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WCTItalyJuly 4, 2004
World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 7 APRICA, ITALY
Fujinami takes another step towards his first World title

Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Montesa HRC) looks on course to become World trials champion after he maintained his nineteen point advantage in the overall standings care of a 2 1 result at this weekends Italian round. Dougie Lampkin (Repsol Montesa HRC) returned to the top briefly with a victory on Saturday, which was most welcomed after his poor result last weekend in Andorra, but he failed to capitalize further when he made several mistakes during Sunday event, and again had to follow his team mate home. A much more consistent showing saw Marc Freixa (Repsol Montesa HRC) take two fourth places. Only one more clean by Adam Raga (Gas Gas) prevented Freixa from being on Saturdays podium, on a day when Montesa celebrated its 100th World trial victory courtesy of Lampkin.

Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)

Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)

The Italian Grand Prix marked the third and final leg of the mini European tour that has seen the series leap frog across the continent over the last three weekends. The Italians have a special passion for both football and motor sport, and their love of trials is no exception. A massive crowd packed into the ski resort of Aprica to witness the seventh round of this years closely fought championship. The town itself sits at 1300 meters above sea level and with the upper most sections being a further 1000 meters up the towering mountain, this is by far the highest venue on this edition of the World tour.

Ski resorts in summer offer some of the best trials terrain and Aprica was not a disappointment. A good mixture of river based sections, wooded bankings and dry rocks created a course with good variety, although perhaps lacking the edge when severity was considered. Saturday - after an easy opening hazard close to the training area, the riders were soon faced with a fearsome four meter near-vertical rock slab rising from the river bed. British rider Sam Connor (Sherco) fell heavily here and dislocated his shoulder in the process, and reminded the large assembly that danger exists even in this slow speed sport. The trial was delayed for just over twenty minutes as medics first attended to his injury and then extracted him from the difficult to reach position.

Undeterred by the preceding event, the top riders continued with business as usual, with both Adam Raga and Marc Freixa escaping the horror hazard for just one mark apiece, much to the delight of the Italian race fans. Fujinami and Lampkin confirmed that their six season long battle was still very much in progress as tthey traded killer blows, as first the Japanese rider cleaned the section in his usual flamboyant manner and then the reigning champion responded with a more functional approach that ended in the same result.

The ride through the next few sections put a trio of Montesas at the head of the leader board as Freixa, Lampkin and Fujinami stamped their early authority on the Italian event. In contrast Raga was having his own private nightmare as he recorded two fives by the time he reached the sixth section, as he failed to reproduce the incredible form that had given him a clear and dominant victory six days earlier in Andorra. It is exactly this kind of mixed form that may ultimately prevent him making a real challenge for this years outdoor title.

Lampkin suffered a strong case of deja vu as he fell within a meter of the ends cards in section seven to destroy the initial advantage he had created, as it has been this kind of unforced error that has cost the multi champion so dearly during many rounds this year. This change of events put Fujinami back in the lead, and left the British rider fighting for his life to keep himself in contention. Lampkin's efforts has not been without gain as the first lap scores were posted, showing him trailing his arch rival by just one mark at this stage. Still unable to find his rhythm, Raga was holding third place at the mid point, but this was more through default as Freixa failed in the penultimate hazard on the opening tour to hand the Gas Gas rider the one mark advantage.

With the other riders unable to match the pace set by Fujinami and Lampkin, it was clear that during the second lap that the victory would be decided between these two team mates. Lampkin began his closing lap nervously with single dabs in both sections two and three, but was brilliant through the remaining twelve sections, as he only added another mark to his score. Fujinami maintained great pressure right through to section eleven when a slack three here put Lampkin back in the control seat. Neither of these two riders parted with any further marks as they shadowed each other through the last few sections. The atmosphere was electric as Lampkin punched the air with delight as he rode out of the final section to claim his first victory since the opening round of the year.

With Fujinami installed as a close runner up, Marc Freixa was cruelly robbed of making it a Montesa 1-2-3 to mark the 100th World trial victory for the Spanish make, as Raga snatched third place from him on the tie break that saw him record one more clean than Freixa. Albert Cabestany (Beta) completed the top five, but his performance today never matched the level that had seen him on the podium last weekend.
Lampkin made no attempt to hide his sheer delight, this victory was an important one for him even in his great career. "I had almost forgot just how good it feels to stand on top of the rostrum and to hear the British national anthem! Let's just hope that I don't have to wait as long as I have done this time before I do the same again. Obviously it is an important win for me, I needed to bounce straight back after last weekend, both for my confidence and to at least keep the championship alive. All I can do now is to try and take as many wins as is possible, the other riders results are not in my hands. I know that winning the title is a big task, but I will continue to push right to the end."

In terms of the championship, second place was still a good result for Fujinami. "Always I prefer to win, but when this is not possible I can still be pleased with second position. I did not make a perfect race today, in the first lap I made some mistakes and was perhaps lucky to still be in the lead after Dougie also made one bad error. During the second lap my riding was better, but then I made a big mistake in section eleven, I knew then that this would cost me the victory. Lampkin was strong at the finish and deserved to win today. This is another good result for me as I still have a good lead in the championship at this moment."

Raga said that he was not disappointed by his performance today. "It is clear that I have not rode well today, but when I consider this fact and can still take third place it is not such a bad result for me. After last weekend I came here with good confidence to challenge again for the win, but that was not the case, however I am not so disappointed about this fact. Tonight I will look at my mistakes from today, so that I can hopefully fight for the victory during tomorrow's competition."

Slightly deject Freixa knew that it should have been him on the podium. "I missed a great opportunity today to mark the 100th victory of Montesa by completely filling the podium with their riders. For this reason I perhaps the most disappointed. Overall I am happy with the way I rode and have continued to show improvement during the last trials. The five in section fourteen on the first lap has been my downfall today, and is the thing that has cost me my podium position. Tomorrow I will fight with everything to try to gain a better result."

Sunday arrived with the information that four sections had been modified overnight to ensure that the severity of the course had been increased sufficiently ahead of the second day of competition. Lampkin looked like he had picked up where he had finished Saturday's trial, and was strong through the first six sections, the last of these being the first of the altered hazards. The new ending here took Dougie's second mark of the day as he needed a steadying foot to keep his balance as he crested the final double step slightly off line. Fujinami was surperb here and recorded the only clean of the lap to get his assault back on track after an early five. Raga's day was going from bad to worse, this section saw him record his second maximum in quick succession.

The change made to the start of section ten certainly mixed things up amongst the front runners, with Fujinami, Lampkin, Raga, Cabestany and Bou, to name but a few, all sliding back down the slippery rock face in different styles. Freixa came into own here to pull off the only clean ride of the day, his throttle control was perfect as he found grip on the grassy run ups to both of the major steps in this hazard. The next best effort here on the opening lap was by Kenichi Kuroyama (Beta), who escaped with two marks, and in doing so signalled that he intended to feature higher up the leader board than he did yesterday.

Lampkin handed Fujinami the halfway mark lead as he failed to make it up the initial step in section thirteen, this mistake gave his Japanese team mate a two mark advantage, as Kuroyama maintained his charge to hold third place only one mark behind Lampkin at this stage. Freixa and Raga rounded out the lap in fourth and fifth respectively, both having made partial recoveries after poor starting performances.

It seemed that no one wanted to win Sundays trial, as unforced errors accounted as much for the increased scores as did the changes to the sections. Fujinami confirmed this point as he fived section one on his second lap in much the same way that Lampkin had failed late in the first lap in an unchanged hazard. Having accepted Fujinami's latest gift it seemed that Lampkin would now go on to take the win, but he was not willing to accept his team mate's present without returning the compliment by fiving sections eight and ten on his final visit.

Fujinami could hardly believe his fortune and finally took the win ahead of Lampkin, who just managed to keep Kuroyama in third place after he defeated the Beta on a most cleans tie break. This was the first time in two years that Kuroyama had finished in the top three, and was confirmation of his return to form during the more recent rounds. Again Freixa had to be content with fourth position, although there was some revenge in this result, as he turned the tables on Raga this time around and in doing so demoted the Gas Gas star to a disappointing fifth spot.

This was another important victory for Fujinami, a point he acknowledged himself. "It was important for me to win again today, as I have maintained by lead in the championship. Yesterday was not a bad result, but with Lampkin winning I knew that he could do the same again today, which would have not given me a good feeling ahead of the last three trials. Neither of us has ridden well today, we have both made some very bad fives in some strange places, but in the end I made just a few less mistakes than Dougie. Everyone is saying I will be champion for sure now, but I am not thinking about this point, the only goal I am concerned with is winning the next trial in Spain later this month."

Lampkin knew he had missed his chances today. "I have made bad mistakes on both laps today, so I could have hardly expect to have won or even deserved to. It is strange as in some sections I rode really well especially during the early part of the first lap, but then the fives started to happen and from that point I was always playing catch up. The five in section eight on the second lap basically sealed my fate and gave Fujinami a clear lead at a late stage, the last five in section ten about sums up my day. I am a long way off Fuji now in the championship, but there is no way I am giving up until it is mathematically impossible for me to win."

Making a welcomed return to the podium after a long, long absence Kuroyama received perhaps the largest cheer from the Italian crowd. "It feels very special to be back in this position. My riding has been improving during the last rounds, but you always question if you will ever return to the top level again. Today was great for me, I really enjoyed my riding and I think that has helped my result. I would like to be in this position again before the season closes, as that would give me great motivation for the winter months."

Freixa had not made it to the podium, but recognized that he has made improvements. "The result is not as good as I had hoped for today, as again I really wanted to be on the podium, but over the weekend I feel I have been much stronger than I was in either Andorra or France. I don't think I can expect to win races at this moment, but some podium places in Spain and Switzerland would at least be a consolation of some kind."

Dougie Lampkin (GB-Montesa)

Marc Freixa (E-Montesa)

World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 7 APRICA, ITALY

Day 1

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

Dougie Lampkin (GB-Montesa)
Day 2

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

Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)
Related Links

· WCT - FIM World Championship for Trial
· Italy

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