|World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 3 Kiefersfelden, Germany
Fujinami Takes Overall Victory with First and Third Place
Montesa HRC rider Takahisa Fujinami earned himself the overall Grand Prix victory at
the third round of the World Trials Championship in Germany by virtue of a win on
Saturday and third place in Sunday's competition. Reigning champion Dougie Lampkin
did not enjoy the best of weekends as he went 4 and 2 over the two days, and can count
himself fortunate to have extended his championship lead by a single point, with
Fujinami now occupying second position in the overall standings.
Freixa moved to within two points of Lampkin after finishing runner-up on the first day of the competition, but a distant fifth place on day two saw him drop to third in the series, a single point separating him and Fujinami. Whilst the Montesa HRC team enjoyed the best of the results, it was Sherco rider Graham Jarvis who won on Sunday, his score putting him just one mark ahead of a three-way tie that would decide places second through to fourth.
After two dry rounds, the small town of Kiefersfelden situated approximately one hour south of Munich hosted the first wet trial of the series. Heavy rain in the days leading up to the event had left the steep wooded hillsides extremely slippery with the peat soil dragged onto the limestone rocks. Testing in an area close to the competition venue, the riders had to quickly adapt to the new conditions and make the necessary changes to their bikes. The majority of the course was located in the dense woodland just to the north of the town, with the remaining sections being more artificial. The first hazard was found in the wide river in the centre of the town, a large double step providing spectacular action for the large local crowd. Sections two and three featured massive boulders which had been imported and carefully placed close to the road, again offering easy access to the audience that moved around the course on a series of coaches.
Lampkin looked nervous in the first section and paid the price, recording an early five where Fujinami, Freixa and many others had remained clean. Few of the leading riders parted with marks prior to the sixth hazard, but Lampkin needed two more single dabs in sections four and five to settle into any kind of rhythm. Two more marks in section six took Dougie's tally to nine, as Freixa was still unpenalised and Fujinami plus Raga had lost just two marks apiece. Lampkin went part way to making a recovery as he finished the lap strongly, putting himself in third place at the halfway point behind Fujinami and Raga. Freixa in contrast had suffered a nightmare after his brilliant start, relegating himself to fourth place thanks to two fives in the last third of the lap.
Fujinami almost matched his earlier performance, losing just nine on his second visit to the fifteen sections, and his strength and consistency were enough to give him a clear and well-deserved victory. With the win beyond their reach Freixa, Raga and Lampkin then fought it out for the lower places. Freixa showed that his strong start had been no fluke, as he posted the best lap score of the trial to take second position. Neither Raga nor Lampkin closed well, as they notched up two and three failures respectively, allowing the Spanish rider to fill the last tier of the podium and leaving the dejected Lampkin in fourth place.
Besieged by local children as he made his way to the prize giving, Fujinami explained the background behind his win. "I have spent a lot of time practicing in wet and slippery conditions during the winter, as I believe this was one of my weaknesses. I was very strong today and did not lose any five-point penalties, which always makes a big difference. Normally in these conditions, Lampkin would be the strongest rider, but I have shown today that I can now compete with him even during wet competitions."
Freixa was left to reflect on a day that could have been better. "Second position is good, but I know that I could have won. I made a very good start to the trial, not losing a mark until section eight, but after that it began to go wrong. Not so many big mistakes, just small errors that in these conditions make it impossible to recover. I am pleased that during the second lap I was able to show the same level as I started with, that way I feel confident for tomorrow."
Returning from his suspension Raga was glad to be on the podium again. "It was not a good feeling to miss the trial in Luxembourg, so to return to the podium immediately is a great boost to my morale and confidence. There were times when I thought I could have challenged for the lead, but the truth is that Fujinami was simply too strong today."
Further rain during the hours of darkness re-saturated the already sodden soil and increased the severity naturally without the need for any other course alterations ahead of Sunday's trial. Whilst conditions were more difficult, typically the leading riders sensed the ensuing battle and improved their respective performances during the opening sections. Lampkin was happy to include himself amongst these, and was perhaps the most improved rider for this period over the two days. Sections ten to fourteen proved to be the most testing, having suffered most due to the overnight rain. Fujinami held the advantage over Raga returning to the final section on the first lap, but incredibly the Japanese rider slipped back off the concrete tubes to record a five and take his score to eighteen.
With little separating the first four riders at this stage, the final tour of fifteen sections always promised to produce a close and exciting finish. The spectators moved quickly to follow the battle and were treated to a great finale as the lead shifted several times between Jarvis, Lampkin, Fujinami and Raga. Lampkin effectively lost his chance with a soft five at section thirteen, although it was not over yet as Jarvis felt the pressure and failed at the very next hazard. However the Sherco rider held his nerve back at the last artificial section to take the narrow win. Lampkin had to wait several minutes before he was placed second as the three-way was tie was decided in his favour, with Fujinami and Raga being demoted respectively.
The grin on Jarvis' face showed how much he had enjoyed his first victory of the season. "The conditions suited me perfectly, so I was annoyed that I didn't ride better yesterday. I felt more confident today and tended to attack the sections more than I did on Saturday. It was pretty tense out there, and I thought I had blown it when I messed up section fourteen. Anyway, in the end I did it, and that's the important thing, especially as all the riders are now getting much better in the wet trials."
Lampkin was still far from happy, his slight smile a result of relief more than joy. "It's better than yesterday, yes a lot better, but still not quite the result I was hoping for. One place higher and I would have been happy, but when three of us have finished on the same marks, I suppose I should at least be thankful that the tiebreak has gone my way. With Jarvis winning, at least it is good for me in terms of the championship standings. To get points back on Fujinami and Freixa is important, as it looks like it is going to be a very competitive series, as there are several riders riding very well at the moment. I am happy with the way I am riding, but I am just making too many mistakes."
The overall Grand Prix victory was of little consolation to Fujinami, who had hoped to repeat his Saturday performance. "It is not a disaster, but I could have ridden better. Yesterday everything went perfectly, but today when I made mistakes my luck was not there. Today has shown that the level with the top riders is very high, there is no room for mistakes if you want to win, and that is the basic difference between today and yesterday. I have a good standing in the championship going to my home round. Hopefully I can be strong in front of my home fans."
|World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 3 Kiefersfelden, Germany