The 2018 FIM Trial World Championships have a busy two weeks coming up with back to back events in France and Belgium, kicking off this weekend with Round 5 in France.
The event also hosts the second round of the Women’s series while the two-round 2018 TrialE series, for electrically powered machines, takes place in France and Belgium.
France has an enviable TrialGP history and the 2018 edition breaks new ground as the beautiful ski resort of Auron welcomes TrialGP for the first time, after having hosted a French national event as a prelude.
Situated in the Alps, north of coastal city Nice, the mountains that surround Auron are snow covered in the winter but in summer sport impressive rocky outcrops to test the World’s best riders.
After a shaky start, by his own high standards, Toni Bou has settled down to winning form and holds a handy 10-point Championship lead as the Repsol Honda star seeks that 12th consecutive World title.
Toni is chased by the Gas Gas pairing of Jeroni Fajardo and young gun Jaime Busto and if they are to stop Bou running away with the title they need to keep that pressure up over the next two weeks. Spanish riders fill the top six places in the series with TRRS team leader Adam Raga in fourth.
Raga, runner-up in TrialGP for the last 11 years, has had a lethargic start to 2018 and currently sits 15 points behind current second placeman Fajardo and Adam needs a big result in France if he is to hold-on to his vice champion’s position.
Beta’s James Dabill and Gas Gas pilot Jack Price fly the British flag with Dibs currently in seventh place and the first non-Spanish rider, with Pricey 11th and pushing for a top 10 finish.
In Trial2 we have the three-pronged attack of Toby Martyn (Montesa) and Gas Gas mounted brothers Dan and Jack Peace but all three are chasing class leader, Italian Matteo Grattarola, the Montesa rider having dropped down from the TrialGP class.
Toby sits in second place, 11 points behind Grattarola but just one ahead of Spanish teenager Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa) with Dan and Jack in fourth and fifth. Hugo Jervis (TRS) completes the British squad.
The Women started their 2018 campaigns with a first-ever visit to Japan and after two scoring days Britain’s reigning champ Emma Bristow on the factory Sherco sits on a maximum 40 points in TrialGP Women.
Just like in the Mens series it is an all Spanish chasing pack with three girls led by Vertigo’s up and coming Berta Abellan, the experienced all-rounder Sandra Gomez (Gas Gas) third and Montesa-mounted Maria Giro fourth, just a point behind Gomez.Jess Bown joins Emma in the Premier class, as she did last year, and the Scorpa-mounted girl currently holds tenth spot.
In Trial2 Women category it is Italian Alex Brancati on the Beta who scored a winning double in Japan to sit ahead of Madeleine Hoover (Gas Gas) of the USA while German challenger Sophia Ter Jung (Beta) sits third.
British girls Victoria Payne (Sherco and Alicia Robinson (Beta) both made the historic trip to Japan and both made it pay. Victoria, from Bristol, came away in seventh place overall after two great rides and Alicia, gaining experience and improving all the time, sits in 11th going into the French round.
They will be joined in France by Jennifer Stephen (Gas Gas) showcasing the strength of the women in British trials.
Last year saw the inauguration of a class for electric powered machines and the TrialE series made its debut with a single round – staged in France. The winner was 1996 Trial World Champion Marc Colomer, who came out of retirement to ride a very potent Gas Gas prototype that he had been involved in developing.
This year the series has been expanded to two rounds, France and Belgium on consecutive weekends. And while Colomer is not defending his title he is the Gas Gas factory competition manager and is replaced by French ace Loris Gubian.
There are a total of eight contenders including former World Championship regular, Japanese veteran Kenichi Kuroyama who is flying in with a prototype Yamaha. And joining him will be fellow Japanese former Honda factory star Takumi Narita who will head a strong Electric Motion (EM) challenge.
Joan Cordon campaigns the Mecatecno which made a really strong challenge in 2017.
This class is only going to grow in stature and while Gubian will start as favourite on the Gasser many eyes will be on Kuroyama and the Yamaha.