Billy Bolt has claimed victory at Round Five of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, leading home a field of world-class talent in the 2021 Red Bull TKO, beating Manuel Lettenbichler and closing to within just one-point in the standings for the lead.
Hot on the heels of round four in Romania, the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship headed to the new ground of North America for the iconic Red Bull TKO in Sequatchie, Tennessee. High humidity mixed with an intense race format and rough, rocky terrain, ensured round five was anything but an easy ride.
A Saturday evening Straight Rhythm prologue kicked things off. Immediately on pace, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Billy Bolt was up to speed as he topped the multi-heat format over GASGAS Factory Racing’s Taddy Blazusiak, with Vision Track Beta’s Jonny Walker third.
A Sunday morning Hot Lap qualifier determined the starting order for the first of two TKO races, where the field of 60 riders would be whittled down to 30 and then finally down to 15 for the 45-minute Final Knockout.
While Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Manuel Lettenbichler was fastest in the Hot Lap, Bolt had the measure of everyone by comfortably winning both times out in the TKO Races. The opening TKO Race didn’t deliver many surprises as the top riders safely made it through, but second time out, Blazusiak was one of the top players not to make the 15-rider cut for the final, ending his day earlier than expected.
Lining up for an intense Final Knockout, Lettenbichler quickly got his wheel in front and led the opening lap before Bolt took over. The duo were close throughout until a tricky hill climb caught Bolt out, letting Lettenbichler back in front. With just one lap to go, Lettenbichler had the victory in his grasp, but Bolt refused to back down, and with time running out he made one last push to secure the win by just two seconds.
Billy Bolt – P1
“After winning the two qualifiers, I got out to a good lead in the final and felt in control until I messed up the hill climb in the closing stages. Then it got intense! At that stage I didn’t have much left in the tank to charge back at Mani. I got back up to him and just managed to get it done on the final lap. It’s been tough in this heat too, something I’m not that used to. But the crowd didn’t disappoint, the noise and atmosphere was wild for the final. Overall, this win has been great for my championship and now I’m sitting just one point behind Mani.”
Manuel Lettenbichler – P2
“It got pretty close for the win with Billy. I got the hotshot in the final and he passed me, but we stayed quite close and rode almost together after that. I was leading on the last lap when I made a mistake and caught my foot peg on a rock and got stuck, so he passed me back. But it was close until the end. This race is a cool format. It’s nice to do something different and with the terrain here and the humidity, it makes it really hard work.”
Winner of the 2020 event, FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Trystan Hart came into this year’s Red Bull TKO fresh from his rookie success at Red Bull Romaniacs, just two weeks previously. On form and keen to show the European FIM Hard Enduro regulars what the North Americans are capable of, Hart immediately rose to the challenge, placing fourth in the Straight Rhythm prologue.
Third-fastest in the first knockout, the young Canadian then placed second in race two. Using his TKO experience to the fullest, having won the 2020 event, Hart maintained an extremely strong pace through the 45-minute final, but couldn’t quite match the pace of the leaders. Bringing his KTM home in third, the 24-year-old was pleased with his result, especially considering the quality and experience of the field.
Trystan Hart – P3
“With the full Hard Enduro roster here, third is my best ever result with these guys so although I didn’t win, I’m pretty happy with that. In the final the top guys just sprinted right off the bat and I didn’t, so I lost that early tow and rhythm. But I gave it my all today and when I crossed the finish line I had nothing left in the tank. To be on the podium with the best riders in the world is pretty cool.”
Sherco Factory Racing’s Wade Young put in a strong ride to take fourth, with his teammate Mario Roman in fifth.
For Billy’s teammate Alfredo Gomez, TKO was one of mixed fortunes. Looking forward to the rocky boulder gardens, Alfredo quietly set about setting himself up for a strong performance in the final race. Comfortably making it through the qualifiers, he then got to work in the 45-minute final race. In contention for a top three, multiple crashes in the closing stages ultimately hampered his progress and he dropped back to sixth.
“It’s been a hard day. After good rides in the TKO qualifying races I was pretty confident about what I could do in the final. I started on row two but made good progress on the first laps and had a nice pace going. But then, while getting close to the guys in third and fourth I crashed, then I crashed some more and I was physically done at that stage. It’s a little frustrating, I felt my speed was there, but my luck was not.”
At the end of the first of three Knockout Races, Taddy brought his EC 300 home in eighth. With the extremely physically demanding terrain taking its toll on his shoulder, in Knockout Race two Taddy could do no better than 21st and as a result was unable to line-up for the Final Knockout.
Taddy Blazusiak – DNF
“TKO certainly hasn’t finished how I hoped it would, but it’s been great to be back racing in the US. Coming into the event with an injured shoulder, I knew things were going to be difficult, I just didn’t know how hard I would find it. Everything started great with the Endurocross Straight Rhythm. But the deeper I got into the event the tougher it got for me, and it got to the point where I couldn’t hold on. The Hot Laps went good, I got a good time there. The first Knockout Race was ok, but already I knew my shoulder wasn’t as strong as I needed it to be. And halfway through the second Knockout Race I had to stop.”
The FIM Hard Enduro World Championship continues with round six at Poland’s Hero Challenge on September 11/12.
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