New FIM Trial World Championship promoter Sport7 repelled a potential rider revolt over format changes at the opening round of the series at Camprodon in Spain at the weekend.
The top five riders – world champ Toni Bou along with Adam Raga, Takahisa Fujinami, Albert Cabestany and Jeroni Fajado – tried to gain wider support for their protest but Sport7, headed by Jake Miller with the support of the FIM and local organiser, held firm and resistance crumbled.
The issue centred around the new timed qualifying section introduced this year to decide starting order. Traditionally this was determined by last year’s world rankings with the leading riders setting off last – generally a big advantage.
“We always knew there would be resistance to change – it’s human nature – but maybe we underestimated the level of resistance,” said Miller. “On Friday we found out with full force with Toni representing the riders and expressing very strongly their dislike. Those five elite riders wanted protection. They’ve had protection in the past and the fact we removed it from them made them very uncomfortable.
“They held a meeting of their own in the paddock to try and get the support of the other TrialGP riders but were unable to get them onside.”
Qualifying resulted in Bou and Raga placed second and third behind Jaime Busto as the first 13 went clean. A dab put Fujinami 14th and Cabestany, who dropped two marks, was 17th.
“Qualifying was a success and ran very smoothly,” added Miller.
“There were no problems or protests and as a spectacle the public enjoyed it and I think the majority of the riders did too.
“There are some things we can improve but as a first attempt I’m very happy with it and I think the FIM and the representative of the manufacturers are happy with it.
“Our point was they had to test it out and when they did I don’t think it was the disaster they feared. Yes, there were a couple of big losers with Cabestany and Fuji riding at the front of the field but it’s not our job as a promoter to protect riders, our job is to give a level playing field to every rider in every category.”
British champion James Dabill finished qualification in sixth, one place higher than his world ranking.
“I really enjoyed it but quite a lot of the top riders didn’t,” he said.
“They feel they’ve earned their place to set off at the back and I can understand that but we need to try and help the young riders coming through.
“If we don’t then the sport doesn’t have a future and I think it’s the fairest way of doing it.”
Ironically, heavy rain during the first lap played into the hands of Cabestany who led by one mark at the halfway stage before – inevitably – Bou picked up the pace.