Born on October 2 1990 in Överhörnäs, Sweden
It is often said that it is harder to defend a title than to win one for the first time, but Sweden’s Martin Haarahiltunen conclusively disproved this well-worn cliché with a dominant display at the 2023 FIM Ice Speedway World Championship finals.
The speedy Swede was quite simply unstoppable in the impressive Max Aicher Arena in Inzell in Germany in mid-March, sweeping to an unbeaten and unbeatable maximum of twelve wins from twelve starts spread over two thrilling days of exciting action.
In front of a crowd totalling almost eleven-thousand fans over both days – and with many more watching from the comfort of their own homes via the all-new FIM-MOTO.TV live streaming platform that was debuted at Inzell – he looked in charge right from the start and was rarely headed all weekend.
After resisting early pressure, Haarahiltunen – who at the time was aged thirty-two – really began to stamp his authority over the world-class sixteen-rider field with incredible straight-line speed and outrageous lean angles in the corners.
That is not to say the racing was not close and Haarahiltunen was forced to fight to retain his title with the destination of the sport’s most coveted prize only decided in a dramatic final race on day two.
Needing to finish second to complete his title defence, Haarahiltunen rolled up behind the start tapes determined to sign off in the style of a true champion.
With track conditions at the immaculate indoor facility becoming increasingly more challenging despite constant maintenance, Haarahiltunen seized the lead on lap two of the four-lap final and did not look back.
After claiming his nation’s first FIM Ice Speedway World Championship for twenty years in 2022, Haarahiltunen is now the only Swedish rider ever to claim consecutive crowns in this high-specialised and demanding discipline.
FIM Ice Speedway World Champion: 2022, 2023
Super Swede Martin Haarahiltunen raced to his nation’s first FIM Ice Speedway World Championship in twenty years when he triumphed in Holland at the start of April.
Heading into the Thialf Stadium in Heerenveen, eighty miles north-east of Amsterdam, Johann Weber was regarded as the favourite for the crown following the opening round in Togliatti, but Haarahiltunen had other ideas!
Victory on the opening night allowed Haarahiltunen to close in on Weber, although the German rider still held the upper hand with a nine-point advantage and just six races left to decide the final destination of the championship.
Ice Speedway is flat-out fast and at times can be wildly unpredictable and Haarahiltunen knew that the odds were stacked against him – in fact, only a near faultless performance would be good enough to give him even the slightest chance of overturning the deficit.
The championship’s final afternoon of action started well for the swift Swede who, now fully recovered from his injuries of last year, claimed victory in his first heat and he then raced to more of the same in the second heat.
A third win followed in heat three, though Weber’s title bid was effectively over after he fell in his third heat and was then unable to make the two-minute deadline for the restarted heat fifteen which put him out of the final.
Haarahiltunen looked every inch the champion-elect when he stormed to victory in heats thirteen and seventeen and he completed his incredible comeback with a win in the final race of the championship to take the title.
FIM Ice Speedway World Champion: 2022