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WCTIrelandApril 4, 2004
World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 1 Ireland
Lampkin takes the early advantage

Repsol - Montesa ­ HRC riders Dougie Lampkin and Takahisa Fujinami dominated the opening round of the 2004 championship held in Bangor Ireland, with the duo each scoring a day victory over the two days of competition. Lampkin heads the championship by four points after recording a 2-1 result, with Fujinami holding second place after he scored 1- 4. For the third member of the Repsol ­ Montesa ­ HRC team, Marc Freixa it was not the best of rounds as he struggled to find his form leaving him with only a 5 ­ 6 result after two difficult days, this puts Freixa sixth in the championship standings.

At 10.00hrs local time on Saturday morning, the new championship declared itself open and ready for action. The riders¹ pre event inspection during Friday afternoon had exposed a demanding course with several new hazards having been added since the series last visited the venue this time last year. Heavy rain during the very early hours of Saturday helped saturate the steep rock faces and muddy banks and in doing so instantly increased the severity of the sections and took the course to a level of difficulty never originally intended.

It was Fujinami and Raga who made the early running, the duo escaping the three metre high step in the second hazard with one mark and a clean ride respectively. In contrast Lampkin again failed at the same hazard that had caused him problems twelve months earlier, and ironically cost him the victory on the opening day here last year.

The expectation for Raga to continue the form that recently took him to his second World indoor crown was high and perhaps weighed heavy on the young Spanish riders lean frame as his assault weakened as the lap went on. There was perhaps a similar story of cracking under pressure for Freixa, who after finishing third in the 2003 outdoor championship, had declared he was now ready to challenge for the title.

Typically Lampkin had rode himself back into contention as the surrounding conditions continued to deteriorate due to more frequent heavy showers. His clean ride over the mighty muddy logs in section eight was simply awesome and certainly brought a loud cheer from the large brave crowd who had braved the elements. However this was instantly cancelled out as the reigning outdoor champion then opted to not ride the next hazard and take a maximum penalty in an effort to gain time as the clocked counted down on the first lap allowance of three and half hours. This decision could be considered the winning margin, as Fujinami opted to ride the near impossible section and pushed his Repsol Montesa HRC to the ends cards for a well earned three.

Lampkin compounded his indifferent first lap by fiving the penultimate hazard where Fujinami was brilliant with just a single dab ride. Thanks to this effort Fujinami headed the standings at the halfway point on twenty marks, closely followed by Lampkin on twenty three marks and Cabestany on only one mark more. The Spanish Beta rider had slipped almost unnoticed to take his place amongst the leaders with a series of consistent rather stunning rides during the first lap, leaving Raga down in a distant fourth place at this stage.

The second lap remained a three way battle between Fujinami, Lampkin and Cabestany with the trio riding at a level above the rest of the field. Lampkin once again gave himself an up hill struggle by taking another five at his bogey section two to leave himself trailing early in the lap. His fight back created a thrilling spectacle for the audience as both Fujinami and Cabestany maintained a high standard and by doing so demanded that Lampkin was exceptional to remain in their company.

The capacity crowd filling the grandstands around the final section waited with eager anticipation as the final scores were posted. Although Lampkin had posted the best lap score of the day on his second tour, ultimately this was not sufficient to overhaul Fujinami who would take the initial victory of the season by a mere two marks. Thankfully for Lampkin his efforts were not without value, as his closing performance was sufficient to keep Cabestany on the lower tier of the podium. Raga and Freixa both delivered much better second lap scores, but this was only enough to give them fourth and fifth places respectively.

Having drawn first blood, Fujinami was suitably delighted. "It is an important victory for me here today, when the conditions are so wet and muddy everyone expects Lampkin to win, but like last year I have again showed that I can now match him and beat him even when the sections are very tough. After five seasons of finishing second to Lampkin in the championship, again I must push very hard to reach my dream. It will not be easy to take away his crown, but today is a strong start."

Despite a mixed day Lampkin was not too disappointed by his performance. "Obviously I am not happy not to have won, as I certainly had more than one opportunity to do so today. Both as a rider and as a team we have made some mistakes today and those mistakes have been the difference between winning and finishing second. Section two is becoming a real pain in my side, but I know I have to conquer that section if I am to challenge for the win tomorrow. Overall I was happy with my riding, in places I was back at somewhere near my best."

After a poor indoor series by his standards, Cabestany was pleased to have returned to the podium. "Although my results certainly did not show it, I was happy with my riding during the last indoor trials and I arrived here confident that I could achieve a good result. Although the conditions were not my favourite I adapted well and I am very happy not only to be on the podium but to be so close to FujinamiĀ¹s and LampkinĀ¹s score as they both rode well today."

Freixa could only reflect on what should have been a better day for him. "I made too many bad errors during the first lap, and I knew immediately that this would keep me off the podium. On the second lap, my performance was much better, so at least I can be happy with that and I can remember that tomorrow morning. However if I am serious about my challenge for the title, then I know that my goal must be a top three position in every trial."

Sunday morning brought the announcement that two sections had been changed overnight, but in reality these alterations did little to reduce the real severity of the course. Thankfully for the fifteen thousand fans that had once again turned out there was only one slight rain shower early in the morning, although the lack of water overhead actually made the ground in the hazards more slippery than before, as mud once again got dragged on to the steep rocks.

When Lampkin cleaned section two on his first visit today, it signalled he meant business and went someway towards making amends for his two failures here yesterday. However Lampkin was not about to have it all his own way, as Fujinami almost matched him mark for mark until the Japanese rider had a disaster in section twelve when he stalled his bike and colleted maximum marks. The Repsol ­ Montesa ­ HRC pairing headed the standings after the first lap, Lampkin leading on eleven marks followed by Fujinami on sixteen. Raga and Cabstany completed the top four respectively, with Freixa down in fifth spot after experiencing three fives.

With conditions worse than ever Lampkin took the game to a new level matching his earlier performance despite the total lack of grip throughout most of the hazards. Lampkin almost completed his second tour with a single digit score, but was robbed of the perfect lap when he stopped within a few metres of the ends cards after smashing his gear level in the penultimate section to take his tally to eleven. It was clear with this kind of riding that Lampkin would be a decisive winner, so the question was now, who could be second. Through consistent riding Cabestany deservedly rode himself into the runners up position ahead of Raga and Fujinami respectively, after the Japanese rider experienced a nightmare final circuit. Freixa bad weekend turned even deeper black when he lost fifth place to Fajardo after losing out on a tie break.

Lampkin could not hide his elation as he returned to the top of the podium. "That feels much, much better, I was desperate to win in front of my home fans today after missing out yesterday and with Fujinami finishing fourth it has also let me open up a small lead in the championship. As I predicted yesterday, everyone has really raised their game today so I needed to be at my best. It was so important for me to clean section two this morning as that really set me up for the day. Apart from the five in section fourteen on the last lap, it has been a near perfect day."

Having not been able to repeat his victory, Fujinami was frustrated with his fourth place result. "During the first lap I felt that I was riding well and kept within reach of Dougie, but I made a bad mistake towards the end of the lap and from this point the day started to go wrong. With three more failures on my second lap I cannot expect to be amongst the leaders. I am a little angry with myself, as I thought I could do the same as I did yesterday. I had the chance, but this time I was unable to be at my best."

Freixa was reluctant to comment after his title campaign has already taken an early set back. "I do not want to say to much right at this moment as I need to have time to think about the real answers to the questions I must ask myself after the poor results this weekend. There has been no problem with the bike, just the way I am riding it."

World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 1 Ireland

Day 1

1 Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)
2 Doug Lampkin (GB-Montesa)
3 Albert Cabestany (E-Beta)
4 Adam Raga (E-Gas Gas)
5 Marc Freixa (E-Montesa)
6 Jeroni Fajardo (E-Gas Gas)
7 Kenichi Kuroyama (J-Beta)
8 Tadeusz Blazusiak (POL-Gas Gas)
9 Graham Jarvis (GB-Sherco)
10 Josep Manzano (E-Beta)
11 Antonio Bou (E-Beta)
12 Jordi Pascuet (E-Gas Gas)
13 Sam Connor (GB-Gas Gas)
14 Steve Colley (GB-Gas Gas)
15 Shaun Morris (GB-Gas Gas)
Day 2

1 Doug Lampkin (GB-Montesa)
2 Albert Cabestany (E-Beta)
3 Adam Raga (E-Gas Gas)
4 Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)
5 Jeroni Fajardo (E-Gas Gas)
6 Marc Freixa (E-Montesa)
7 Kenichi Kuroyama (J-Beta)
8 Graham Jarvis (GB-Sherco)
9 Antonio Bou (E-Beta)
10 Josep Manzano (E-Beta)
11 Steve Colley (GB-Gas Gas)
12 Shaun Morris (GB-Gas Gas)
13 Tadeusz Blazusiak (POL-Gas Gas)
14 Jordi Pascuet (E-Gas Gas)
15 Sam Connor (GB-Gas Gas)

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