2018 saw the second year of the FIM Trial World Championship run by Sport7 – and after ringing the changes in 2017 with a ground-breaking timed Qualification session on the opening day, in order to determine starting order in the trial, there was more of the same for this year with TWO Qualifying runs!
The series comprised eight rounds with nine scoring days for TrialGP and Trial2 as the Japanese round, the only flyaway in the European-based Championship, featured three days of action, Friday Qualifying being followed by two scoring days.
Trial125 comprised five rounds – including Japan – (six scoring days in total) while TrialGP Women and Trial2 Women contested their Championship over three events – also including the flyaway, so four scoring days
So, the short season synopsis is: Toni Bou raced to his 12th consecutive TrialGP title, to exactly match his X-Trial record. Emma Bristow claimed her fifth consecutive Women’s crown with a full house four wins from four starts.
This feat was matched by new Women’s Trial2 champ, Italian Alex Brancati. Billy Green was almost as dominant in Trial125 taking the title with four wins from five starts. This left Trial2 to provide the real fireworks, and they all went off at the final round with Italian veteran Matteo Grattarola taking the title on a tie-break – from British young gun Toby Martyn – in controversial circumstances in his home, Italian, final round…
It was very much business as usual in TrialGP.
Apart from a hiccup in the second round in Japan, where he finished fourth and second over the two days, Repsol Honda star Toni Bou swept through the season-long card to take maximum points on seven occasions to nail his 24th World title (12 X-TRial – 12 TrialGP). No-one even looked close to de-throning the incredible Barcelona boy.
The real battle of the TrialGP campaign was for the minor podium placings between perennial runner-up Adam Raga (TRS) and the new Gas Gas factory duo of veteran Jeroni Fajardo and young gun Jaime Busto. In the end it was Fajardo who came up trumps to end the year as vice champion, his highest finish in a long career.
He started with a promising third in Camprodon, Spain and then shocked everyone with a win on the opening day in Japan. This was only his second time on the top step and some nine years after the first! Jeroni’s form did drop slightly as the series came to a close buit did enough to hang on.
Adam was favourite to take his 12th runner-up place behind his nemesis Toni Bou but the TRS rider endured an unexplained slow start to the year and didn’t really hit form until the final three rounds, but strong runner-up placings in Belgium, on the rocks at Addingham in the British round and finally in Italy was too little too late for Raga who finally lost his long-held, vice-champion’s tabard.
Busto managed to do the opposite, he started the year strongly including a first victory on day two at Motegi in Japan – to give Gas Gas a double win in Honda’s (Montesa’s) backyard! But his form tailed off towards the end and Raga stormed past to leave Jaime fourth overall in his first year on the two-stroke.
Behind these four Albert Cabestany took fifth, having switched from Sherco to Beta in the off-season, and fellow super-vet Takahisa Fujinami on the second Repsol Honda claimed fifth, the highlight of his year being a third place in Japan in front of the Honda brass.
In seventh was Britain’s James Dabill. A return to Beta seemed to suit The Dibsta and he took a convincing win in the British Championship. But despite riding confidently and consistently qualifying well, the results just didn’t happen in TrialGP. Dibs was followed closely by Jorge Casales on the Vertigo and Sherco’s young Spanish prospect Miquel Gelabert with Britain’s Gas Gas mounted Jack Price completing the top 10.
This was where it all happened in 2018. At the sharp end was an all-Montesa battle between Britain’s young hot-shot Toby Martyn, Italian veteran Matteo Grattarola (who had dropped down from TrialGP after finishing 10th in 2017) and Martyn’s Spanish peer Gabriel Marcelli.
Between them they pretty much dominated the podiums all year. Grattarola started strongest and took three wins from the first four days of competition with Martyn bagging the odd one, which was the opening day in Japan.
In contrast Toby hit form later in the season and claimed a hat-trick of confident wins in France, Belgium and a memorable day in Great Britain at Addingham. This gave the Cornish teenager a three- point advantage over Grattarola going into the final round – in Italy.
What happened that day couldn’t have been scripted. It all came down to the last section on the last lap. Grattarola was the winner on the day whatever happened, losing just two marks. Toby reached the finish on 21.
What happened next is, at the time of writing, still to be discussed by an FIM committee.
Marcelli arrived at the last section on 18 marks. But he was given a five-mark penalty by the observer, which would have left him on 23 marks, putting Toby in second place. And that would make Toby Champion.
But the crowd, allegedly including individuals with a vested interest in the outcome, understood the situation and berated the observer who then reversed his decision and changed Marcelli’s score to a zero.
Grattarola was announced as the Champion. For a teenager, and to his eternal praise, Toby took the blow with remarkable calmness, having scored the same total points as Grattarola and only lost (robbed, in the eyes of many) on countback.
It had been a superb campaign by Toby and an interesting one, with two contrasting competitors, that didn’t deserve such an ignominious ending. As stated, as this piece went to press the incident was the subject of an FIM enquiry. As far as Britain is concerned, Toby is every inch a Champion!
Gabrielli had been involved in the action being on the podium in six of the nine days’ action but just failed to take a victory and was a worthy third overall. Gas Gas mounted north Yorkshire brothers Dan and Jack Peace were involved in a battle of their own for family honours.
Dan started the yearly strongly and took a great victory in Portugal while Jack’s best result was a superb second in the opening round in Spain. Both have undoubted skill but lacked the consistency necessary for a Championship challenge.
Billy Green flew the Union Jack to great effect in Trial125 and brought home a well deserved World Championship to Great Britain. The Beta rider rode confidently all season to hold off the expected multiple threats from Spain and scored four superb victories from the six starts.
Billy started with a confidence boosting win in the opening round at Camprodon in Spain before an up and down, or rather a down and up, weekend at Motegi, Japan. Billy bounced back from an off-the-pace fifth place on Saturday to get back to winning ways on Sunday. This kept the Devonian at the head of the title chase, albeit by just four points.
But Billy was now in top gear and stormed to three straight wins, following up his Japanese success with wins in Andorra and Portugal. Behind him, Billy’s would-be rivals were tripping over themselves on a weekly basis so no one rider was able to apply consistent pressure.
The contenders were Gas Gas duo Martin Riobo and Pablo Suarez and Eric Miquel (TRS) of Spain plus French challengers, Hugo Dufrese (Gas Gas) and Arthur Rovery (Sherco). Individually each was well capable of a podium finish but with Billy knocking off the wins they each dropped further and further behind.
Billy went to the awesome Metzler Offroad Park at Pietramurata Di Dro, in the foothills of the Italian Alps, effectively just needing a finish to take the title. But third place behind Riobo and surprise second-place finisher, Italian Carloalberto Rabino (Beta) was more then enough to net him a well-deserved Championship.