This weekend is a big one for the 2019 Trial World Championship as round 2 takes the series outside Europe for the only time this year. And it is the usual three days of action at the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi venue.
That means Qualifying on Friday followed by two separate days of points-scoring competition to make the trip worthwhile for those travelling. There are four classes, with TrialGP, Trial2 and Trial125 being joined by the Women TrialGP, who get their series underway in Japan.
The girls first visited Japan last year so this makes back-to-back visits to the Land of the Rising Sun. Starting with the Ladies there will be a round dozen on the start line headed by lone Brit, World Champion and factory Sherco star Emma Bristow looking to get her bid for a sixth straight title underway with a win.
Emma will face the likes of Spanish girls Berta Abellan (Vertigo), Neus Murcia (Gas Gas) and Sandra Gomez (TRRS) plus Norwegian challenger Ingweig Hakonsen (TRRS) while Maddy Hoover (Gas Gas) from the USA moves up to Womens TrialGP.
No doubt it will be a nervous opening round as the girls suss out who’s on early season form but Emma will take some beating if her form in the Scottish Six Days is any guide. In TrialGP all the usual suspects are making the flight out to be joined by three veteran Japanese riders to make 15 in the running.
Toni Bou (Repsol Honda) gets the chance to demonstrate his immense talent in front of Honda bosses while team mate Takahisa Fujinami, at 39 years old, returns home for his annual visit to show he is STILL the top Japanese rider.
‘Fujigas’ will be joined by fellow veterans Kenichi Kuroyama (40), on Yamaha, fellow Yam rider Fumitaka Nozaki (35) and Honda’s veteran Tomoyuki Ogawa (42). No fewer than three Brits will be looking for a good points haul and they are of course James Dabill (Beta), Jack Price (Gas Gas) and Dan Peace (Sherco).
One rider looking to upset the Repsol Honda party will be Spain’s Jaime Busto making only his second outing since sensationally quitting Gas Gas and being snapped-up by Vertigo. Having had time to practise on the Vertical model Busto will be full of confidence.
Trial2 is the largest class by far with a total of 31 entrants including no fewer than 10 Japanese! Hoping to be up front are the three Brits Toby Martyn (Beta), Jack Peace (Sherco) and Billy Green (Montesa).
It’s a tough class, though, headed by last year’s Champion, Italian vet Matteo Grattarola (Montesa), countryman Luca Petrella (TRRS) and Spanish star Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa).
Trial125 sees 15 hopefuls including British travellers Brett Harbud and Jake Eley, both Beta mounted. The class will be headed by first round winner in Italy, French rider Kieran Touly (Scorpa) although picking a 125 winner could be a lottery as there is plenty of latent talent in the youngsters.