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National pride at stake on Sunday at 2023 FIM Long Track of Nations – Preview

National pride at stake on Sunday at 2023 FIM Long Track of Nations – Preview

With the FIM Long Track World Championship done and dusted for another year it is time for the sport’s leading lights to put individual glory to one side and focus on the fortunes of their countries at the 2023 FIM Long Track of Nations (LToN) which takes place this coming Sunday (24 September) at Roden in the Netherlands.

Feature Image courtesy of FIM Long Track

Last used to stage the LToN in 2017, the impressive Speed Centre Roden facility’s track is six-hundred metres long so the racing will be short, sharp and super-intense and starts will be vital.

The LToN will be fought for by seven countries with each fielding a three-rider team with the option of one reserve. Each of the twenty-one Heats will be contested by six riders from two nations with the top two then racing it out for the title and the third and fourth-placed teams going against each other for the final step on the podium.

Defending champions Germany will field 2023 FIM Long Track World Champion Martin Smolinski along with Erik Riss, Jörg Tebbe and Stephan Katt. Smolinski’s form this season is not in question and Riss looked impressive when he made an appearance as a wild card at Scheessel in August. On paper at least Katt and Tebbe are not as strong, but this is a team event so less emphasis is placed on individual performance.

The Czech Republic is still chasing their first LToN victory, though came close last year when they finished second in Germany and would love to go one better in Roden. Their three riders are led by veteran Josef Franc – who won this year’s opening Grand Final in Herxheim – with solid back up from Hynek Stichauer and Jan Macek.

France – represented by Gaétan Stella, Mathias Trésarrieu, Jordan Dubernard and Steven Labouyrie – won back-to-back LToN titles in 2018 and 2019 and will be aiming to complete their hat-trick after finishing third in 2022.

Representing the remaining four countries – Denmark, Finland, Great Britain and the host nation – there are some seriously quick riders, however the question remains do their teams have the in-depth strength to challenge for the title?

Both Kenneth Kruse Hansen and Jacob Bukhave should be strong for the Danes with Hansen winning two Grand Finals this season and Great Britain – led by 2023 world championship runner-up Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris and Zach Wajtknecht – will definitely fancy their chances while Finland’s Tero Aarnio has put in some solid performances this year, and cheered on by strong home support the Netherlands also have the potential to steal the show.

Former individual world champion Romano Hummel has won a Grand Final this season and after starting the year as a wild card Dave Meijerink has impressed, as has Mika Meijer. Then there is Jannick de Jong who will be representing his nation at the event for the ninth time on Sunday and was part of the Dutch teams that took LToN victories in 2013 and 2016.

Racing at the Speed Centre Roden is scheduled to get under way on Sunday at 13:30 local time and all the action will be available on a Pay-Per-View broadcast via a livestream package on the Tapes Up TV channel.