July 17, 2024
Track Racing Hub

Franc strikes first as Wajtknecht is second in 2023 FIM Long Track World Championship Opener – Race Report & Results

With the reigning champion Mathieu Trésarrieu not competing this season, there will be a new FIM Long Track World Champion this year and the Czech Republic’s Josef Franc got his 2023 campaign off to the best possible start when he raced to victory on a day of drama in the Waldstadion in Herxheim, Germany, yesterday.

Report and Images by FIM Longtrack

The forty-four-year-old, a five-time National Champion, did not drop below second position all day and won three out of his five Heat races before powering his way to the top step of the podium when it mattered most in an adrenalin-fuelled Final that was watched by fourteen thousand noisy fans.

While Franc was clearly in great form and in contention all afternoon, it was not until the final Heat that he got ahead before his heroic performance in the Final put the result out of reach of his rivals.

“I still do not believe it,” said Franc. “It is a great beginning to the restart of my career since getting injured last year. I’m very happy for me and for everyone who helps me out. It was good fair racing and the best guy won – luckily that was me.

“I am very surprised there were no mistakes from myself, the bike was brilliant and everything was perfect. You do not always win all the races from the tape, but I was fighting.”

Great Britain’s Zach Wajtknecht, who won the last two Finals of 2022, looked to have started where he left off last season and along with Martin Smolinski from Germany and France’s Gaétan Stella shared the lead after the opening three Heats before three successive second-placed finishes followed by a disqualification dropped him to third.

However, the twenty-five-year-old stuck back with a powerful performance in the Final behind Franc to claim the second step of the podium.

Josef Franc at FIM Long Track World Championship – Herxheim (Germany) @ Jesper Veldhuizen
Home hero Lukas Fienhage, the 2020 World Champion, was one position away from an automatic place in the final heading into his fifth Heat, but was forced to retire which sent him to the Last Chance Heat which he won and he then clinched third in the Final.

Despite his opening win, Stella was inconsistent and was also forced to advance to the Final via the Last Chance Heat and he narrowly missed the podium in fourth.

Smolinski was the early pacesetter and racing on home ground he completed his first four Heats unbeaten, but trailed home last in his fifth Heat. This dropped him to second behind Franz heading into the Final where the 2018 World Champion ended his afternoon in fifth after his spark plug failed.

Best of the rest was 2021 World Champion Romano Hummel from the Netherlands who missed out on a place in the five-rider Final after finishing third in the Last Chance Heat.

The focus now switches to Ostrów in Poland on 17 June for the second of this season’s six Finals.

The full series is available as a Pay-Per-View broadcast via a livestream package on the Tapes Up TV channel.


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