic of half covered wheels. Four competitors are now entering the arena at the same time lining up at the start. While watching you might think they’re wriggling about on theirs seats of excitement. But what they actually do is letting themselves plump on the seat with their body’s weight to ram the spikes of their rear wheel into the ice to get maximum grip for the start. About 3.800 spectators fill the seats and rows around the oval. Cheering and yelling can be heard in German, Russian, Swedish and English.
The engines scream as the red mesh swings up and the bikes shoot out. In a break of a second they are entering the first curve and you will not believe your eyes: they’re pretty much lying down on the ice. While the spikes bite the ice the riders push their bikes down they are nearly scraping the ice with their handle bars.
It’s furious! Unbelievable.
Four rounds of this madness and the race is over.
Four races take place in a row and brutally destroy the ice’s surface. Actually they’re not only scraping the very surface but literally serrating into the ice. It needs 15 min and three Unimogs to take care of the ice before the next four races start.
The winner of the races on saturday, march 4th, is Russian rider Dimitri Koltakov, followed by his compatriots Igor Kononov and Dimitri Khomitsevich. But in the international field of racers are also Frank Zorn from Austria ( 5th) and the German champion Günther Bauer (11th).
Text and images by David Biene • www.david-biene.de