Arttu Pihlainen proved he is still the man to beat after the 2012 Ice Cross Downhill World Championship prelude ahead of Saturday’s third Red Bull Crashed Ice race of 2012. The champion, who has lost out to rival Kyle Croxall in each of the first two races, outclassed a field of over 100 athletes in the Elimination Round after scoring the best qualifying time.
Croxall, a Canadian firefighter who leads the championship with two wins, had a disappointing night, by comparison, and qualified in 21st position. Germany’s Fabian Mels, in second place overall, also struggled in his heat on the fastest track ever with a second place that was only just good enough to advance to the 64-man finals. 10 Swedes – most racing for the first time down the ice track filled with jumps, bumps and hairpin turns – qualified by finishing first or second in their four-man heats.
An enthusiastic crowd in the snow-covered winter sports resort of Are cheered their local Swedish heroes down the high-speed 420-metre track with its frightening 60-degree drop. But the crowd booed a controversial decision to disqualify Martin Lindqvist. He had beaten Canada’s Jim de Paoli for second place after they bumped into each other but the Swede was later DQ’d for the physical encounter.