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WCTFranceJune 19/20, 2004
World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 5 Valdeblore, France
Fujinami Disappointed, But Still Wins Day Two

Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol – Montesa – HRC) and Adam Raga shared one win each during the French Grand Prix, and with Dougie Lampkin restricted to being the runner up on each day, the Japanese rider now heads the championship by eleven clear points. Fujinami and Raga traded places over the two days, going 3 – 1 and 1 –3 respectively. Again it was not a good weekend for the third member of the Montesa team as Marc Freixa (Repsol – Montesa – HRC) could only managed eighth and sixth place during the two days of competition.

Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)

Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)

The World trials championship returned to Europe after having visited both Asia and America during the last two rounds respectively. The latest trial in the fight for the 2004 outdoor title was set in the small and sleepy village of Valdeblore, France – a small mountain dwelling situation 60 kilometres directly North and inland from the more famous coastal city of Nice. The trial began before the event had even started with all the teams facing a lengthy round trip when a landslide blocked the main route to the venue, such had been the rain fall over the prior weekend. However the teams troubles were far from over, as much of the first two days on site was spent struggling to find a correct machine setting, the location at Valdeblore being 1000 metres above sea, which in terms of World trials is neither high or low, so it was a case of mixing and matching some of the more usual high altitude parts.

Local TV weather forecasts had predicted rain on Saturday, but this seemed hard to believe with temperatures soaring into the twenties before the first rider had departed. With a much increased entry due to the championship returning to nearer lands, it was nearly mid day before the last of the graded riders got underway. The first four sections offered little resistance to these guys, and a quick check on the early scorecards revealed Fujinami as the initial leader having dropped just one mark against two marks lost by Lampkin and three by Raga during the same period. Incredibly and with no warning the rain arrived as had been predicted, the shower was heavy and whilst it did not last too long it had already made conditions very slippery.

Eleven of the fifteen sections were situated in the fast flowing river that could be found on the South side of the village, the remaining four hazards were all on dry rocks, the earlier two of these being situated on a steep and dusty face high above the paddock. Deep water meant the riders were often faced with negotiating a loose path of rocks on the approach to much larger boulders totally unsighted, which tested their reactions and skills on more than one occasion as the conditions changed constantly.

In truth none of the top ten riders rode particularly well during the opening lap as each committed their own errors in a range of hazards, their level of performance was further restricted as many were faced with riding the last few sections without inspection as they battled to finish within the immediate time limit of three and half hours. Much of the queuing was caused by the riders in the lower two classes failing to keep to their schedule at the front of the field. The results at the end of the first tour showed this story with no one having developed a clear lead. Through more grit and determination than great riding, Lampkin headed the pack at this point on twenty two marks, this included one time penalty. He was closely followed by Raga on twenty four marks, the young Spanish rider having made it to the time check within seconds to avoid further penalty. Fujinami was left in third place at this stage on twenty five marks, three of these being due to his lateness.

Whilst everyone had refused to take control of the trial during their initial visit to the mostly watery hazards, Raga confirmed his intention to make the victory his on the early part of the second lap. Having watched Lampkin immediately relinquish his advantage by taking a five at the relatively easy first section, Raga needed no other form of motivation. His run through hazards one to twelve for the loss of only two marks was simply breath taking and put him in a class of his own, only a poor run through the final sections reduced the impact of this truly great performance.

There was never any question that Raga had done more than enough to deserve the victory on this occasion. Lampkin and Fujinami failed to improve their own form and were left to battle it out for the other podium positions, the British rider finally coming home second four marks ahead of his Japanese team mate. With Cabestany, Fajardo, Kuroyama and Bou filling the next four places, this left Marc Freixa slumped in eighth after he failed to find his footing in the wet conditions.

This was Raga’s third victory in the series and he was suitably pleased to be back on top again. “ This is a good victory for me and one that I needed after having not managed to secure one in either Japan or the USA. This morning it seemed like none of us wanted to win the trial, we were not riding well, not for any particular reason other than perhaps pressure. When I saw Lampkin make the mistake in the first section on lap two I knew it was my chance. I was very pleased with my performance on the second lap. This result helps put me in a good position for the championship race.”

Lampkin could not hide his desperation to win, his last victory being during the opening round in Ireland. “ Having won last time the trial was here I was hoping for a victory again today, but unfortunately I did not ride well enough on the second lap and was unable to stop Raga. The sections were quite British and should have suited me better. The time was a big issue on the first lap with there being so many riders in the other two classes, this meant we were all forced to ride the last few sections without getting off our bikes. Whilst I am happy to have pulled some points back on Fujinami, I would have been far happier if I had won. Let’s hope tomorrow brings that win that I am so desperately looking for.”

Acknowledging his below par performance Fujinami stated. “ It is clear that I did not ride at all well today, that is very true unfortunately, but thankfully I still managed to achieve a reasonable result despite this. Third place is not perfect, but for the championship overall it is not so bad. Obviously I am disappointed to see my run of four victories to come to an end, but tomorrow I will be fighting as hard as ever to regain this position again.”

Marc Freixa offered no excuse for his poor performance. “ There is not much I can say about today. I know that I rode very badly, I made one mistake after another, and this cancelled out any good rides I had in any of the other sections, especially in the more difficult sections. In trials only one thing counts and that is the final score, and today that has obviously been bad for me. I know I must do better than this and tomorrow would be a good time to begin this new process.”

With only one section modified over night the riders faced a very similar trial to yesterday, and even the effects of the heavy rain during the hours of darkness had been lost by the time the hot morning sun had dried the ground. Fajardo, joined Raga, Lampkin and Fujinami as one of the early leaders, with none of these rider losing many marks during the opening few hazards. As yesterday section five was the first serious test, the nasty double step again taking its toll of marks. Fajardo was simply brilliant, his clean was unmatched, although Fujinami came closest needing just a single dab. Both Raga and Lampkin both recorded early fives.

Lampkin recovered some of these marks later in the lap, his one on section nine being equal to Fajardo earlier performance in terms of skill, and was also unmatched as Raga, Fujinami and Fajardo all took fives here. As yesterday Lampkin held a slim lead over Fujinami after the first lap, with Raga and his team mate Fajardo close by. With the exception of Cabestany, who made a vast improvement over his morning performance, no one could live with Lampkin and Fujinami as they traded blows during a very tense second lap. Never did more one mark separate these championship rivals, and it was only a late error by Lampkin that eventually allowed Fujinami to take the victory.

A single dab in the penultimate hazard brought Fujinami and Lampkin level, each on thirteen marks, but immediately Lampkin knew he would be defeated having recorded two less cleans than his team mate through out the day. Raga can class himself lucky to have held third place, as Cabestany’s late charge was only prevented from taking the last rostrum position, when he too lost out on a most cleans tie break. Fajardo posted two consistent lap scores to net fifth place, keeping Freixa back in sixth spot, this result perhaps did not best reflect the great improvement made by the Montesa rider since yesterday’s poor showing.

A delighted Fujinami knew this was another important win for him. “ This is a great victory for me, after yesterday I said it was my goal to return to the top today, and that’s exactly what I have done. Again I did not ride particularly well on the first lap, but during the second lap I enjoyed a great battle with Lampkin. To win and to slightly increase my lead in the series is a great way to close this round. Now I am looking forward to Andorra when I must continue the fight.”

Lampkin on the other hand could only reflect of what could have been. “ Words can not explain just how disappointed I am right at this moment, to have come so close to getting my first win since Ireland, and then losing it at the last minute is not a great feeling. I think I would be being hard on myself if I could have expected to have ridden any better in the circumstances. We were both riding at a very high leveI, think that is clear from the advantage we gained over Raga on the second lap. I came here this weekend to close the gap on Fujinami, and I have failed to do that, so it has not been a good weekend. I know I have a big task ahead, but it is not over yet.”

To be on the podium again was deemed a good result by Raga. “ I was close to lead this morning and I thought I could win again like yesterday, but my second lap performance was not what I was hoping for. Fujinami and Lampkin were simply too strong this afternoon, I can recognise that, so to hold third position in this situation is not such a disaster. The main thing is that I am still close enough to the two other riders to make a real fight for the title.”

Again it was not a perfect day for Freixa. “ My riding has been much better today, but also the other riders have improved. I had a much better feeling with the bike today and was much closer to the other riders with regard to the marks when compared to yesterday. Not a great result, but at least it is something positive to take to the next trial. My goal now is to take fourth place in the championship back from Cabestany.”

Marc Freixa (E-Montesa)

Dougie Lampkin (GB-Montesa)

World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 5 Valdeblore, France

Day 1

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

Dougie Lampkin (GB-Montesa)
Day 2

1 Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)
2 Dougie Lampkin (GB-Montesa)
3 Adam Raga (E-Gas Gas)
4 Albert Cabestany (E-Beta)
5 Jeroni Fajardo (E-Gas Gas)
6 Marc Freixa (E-Montesa)
7 Kenichi kuroyama (J-Beta)
8 Antonio Bou (E-Beta)
9 Graham Jarvis (GB-Sherco)
10 Fumitaka Nozaki (J-Scorpa)
11 Sam Connor (GB-Sherco)
12 Jordi Pascuet (E-Gas Gas)
13 Michele Orizio (I-Beta)
14 Tadeusz Blazusiak (POL-Gas Gas)
15 Jerome Bethune (F-Gas Gas)

Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)

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