KTM’s newest Enduro 1 signing, Antoine Meo of France launched a strong opening bid for the E1 world title with a double victory at the opening two rounds of the Enduro World Championship in Talca, Chile.
Meo, who said after completing the three laps of about 60 km on Saturday that it had been ‘a dream result’ remained in winning form on Sunday, claiming a maximum points haul.
In what turned out to be two challenging days of racing Meo followed up his excellent ride on Saturday, where he won five of the special tests to beat Honda’s Rodrig Thain, to set the fastest time in six of the eight tests on Sunday. It could not have been a better start for the French rider who is one of several new signings for the KTM Enduro Factory Team.
The weekend was not so successful for Meo’s teammate Eero Remes of Finland. He finished fifth on Saturday and seventh on Sunday.
KTM factory rider Christophe Nambotin laid down the Enduro 3 challenge this weekend in Talca, Chile with a perfect scorecard for the opening rounds of the World Championship, also placing on top of the score sheet in the Mika Ahola Brave One Trophy.
It was the French rider’s first competitive outing for the KTM Enduro Factory Racing Team and he immediately indicated his intentions for the season.
On Saturday Nambotin set the fastest time in the first five tests to wrap up the day with a commanding 50-second lead and said it had been “a perfect day”. But on Sunday he went one better being fastest over six of the eight tests to prove he intends to set the pace in this year’s championship.
E3 factory teammate David Knight on Saturday fought his way back from a bad start to finish fourth in what was a close race for the minor places. Knight, who is making a comeback after double hip surgery took him out for most of the 2011 season, was only four seconds off the pace of second placed Aigar Leok. It was a different story on Sunday when he had a strong ride. He was second fastest in six of the eight special tests to finish the day on the podium in second place. Nambotin and Knight sent a strong signal to the opposition that they intend to be a fighting force in the 2012 season.
Spain’s Cristobal Guerrero proved to be the best KTM factory rider in the E2 class on Saturday and Sunday in the opening rounds of the Enduro World Championship in Talca, Chile finishing just off the podium in fourth place on both days.
Teammate Johnny Aubert had a difficult weekend on both days. Accustomed to being at the front of the field, the French rider had to settle for fifth place on Saturday and eleventh on Sunday. He lost ground on a tricky Enduro test that started on the crest of a steep slope, followed by a very technical downhill and another ascent.
This, coupled with the fact that there was a big field of around 150 riders, meant it was difficult to get past the slower riders in the field. Team boss Fabio Farioli said, “Johnny got stuck on one test on Saturday and on Sunday he had a crash and this cost him time but it was not easy with the slow riders and such a big field.” Aubert returns to competition after being out for the second half of the 2011 season after a nasty crash at the GP of Greece but he did race for the first time in the 2012 Dakar Rally finishing a very creditable fourteenth overall on a series KTM Rally Replica bike.
Guerrero narrowly missed third on Saturday and on Sunday ended the day being second fastest in three tests to scramble into fourth place for a total of 24 championship points, 10 points off the current leader fellow Spaniard Ivan Cervantes.
In the EJ (Junior) class Victor Guerrero of KTM Spain and brother of E2 KTM factory rider Cristobal also made a solid start to his campaign. Seventh on Saturday, the young Spanish rider vaulted into second on Sunday helped by two wins and two second in the tests. KTM riders Edoardo D’Ambrosio of Italy and Kevin Benavides of Argentina from the KTM supported team did well to finish 4-5 in the class.
KTM was also successful in the Youth Cup with Italian rider Giacomo Redondi of Italy taking first place and Santiago Isaza of Colombia finishing 1-3.
David Knight: ‘Day one was hard work. The conditions were extremely dry and dusty, which made it almost impossible at times for me to see clearly. My start position caused most of my problems, as I had to start each of the tests deep in the pack. I was pushing for the runner-up position leading into the final motocross test until I caught a slower rider and became blinded by his dust. In the end I finished fourth and ended up missing out on second place by less than four seconds. Day two proved to be a lot better. I managed to close the gap to Christophe and beat him in some of the tests to finish in second. I was pleased with that considering he had a clear track by being the first rider into each of the tests. We worked a lot on the setup of the bike during the weekend and it really helped with my riding. My speed was good and I felt that I was beginning to ride like I know I should. With a better starting position next week in Argentina I hope I can continue to improve my results.‘