|World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 1 Ireland
Lampkin and Fujinami share the victories
Montesa HRC riders Dougie Lampkin and Takahisa Fujinami won one day each in the opening round of the new Outdoor World Trials championship held in Bangor, Northern Ireland this weekend. Defending champion and six times World Outdoor champion Lampkin won the grand prix overall to start a campaign that sees him go in search of a record-equalling seven titles. Runner-up to Fujinami on the first day of the competition, Dougie was soon reminded that matching Jordi Tarres' total is going to be perhaps the toughest challenge of his career to date. Marc Freixa made it an even better weekend for the Montesa HRC team as he followed Lampkin home on day two.
The World Trials series made a welcome return to Northern Ireland after a seven-year absence, but unlike the traditionally muddy venues of the past, this year's event was hosted along the coastline stretching away from the small but famous town of Bangor. Good weather, which remained dry throughout the two days of the trial, encouraged the local fans out in their masses, with an estimated ten thousand people enjoying the free event that was jointly hosted by the local council and the Lightweight motorcycle club.
The Montesa HRC squad gave a strong opening performance, occupying four out of the possible six podium positions over the two days. Lampkin arrived in Ireland as the favourite, this being seen as his home round in the absence of a counting trial on the mainland this year, and he perhaps expected the biggest threat to come from Raga and Cabestany who have shown good form during the recent World Indoor series. However it was his Japanese teammate, Takahisa Fujinami who made the early running. His clean at the spectacular three-metre high rock step in section two was one of only a few and signalled his intentions. Lampkin in contrast crashed back heavily as he failed to crest the summit and only escaped injury as his minders caught his factory machine in full flight.
Fujinami and Lampkin filled the top two places after the first lap of fifteen sections, with only a single point separating them. Section two again proved to be a defining moment on their second visit as once again Lampkin was upstaged by Fujinami to the score of one mark compared to his five-mark failure. If this was not enough to seal the fate of the victory, then Lampkin knew it was not to be his day when his handlebars broke in the very next hazard. Typically the British rider showed great strength to push his bike to the end despite this fairly major mechanical failure.
Whilst Fujinami surged on to a deserved victory, Lampkin ensured that he consolidation his position, with the Montesa HRC riders taking the top two places and forcing Raga, the newly crowned Indoor World champion, back into third position. Understandably delighted at taking first blood, the Japanese trials warrior explained that there had been much preparation behind this victory.
Fujinami: "I knew I was riding strong before I arrived here this weekend. I have trained and practiced hard this winter. Also I have had the benefit of riding with Lampkin much more than before, so I knew my level was good. Before, the gap between Lampkin and the other riders was obvious, now it is much closer, so we all have a great chance this season to be champion. To win the first trial is very important for me, and shows that all the work has been worth the effort."
Raga, while slightly disappointed at his own performance, did take some comfort from his podium finish, having never really challenged for the lead all day. "Third is not the perfect result, but it could have been worse, as I have not ridden anywhere near my best today. I really thought I could come here and win, especially as the sections are similar to those we have in Spain."
Overnight changes to five of the sections brought extra severity to the course, and offered the riders a new and tougher challenge. The overcast sky offered little warmth on the opening lap, with many of the rock faces still showing signs of dampness long after darkness had disappeared. This was soon evident as even the graded riders struggled to find grip in the slippery conditions. Lampkin was again to fail at his now bogey section two to drop way behind the early leaders as several successful attempts were recorded.
With the hazards offering more resistance than they had done just twenty-four hours earlier, Lampkin now had the perfect platform to stage a fight back. This he did with great conviction and to rapturous applause from the large audiences that lined each section, though he was to blot his card one more time at section ten, before finishing the lap just one mark behind Kuroyama.
Knowing that another five at the second hazard could and would probably cost him victory for the second day in succession, Lampkin attacked the massive step with added pressure and extra aggression. He was rewarded with a clean ride that would lay the foundations for his eventual five mark winning margin. Fujinami struggled with the greasy rocks and dropped to fourth position at the final count, allowing the third member of the Montesa HRC squad Marc Freixa and Albert Cabestany to fill the respective rostrum places on this occasion.
Punching the air in relief, Lampkin explained just how much today's win meant to him. " It hasn't exactly gone to plan today, but the win is the important thing. The changes to the sections made it another great trial, and with conditions being more slippery than yesterday, it has been much tougher than we perhaps first thought. Fiving section two for the third time this weekend was hardly the ideal start to the day, but I rode well in sections four and seven to close the gap. Another mistake at section ten gifted Kuroyama the early lead. When I finally cleaned section two on the final lap, I knew the win was there for the taking. In the end, despite fiving section ten again, it was quite a comfortable victory. It feels good to have won at my home round and to be on top of the world again. Roll on the other trials!"
After a poor showing on Saturday, Freixa was also pleased to have turned things around. "I am still learning about the bike, and yesterday I think that showed. Today I was much more confident, having learned so much from riding the sections already. Although the sections were much tougher, my performance was also much stronger. This is a great result for me and the team, and reinforces what we are capable of at the other trials this year."
Cabestany experienced a mixed weekend and was happy to finish on a positive note. " After yesterday, this is a good result for me. The championship begins now, and I know that I must be in a podium position every trial if I am to be a serious contender for he title. We now need to go to Luxembourg and build on this."
|World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 1 Ireland