The opening of the MAXXIS FIM ENDURO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP on a balmy, almost summery Saturday, in its first day, the GP AMV SEGUROS is being held at PONTS, a sweet little Catalan town, nestled between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean…
Last night, the 134 riders had already set the tone at the KTM SUPER TEST, held in front of almost 5000 spectators, who were delighted by the speed and technical ability shown by Johnny AUBERT (FR - KTM) who set the best time conclusively of this nocturnal event… and who is also already the E2 leader.
But the KTM FACTORY RACING rider didn’t benefit from this lead, since he had to abandon at the end of the very first lap…. “I had a 13 second lead and all was going well for me, when, having reached the time check, my bike suddenly stopped. My mechanics immediately changed the battery, but there was nothing for it and I had to abandon. It has since been detected that it is an electrical wiring problem. I will, of course, start again tomorrow.”
The Finnish Trio…
Much awaited on his territory, for his big debut on the 2 stroke GAS GAS, Ivan CERVANTES (ES - GAS) took the helm of the ENDURO 2 category but was unable to hold out against the irresistible return of Antoine MEO (FR - HVA), who soon forgot about his disappointment at the SUPER TEST and established a lead of nearly 20 second ahead of the quadruple world champion…. “Today wasn’t as easy as the result would suggest. I lack some training since my winter injury on my thumb, but this was clearly an excellent start” confided the E1 World Champion, under the HUSQVARNA wings. Ivan CERVANTES only just achieves the second step on the Podium with a 0.43 second lead on his fellow countryman, Cristobal GUERRERO (ES - KTM).
As predicted, the Enduro 1 category resembles a Finnish championship with three Scandinavian riders led by JUHA SALMINEN (FIN - HVA) who once again gets back on the path to victory after 18 months of drought…..”it feels good to re-establish links with victory and it quietens the sceptics with regards to my potential. But the season will be difficult, as my compatriots are very fast and the French are going to gain in strength!”
The new HUSQVARNA representative establishes himself upon his team mate, Matti SEISTOLA (FIN - HVA), in terms of progress, in the last lap, thereby proving once and for all that he is aiming for an 8th World title which would be a unique feat in the annals of ENDURO. The KTM representative, Eero REMES (FIN - KTM) completes the podium without having worried the two HUSQVARNA riders, but just brushes off the Frenchman Fabien PLANET (FR - SHERCO), marvellous throughout the whole day on his astonishing SHERCO 250.
But the first big surprise of the season comes from the ENDURO 3 category where the title-holder, David KNIGHT (GB - KTM) abandons at the end of the second lap… “I twisted my leg violently in the ENDURO TEST when going through a rut and I think I have a pelvic dislocation. I already had this problem a few months back and a scan revealed that I have a serious problem there. I hope that things will be better tomorrow morning, but I’m not very optimistic and I dread an operation that would ruin my season….”.
And wincing with pain and almost in tears, the KTM representative apologised to his technical staff. Having also had a rough ride during the SUPER TEST, Mika AHOLA (FIN - HM HONDA) suffered his lag against an excellent Christophe NAMBOTIN (FR - GAS) who only bowed down in the last two timed sections against the quadruple World Champion. As is often the case, it is Sébastien GUILLAUME (FR - HVA) who completes the podium, ahead of the excellent Oriol MENA (ES - HUSABERG) whilst Taddy BLAZUSIAK (PL - KTM) 5th saves KTM’s honour a little.
There is also a relatively big dispute in the Juniors between the Finnish Anti HELLSTEN (FIN - KTM) and the Frenchman Mathias BELLINO (FR - HSB), remarkable considering that this is his debut in Enduro. But it is the blond Finnish who eventually establishes himself in the very last specials, giving Finland its third victory for this first grand prix of the year. Jonathan MANZI (IT - KTM) completes the podium.
With a title under her belt from last year, the French Ludivine PUY (FR - GAS) had a tough time with Laia SANZ (ES - HONDA) and the brave Blandine DUFRENE (F-GAS GAS) in the women’s category after two gruelling laps of the circuit.
The heat will once again feature tomorrow, for the second day of this Grand Prix, brilliantly organised by the Moto Club CLUB EL SEGRE, where those that were beaten today will be seeking revenge more than ever…