The TrialGP of Japan really saw the cats running riot amongst the pigeons. In an event where a record breaking 100GP wins for Toni Bou (Repsol Honda) at Honda’s own track, Twin Ring Motegi, looked a racing cert (and surely the T-shirts were all printed and the champagne on ice!) up popped tiny Spanish factory Gas Gas with a stunning winning double!
On Saturday Jeroni Fajardo took only his second TrialGP win with a stunning victory from the very front of the field after totally screwing-up in Qualifying. And then on Sunday the exciting young prospect Jaime Busto converted his Qualification superiority into what is sure to be the first of many TrialGP wins.
Bou must have wondered what was happening. On Saturday he not only saw a Gas Gas one-two via Fajardo and Busto he was even pushed off the podium by his veteran team mate Takahisa Fujinami!
Britain’s James Dabill finished eighth and sixth, yet amazingly was denied a higher placing each day by his new Beta factory team-mate Albert Cabestany, as amazingly the duo managed to lose the same marks each day – and veteran Cabes shaded the tie-break on each occasion. Jack Price (Gas Gas) kept his 2018 score on the move with 11th and tenth places.
In Trial2 Britain’s Toby Martyn (Montesa) had a strong weekend with a last-gasp win on Saturday and podium on Sunday but it was Matteo Grattarola (Honda) who finished on the top step on Sunday who still leads the Championship.
Dan Peace (Gas Gas) was actually unlucky to finish third on Day 1 after leading and fourth on Sunday kept the points flowing. Brother Jack wasn’t as fortunate, dropping to 15th on Sunday after a promising fifth on the opening day.
Britain’s Billy Green (Beta) finished a disappointing fifth in Trial125 in the opener but came back strong on Sunday to take his second win after victory in the opening round in Spain and leads the series.
Meanwhile the Women kicked-off their 2018 series and in TrialGP reigning Champ Emma Bristow made the perfect start with back to back wins while her rivals tripped themselves up behind the Sherco star who has her sights set on a fifth straight title.
In Womens Trial2 Victoria Payne (Sherco) and Alicia Robinson (Beta) rode strongly as Italy’s Alex Brancati and American Madeleine Hoover finished one-two on both days.
Qualifying – Friday
Just as a reminder, the new format for 2018 sees two qualification sessions with Q1 determining starting order for Q2 which in turn decides starting order for the weekend’s two main events, the best performances ensuring an advantageous place at the back of the field.
Staying feet-up through the special qualifying section is the number one objective with riders’ times used to separate ties on observation. In a nutshell, you need a clean ride and a quick time!
In sunny, dry conditions, Jaime Busto has proved to be the Qualifying king, the Gas Gas rider set the standard in the opening round in Spain and was even more impressive in Japan.
Busto finished well ahead of surprise second placeman, veteran Albert Cabestany.
And James Dabill, Albert’s Beta factory team mate did his confidence no harm with a great third place finish.
Jack Price (Gas Gas) was ninth – but ahead of 11 times World Champion Toni Bou (Repsol Honda), who took a shock dab.
Spanish youngster Marc Riba (TRS) topped Trial2 with Brits Dan Peace (Gas Gas) and Toby Martyn (Montesa) right up there in fifth and sixth with Jack Peace (Gas Gas) 11th. Championship leader Italian Matteo Grattarola (Montesa) will be sixth man away after taking a shock five. Britain’s Billy Green (Beta) was third in Trial125 behind Spain’s Pablo Suarez (Gas Gas) and Erix Miquel (TRS).
The Ladies got their 2018 series underway with Spain’s Sandra Gomez (Gas Gas) coming out with all guns blazing to give herself the advantage over four times and reigning champ Emma Bristow (Sherco) with Jess Bown (Scorpa) 12th of the 13 contenders.
In Women’s Trial2 American Madeleine Hoover (Gas Gas) was top dog as Brits Alicia Robinson (Beta) and Victoria Payne (Sherco) claimed fifth and 11th from 14 starters.
DAY 1 – Saturday
Jeroni Fajardo provided the shock result on Saturday in Japan with a stunning win from the front of the field, making the most of the grip before dust dragged onto the rocks made conditions more tricky.
Fajardo claimed a sensational clean opening lap which was eight marks better than home hero Takahisa Fujinami (Repsol Honda) and no less than 18 ahead of Spanish rivals Toni Bou (Repsol Honda) and Adam Raga (TRS).
Not even 11 marks on his second circuit could spoil Jeroni’s day as Raga nailed the runner-up position with a second lap total of five while 38-year-old veteran Fujigas just held on for an emotional home podium despite a couple of late maximums.
“I cannot believe what has happened today,” said Fajardo. “I was riding amazing after my problem yesterday in Qualifying. I knew I could do it, but it is very easy to make a mistake. My first lap was incredible and lap two was still okay because I only made mistakes in the most difficult sections. It’s been an amazing day for me.”
Bou surprisingly struggle on the rocks and steep wooded hillsides and to everyone’s surprise finished off the podium while qualifying king Busto paid the price for an expensive opening lap total of 25 to finish fifth.
James Dabill took eighth after losing out on a tie-break with his Beta factory team-mate Cabestany and Japanese veteran Kenichi Kuroyama edged into the top 10 on his four-stroke development Yamaha. Jack Price finished in 11th but just one mark from 10th and two from ninth after a promising ride.
Brit Toby Martyn took a last gasp victory in Trial2 in an amazing photo-finish that saw Dan Peace (Gas Gas) drop from first to third on the final section. Dan had shared the lead on lap one with Italian Matteo Grattarola (Honda) both riders on just two marks.
But after losing eight marks on the opening circuit Toby Martyn rode out of his skin to close dramatically and with Peace on nine, Martyn 10 and Grattarola 12 it all boiled down to section 15 on lap two.
Peace then faltered and took a nervous three as round one winner Grattarola went clean but Martyn nailed a single dab to snatch a last-gasp victory by a single mark.
Jack Peace made it three Brits in the top five with two consistent laps keeping him right in the Championship mix.
After taking a confident and comfortable victory in the Spanish opening round Britain’s Billy Green suffered a setback in Trial125 on Saturday at Motegi, the Beta rider and pre-season favourite finishing down in fifth.
In a low scoring event, two fives for Billy and an opening lap total of 12 proved too much to recover from and not even a stunning final lap of just one could rescue the situation for the Devon rider.
There was a Gas Gas one-two-three led by Spaniard Martin Riobo, France’s Hugo Defrese second and yet another young Spaniard in Pablo Suarez third. Jake and Andrew Eley finished 15th and 17th respectively having made the trip out to Japan.
Reigning Ladies World Champion Emma Bristow is already on course for a fifth consecutive title, the Sherco factory star having seen off a strong challenge from Spanish rival Sandra Gomez (Gas Gas).
In a low scoring event, Emma’s worst nightmare as it obviously gives her rivals more chance of an upset, both girls dropped just five marks through the opening lap of 15 sections.
But the World Champ upped her game and showed just why she has four consecutive titles by completing the second tour for a mere two marks while Gomez lost the plot and dropped 15.
Nevertheless, the duo were so far ahead of the rest of the field that Emma enjoyed an eventual 13-mark advantage, while Sandra still had an eight-mark cushion over Berta Abellan, the Vertigo rider completing the podium.
German challenger Theresa Bauml claimed fourth while in sixth was 2017 Women’s Trial2 Champ Neus Mercia competing in her first TrialGP with the teenager showing plenty of potential.Jess Bown, the only other Brit contesting Women’s TrialGP, finished ninth on 58 marks.
Emma Bristow said: “I was a bit shaky to begin with which you can see in the results and took a few dabs I didn’t need. “It was much more low-scoring than we thought it would be so it got tight at one stage, but I stayed strong and believed in myself.”
The Victory in Trial2 Women went to 16-year-old Italian prospect Alex Brancati (Beta) by a comfortable nine-mark margin with her final total of 16 too good for determined American Madeleine Hoover (Gas Gas) who had topped Qualifying. Brancati managed to improve on a 10 mark opener to get her second loop score down to just six in an impressive display of riding.
In a truly International podium Germany’s Mona Pekarek (Sherco) took an impressive third. Fellow countryman Sophia Ter Jung (Beta) actually led at the halfway stage, with an opening score of just nine marks lost, before suffering a disastrous second lap of 22 which dropped Sophia
Bristol’s Victoria Payne took her Sherco to an impressive seventh place from the 14 contenders chopping a dozen marks off her opening gambit of 32 marks on the second lap. And Oxford’s Alicia Robinson (Beta) matched that second lap score of 20 after giving herself an awful lot to do after a first circuit that cost her 40 marks. Alicia still made the top 10 though and looking forward to Sunday.
DAY 2 – Sunday
Jamie Busto was able to celebrate a first ever TrialGP win and complete a stunning Gas Gas winning double on Sunday. After a nervous start, with the only maximum on section two on the opening lap, the 20-year-old made amends with a superb single-mark on section 13 which, along with five other sections, had been made harder after the opening day.
Bou had looked in charge up to this point as he looked to get back to winning ways but took a maximum here to bring Busto right back into contention. Adam Raga had led after the opening lap, an inch-perfect clean on section 13 helped him to a score of just eight, against Bou’s 11 and Busto’s 12, but a five at section two was the beginning of the end of Raga’s charge.
The key was going to be section 13 so when the Spanish trio arrived at the section for their second attempts, sweating in 30 degrees of heat, it was crunch time! Fajardo was finishing strong with a faultless final lap up to this point, but his chances of a second victory disappeared when he scored a maximum and Raga suffered the same fate.
Bou struggled through for a three, but there was to be no denying Busto who sealed a historic win with another sensational single-mark ride.
Albert Cabestany, who cleaned section 13 at both attempts, took fifth on a tie-break over Beta team mate, Britain’s James Dabill. Home hero Takahisa Fujinami sadly couldn’t match his Saturday podium.
“I am very, very happy,” said Busto. “I had such a good feeling with the bike and I can’t believe I have won. It is amazing.” In Trial2 it was the experienced Italian Matteo Grattarola who followed-up his second place on Saturday with a dominating victory. His score of five gave him a comfortable margin over Spain’s Gabriel Marcelli.
Toby Martyn followed-up his Saturday victory with a strong third, just three ahead of Dan Peace who took fourth on a tie-break from Spain’s Marc Riba. Grattarola’s second win puts him nine points clear of Martyn in the overall standings.
Britain’s Billy Green returned to the top of the super-competitive Trial125 class after Saturday’s shock but it took a most-ones tie-break to separate the 16 year-old and Spain’s Eric Miquel after the pair contrived to drop 12 marks each.
Five marks behind the winner, Spain’s Pablo Suarez claimed third on a tie-break from French challenger Arthur Rovery to match his day-one performance. Billy’s victory saw him eke out a four point gap between himself and Martin Riobo as the series shapes-up to be every bit as competitive as TrialGP.
After a nervous opening day, Emma Bristow was back in charge with a strong victory in TrialGP Women. The Sherco star secured back-to-back victories with a score of just 16 over more difficult sectons which was less than half that of second-placed Maria Giro.
Spain’s Berta Abellan matched her third place yesterday with a total of 34, the new Vertigo signing two marks better than Norwegian Ingveig Hakonsen and three ahead of promising teenager Neus Murcia, the reigning Trial2 champ, who rounded out the top five.
The experienced Sandra Gomez, who was runner-up on Saturday, giving Bristow a real challenge, disappointingly finished way back in seventh. Then simple fact is that with her rivals tripping over each other Bristow has already opened up a 10 point advantage in the title race.
“It was a tougher Trial today which suited me a bit more,” said Emma. “I had a bit of a lead going into the second lap so I made sure I rode within myself and was confident through every section.”
Italian Alex Brancati matched Bristow’s weekend with a winning double in the Trial2 Women class with her total of 16, three better than American Maddy Hoover who again had to settle for second. Sophia Ter Jung was two marks adrift in third pipping her compatriot Mona Pekarek, who took the final step on Saturday’s podium, on a tie-break.
Bristol’s Victoria Payne again applied herself well and made her Japanese trip well worthwhile earning good points, while teenager Alicia Robinson added to her rapidly escalating international experience.