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WCTUSAJune 05/06, 2004
World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 4 Duluth, USA
Fujinami records another double victory

Repsol - Montesa ø HRC rider Takahisa Fujinami recorded yet another double victory, this time at the USA Grand Prix and this coming just two weeks after he achieved a similar feat in his home country of Japan. FujinamiÕs run of four trial wins puts him ten points clear of his Repsol - Montesa ø HRC team mate Lampkin, who endured a mixed weekend with a 4 ø 2 result. This was however significantly better than the third member of the squad, Marc Freixa who could only manage a 6 ø7 showing in the wet and slippery conditions.

Takahisa Fujinami, J-Honda

Takahisa Fujinami, J-Honda

The long haul to the USA marked the second and final fly-away event for the 2004 World trials championship, this coming just a week after the lengthy trip to Japan for both the riders and the teams. The World series last visited Duluth, USA back in 2002, when the Spirit Mountain Recreational and Ski Center hosted one of the most balanced courses of the that year. The venue situated at the out of season ski facility sits on the green grassy slopes that over look the massive and famous Lake Superior. A good selection of wet and dry hazards can be found within easy walking reach of the paddock.

FridayÕs pre-event course inspection by the riders revealed that the sections were perhaps too easy for the status of the trial, and caused the top riders and factories to make a united request for the hazards to be stiffened up. This request was met well by the organizers and the FIM jury and their response was both immediate and positive. Even with twenty one days of rain in the weeks prior to the trial, the ground on the mountain was surprising dry on the surface, although a few inches below the condition was still greasy.

As predicted torrential rain arrived early on Saturday morning, this coupled with the previous dayÕs alterations presented the riders with a suitably tough course. With a relatively easy opening section situated just behind the ski chalet, the real action began at section two. Freixa was the only rider in the eventual top ten to clean this hazard, his bike control on the final ascent, which featured an undercut rock face followed by a muddy ledge was simply exceptional. Fujinami, Lampkin and Raga all needed a steadying dab here, whilst Jarvis needed two hefty dabs to reach the end cards.

Section three, known locally as ‘the wall’ was the most spectacular section on the loop, here the riders faced a massive leap off a pre-constructed rock ramp up a four meter high granite face. The roar from the crowd as Raga recorded the only clean on the opening lap, a feat he repeat a lap later and was never matched throughout the day, deafened even the noise of his screaming engine as he landed on the summit. Fujinami lost one mark, but his dab was in the early part of the section and not on ‘the great wall,’ the exact same part where Lampkin collected a five before even reaching the finale.

The continued heavy rain resulted in extremely wet and muddy conditions, which unfortunately made some sections impossible, some only passable by pushing out for scrappy threes and saw section nine cancelled on the second lap for safety reasons as water levels in the river rose rapidly. Despite the weather and the heavy going Lampkin still found sufficient opportunity to ride himself back to the head of the field, to hold a two mark advantage over Jarvis at the mid point, who in turn was just a single mark ahead of Fujinami.

Thankfully for all concerned the rain gave way to heavy mist and then eventually cleared as the second lap developed. LampkinÕs charge was to be halted as early as section three on his second visit. Failing to find grip at the point of launch Lampkin slammed almost cartoon like into the face of ‘the wall,’ the resulting impact was severe enough to break the fork yolks on his factory machine, and caused Dougie to fall heavily to the ground. As he lay motionless on the heap of rocks below, the worst was feared, but after a few worrying minutes the gritty Yorkshireman rose to his feet and limped away from the scene for further treatment.

Although quick repairs were made both to himself and his bike Lampkin never fully recovered from this crash, and this showed directly as he fived the very next section, his day was finally finished when he had his chain derail in another section later in the lap. With Dougie out of the picture, a new three way battle developed between Fujinami, Jarvis and Raga. Whilst Raga posted the best second lap score, and the best lap score of the day, Fujinami only dropped one more mark than his Spanish rival as he visited the now sticky hazards for a second time.

This performance was enough to earn the Japanese rider victory, and deservedly so. Jarvis could not quite manage to match this later pace, but still did enough to hold on to the runners up spot, leaving Raga in third. A dejected and injured Lampkin eventually managed to salvage fourth position. This was the first time since the Grand Prix of Germany in May 2004 that the British rider had finished off the podium. Marc Freixa, the third member of the Repsol ø Montesa ø HRC squad, never got to grips with the sticky conditions and finished a disappointing sixth place.

Aware of the importance of his victory Fujinami spoke about his latest success. Ò Winning three trials in a row, especially when it has been as difficult as it has been today has given me extra confidence and motivation. I am very, very pleased with this particular victory, especially when Lampkin has finished fourth, although I am not happy with the way he crashed and I am glad that he is OK. I want to be World champion and I feel that I am on course to do that now, although I realise that to achieve this I must maintain this level throughout the season, without one single slip up.Ó

Jarvis made his first visit to the podium and was suitably pleased. Ò This is a great result for me and follows on from the results I achieved in Japan. I made a really poor start to the season, so I am please now to have the opportunity to recover, I have not really changed anything, but things seem to be going much better just recently. I just hope I can now keep this kind of form up for the rest of the year. The wet and muddy conditions really suited me, so I will be looking for a similar result tomorrow, although I appreciate it will not be easy.Ó

Despite the conditions not being his favourite Raga was happy to be on the podium again. Ò For sure I prefer a dry trial, but this event needed the rain to bring the sections to the correct level of difficultly, otherwise it may have been too easy. So when I saw the rain this morning my feelings were mixed, good for the trial, but not perhaps for me. To arrive at third position in these conditions is a triumph for me, as for sure I am not the best rider when it comes to mud. Overall I am pleased today, and tomorrow I must try to achieve the same or better.Ó

Lampkin reflected on his mixed day.Ò I certainly ran out of luck today, first the big crash in section three, then I fived the very next section and finally I had a chain off in section ten. Fourth place is pretty much a disaster after having been out front at the end of the first lap. With Fujinami winning again, the result is even worse especially as he now has a seven point lead in the championship. Tomorrow I need to get back to winning, and put today right behind me.Ó

Sixth place for Freixa was another disappointing result for the young Spanish rider. Ò It has been a bad day throughout. I never felt at home on the bike in these conditions, I never had the right feeling right from the start through to the finish and my result shows this. Far too many mistakes, all I can hope is that Sunday brings better things.Ó

Sunday morning brought brilliant sunshine and a temperature of twenty degrees Celsius and rising. The rapid and extreme change in weather had been well anticipated by the organisers, by sunrise their alterations had been made. Three of the sections had been made more difficult and four hazards had been eased based on SaturdayÕs results. Their work was well received and created another good event despite the changing conditions.

Lampkin set the early pace, and showed few signs of his injuries sustained yesterday, his performance however was obviously fuelled by SaturdayÕs result and this probably acted as a suitable painkiller. Dougie cleaned the opening two sections before failing at his now bogey third hazard, although his maximum penalty here was not that significant as none of the riders managed this section for less than three marks on the first lap. The same three names, Fujinami, Lampkin and Raga once again traded outstanding rides to keep themselves in contention for the lead.

Little separated this trio as the first lap was coming to a close, however it was Lampkin who was still out in front until he committed a ÔschoolboyÕ type error in section thirteen. The large crowd gasped with amazement as the seven times outdoor World champion simply rode the wrong side of a marker flag by mistake in one of the easiest parts of the trial. This, such unexpected five mark penalty left Dougie down in third place at the half way point, and trailing Fujinami by three marks and Raga by one.

Raga certainly looked more at home in the warmer and drier conditions and rode a near perfect second lap to maintain his challenge for the win, unfortunately for him his efforts were matched by Fujinami and beaten by Lampkin, which was cruel considering the level of his later performance. Despite Lampkin's gritty fight back it was not enough to stop Fujinami taking his fourth straight win, although there was some consolation for the reigning champion as he snatched second place from Raga, having recorded the most cleans after the pair were tied on the same marks. FreixaÕs day never got any better after 5 ø 3 ø 5 run in opening three sections, leaving him in a lowly seventh place come the finish.
Fujinami could hardly believe his luck as he collected his fourth victory in a row. Ò Today I must thank my Angel, as I have enjoyed more than just good luck. Dougie has handed me the trophy, I am aware of that fact, but it does not stop me being very happy with yet another victory. If I had not seen Dougie make his error, I would have done exactly the same, as the marker had been changed since yesterday. I am pleased to be ten points ahead, but the championship still has many trials still to run. I am in the best position ever to become World champion, but I know that it will still be a fight right until the very last round.Ó

Kicking himself for having gifted away the win Lampkin remained in a reflective mood. Ò LetÕs start with the positives, I am more than happy with the way I rode today and can once again count myself unlucky to not have won. I havenÕt made a mistake that bad since I was a B class schoolboy. The problem was we were rushing for time and I never really looked at the section properly, which is totally inexcusable at this level, and as a result I have paid a very heavy price. Losing ten points to Fuji this weekend is not good, but the championship is far from over. I need to start winning again and put the pressure on him. I know he has won the last four trials, but itÕs not as if I have been far away from doing the same. Fuji has definitely got the run of the luck at the moment, but that is what happens when you are riding well, I need to start creating my own good luck again.Ó

Surprising Raga was pleased with third place again, despite being so close to winning. Ò This is another great result for me, if you look at my results a year ago in these type of conditions you will understand what I am saying. To be close to Fujinami and Lampkin when it is so wet and muddy is a great boost for confidence. I had hoped to come to the USA and find big dry rocks, but this was certainly not the case, so a 3 ø3 result in these circumstances is perhaps more than I had expected. These results still leave me in a strong position to challenge for the title.Ó

Marc Freixa was reluctant to speak after another bad day. Ò I started very poorly and never recovered, it is as simple as that. I know that this kind of performance is not what is expected of me, so I need to look at my mistakes so it does not happen again in the future.Ó

Doug Lampkin, GB-Montesa

Marc Freixa, E-Montesa

World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 4 Duluth, USA

Day 1

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

Takahisa Fujinami, J-Honda
Day 2

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

Takahisa Fujinami, J-Honda

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