This weekend the 2018 FIM Trial World Championship stages its only flyaway round, away from its European base, to Japan.
And it is a really big one as not only does the event represent the second round of the Men’s series it also kicks-off the Ladies and Girls Champs and takes in five classes in total. Every class except for TrialE in fact.
In total there’s a massive entry of 88, including an impressive round dozen Brits, over the five classes with the European influx boosted by no fewer than 17 Japanese entrants – not counting Fuji!
And it is a busy three-day weekend with the Qualifying rounds taking place on Friday followed by two days of trials, to justify the distance and cost involved by the European contenders.
The venue is the iconic TwinRing Motegi, the mighty motor sport complex two hours drive from Tokyo that houses the awesome Honda museum and its own hotel complex.
The trial takes place around the perimeter of the race track (there’s a high-speed oval as well as a GP standard racetrack – hence Twin Ring!) and there’s some pretty fierce bankings and rock faces.
It is actually owned by Honda so this is the mighty Repsol Honda’s chance to show-off on home turf and as well as Toni Bou getting to showcase his and Honda’s superiority it is also a ‘home’ round for veteran Takahisa Fujinami who always raises his game for his annual visit from his long-time Barcelona base.
TrialGP sports 15 contenders headed by 11 times consecutive World Champ Toni Bou of course and including Brits James Dabill (Beta) and Jack Price (Gas Gas). Japanese veterans Kenichi Kuroyama will attack the points on the ‘development’ four-stroke Yamaha, joined by Fumitaka Nozaki and Honda vet Tomoyuki Ogawa.
World vice champion Adam Raga (TRS) will be looking to challenge for the win having finished a disappointing fifth in the Spanish opener in an always closely fought battle for the podium. Trial2 will see a mighty 28 contenders which includes no fewer than 10 eager Japanese ‘wildcards’ whose progress could be spectacular to say the least.
Britain has three very strong contenders for the podium in Gas Gas mounted brothers Dan and Jack Peace and Toby Martyn on the 300 Montesa.
But they again face experienced Italian Matteo Grattarola, who finished 10th in TrialGP last year but dropped down to Trial2 for a chance of picking up a class World Championship.
Grattarola took a strong win in Spain and has emereged as favourite for the title.
Britain’s Billy Green (Beta) won the opener in Spain and will be looking to make his trip to Japan pay bigtime over the two days.
But there’s an impressive 18 class contenders including two Japanese youngsters so it certainly won’t be easy for the Torquay teenager. Billy is joined on the trip by the adventurous Jake and Andrew Eley.
Emma Bristow gets her quest to win a fifth consecutive Women’s World Championship underway as the girls make their first ever visit to Japan where their TrialGP class sees 12 contenders make the trip but face no Japanese contenders.
On the factory Sherco, Emma will start as favourite for a winning double and is joined by Scorpa mounted Jess Bown who has clearly got the travelling bug having contested the American round last year.
There’s a lot of competition for the podium though with Spain’s Sandra Gomez (Gas Gas) sure to be a challenger while 2017 Trial2 Champ Neus Murcia (Beta) moves up to the Premier class.
Women’s Trial2 looks wide open and again has attracted a strong travelling band of girls plus two Japanese hopefuls.
Young promising Brit Alicia Robinson (Beta) will make the most of her opportunity and good luck also to the never-say-die Victoria Payne, fresh from her Scottish Six Days outing, as she also gets involved in history as the Women make their Japanese debut.
It’s a mega busy weekend and we’ll bring you a full report and pics in next week’s issue of TMX.