Finland's Joni Saarinen, 18, won the first Junior World Championship race in Red Bull Crashed Ice on Friday on a 340-meter long artificial ice track that finished in the historic harbour of Marseille in front of a enthusiastic crowd cheering on the athletes in the world's fastest sport on skates.
France's Martin Barrau, also 18, took second place in his first ever Ice Cross Downhill race on a warm evening on the Mediterranean in the heart of France's third largest city. Vaclav Kosnar of the Czech Republic was third and Maximilian Hohl of Austria took fourth in the first final of the new competition created for 16 to 18 year olds. The four finalists advanced through the quarter-finals and semi-finals by finishing first or second in each of those four-man heats, where athletes hit speeds of up to 50 km/h.
Saarinen, who has taken part in several Riders Cup and Red Bull Crashed Ice races over the previous two seasons, jumped into the lead in the final right at the start and never looked back while the other three finalists battled all the way down the obstacle-filled track with its steep jumps and treacherous bumps.
"It's great to be in front all the way down because you don't have to worry about anyone else," said Saarinen, a high school student from a suburb of Helsinki. "I was first in the first heat but only second in the second heat because I wanted to save some energy for the final and it all worked out."
Barrau, a talented teenager with a background in inline skates from nearby Bordeaux, came from behind to beat Kosnar for second place to the cheers from the big local crowd.
"I'm very happy to get second in front of my home crowd in France," said Barrau. "It's a great experience. I'll try to do well again in my next race."
The idea behind the Junior World Championship is to give aspiring young Ice Cross Downhill athletes a chance to compete, develop and gain valuable experience on the major tracks while attracting new athletes to the sport.
The competition continues on Saturday with the first of four Red Bull Crashed Ice races this season -- the 17th in the sport's history.
1. Joni Saarinen (FIN), 2. Martin Barrau (FRA), 3. Vaclav Kosnar (CZE), 4. Maximilian Hohl (AUT), 5. Petar Sevo (NED), 6. Lukasz Korzestanski (POL), 7. Oliver Isaac (CAN), 8. Lorenzo Callegari (CAN), 9. Theo Richalet-Chaudeur (FRA), 10. Leo Dutruel (FRA)