In an unprecedented winning streak, Bou has won ten consecutive FIM Trial World Championships. WCT journalist Shuji Fujita reveals the secrets of Bou’s strengths by examining the champion from every angle. No stone is left unturned, as Fujita explores Bou’s childhood, his encounter with the Honda factory machine, and his decade-long reign as champion.
Toni Bou’s winning streak began nine years ago, in 2007. That same year, on September 27, I had the opportunity to interview the just recently crowned world champion, Bou at his home in Spain.
It was then that he showed me the photograph of himself as a child. Bou was born on October 17, 1986. He was living with his family in Piera, suburbs of Barcelona. When I visited him, he was 20 years old. Since his father with the same name was involved in bicycle trials, Bou naturally started the same thing. “Since my father was doing it, and there was a trial bike in my house, I was intrigued. The first thing I tried was trial bike because it was possible to do it alone.”
Bou challengeing the bicycle trial
Bou in his childhood.With his sister Jemma
An interesting episode is that Bou had easily surpassed his father.
“My father was playing tennis, and sometimes playing trial. He participated in the tournament sometimes, but his performance was very poor. Generally, it takes a long time to surpass your father, but in my case, it was so easy to do that in trial. We are like friends. My parents raised me freely, it was kind of a like we were playing together.”
Bou riding the trial machine with his father
Picture of Bou at home with his father
Bou's mother, Inma, was a gymnast when she was young, and his two-year-older sister Jemma won the bicycle trial championship when she was 14. Bou, raised in a sports family, treasures his high physical capabilities and memories of days spent with his family. His absolute confidence, given to him from his father, helped Bou enjoy the taste of victory. Bou’s mental toughness is also nurtured in his childhood.
Bou began his career as a rider when he was seven, with the bicycle trial world championship. He was ranked 2nd in the world championship, demonstrating his talent at eight years old. He started riding bikes when he was four. He started riding a bike from four years old. “At first, I was riding Aprilia50. I started motorcycle trial in full swing from twelve years old. Since then, I always wanted to be a world champion. When I arrived at the age of sixteen, I debut to FIM trial world championship and sat 13th place. I was 9th in 2004, and 5th in 2005 and 2006 then I became the world champion for the first time in 2007.” At 20, Bou suddenly jumped from 5th, becoming world champion. In that year, 9 tournaments and 11 races (two 2-day races and one 1-day race) were held. Bou had surprisingly won 9 out of 11 races, including five consecutive wins from the season-opener. He lost only 2 races to his rival, Adam Raga, who sat on 2nd place.
Bou wins first title at 2007 Japanese Grand Prix
Bou on the podium at 2007 Japanese Grand Prix
After that, Bou won 7 out of 12 races in 2008.
Won 7 out of 11 races in 2009
Won 7 out of 11 races in 2010
Won 7 out of 11 races in 2011
Won 11 out of 13 races in 2012
Won 7 out of 13 races in 2013
Won 7 out of 12 races in 2014
Won 13 out of 18 races in 2015
And in 2016, he won 12 out of 15 races. A decade of consecutive championships. His winning percentage is astounding. Over the past decade, 127 world championship (outdoor) races have been held. Toni Bou has won 87 of those races, which makes his winning average 68.5 percent, or 7 out of every 10 races he competes in.
Bou at Japan GP in 2009
Bou at Japan GP in 2012
Bou’s rivals have, of course, put in every effort to stop his domination. In the past 10 years, Raga has won 31 races and Takahisa Fujinami 6, Albert Cabestany has won 2 races, while Jeroni Fajardo has won once. On the other hand, Bou achieved an unprecedented 10th consecutive championship at X-Trial Indoor World Championship, held from January to March. Bou is, without a doubt, the strongest trial rider.
There were riders before Bou who used bicycle trial techniques in motorcycle trials. Bou is, however, unique in his complete mastery of the “Daniel”―a technique in which the rider manipulates the machine freely through wheelie hops. Bou uses the “Daniel” to change the direction of his machine and as a set-up move when he is jumping onto rocks. The distance Bou crosses in these jumps, as well as their height, stability, and accuracy, is noteworthy. This remarkable explosive strength was certainly on display at this year’s Japanese Grand Prix. For the past ten years, Bou has, through the strength of his lower body and through an abundance of practice, sharpened and evolved this technique into a fine main weapon. It’s no wonder that Bou’s technique has a way of enrapturing spectators.
Bou at British GP in 2014
Bou's encounter with his machine, the Montesa COTA 4RT, changed his life. In 2006 he was riding a different manufacturer’s 2-stroke machine. But right after he changed to the 4-stroke 4RT, he won the championship from 5th place. Bou commented about 4RT:
“The 4RT is stable and easy to make moves on. Control of while in motion is also very good. With standing starts,the 2RT is better at the jump on slippery surfaces, but the 4RT is better at the jump indoors and on solid surfaces.” The chemistry between Bou and his 4-stroke bike makes his riding even better, and the 4RT's evolution makes him even stronger. The Repsol Honda Team has promoted 4-stroke because environmental issues. Now, the Repsol Honda Team is the only team competing for the title with a 4-stroke machine, which now, can be called a classic standard.
Bou's machine, the COTA 4RT
Bou with Takahisa Fujinami, friends for over a decade
Another large factor in Bou’s strength is his encounter with excellent team members, including support from Didac. Bou achieved his 10th championship with the help of friendly competition, with good senior staff such as Miquel Cirera, team manager and 2004 world champion Takahisa Fujinami, and Japan champion and machine development advisor Tomoyuki Ozawa. This year is not only marks Bou’s 10th consecutive championship, but is also Honda’s 11th consecutive constructors championship title. Strength gets admiration. Repsol Honda Team rider, Toni Bou continues to perform with exceedingly high-quality strength. So long as he enjoys motorcycle trials in the same way he did in his childhood, his already outstanding record will not stop now.