The World Enduro Super Series fired into life last weekend with Britain’s Billy Bolt taking the Endurocross win on day one of the Extreme XL Lagares in Portugal.
In a thrilling battle, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Bolt edged out Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jonny Walker (Britain) for the win following a final lap pass, while Germany’s Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) took third.
With the inaugural WESS championship getting down to business in Portugal, the 252 competitors from 20 nations faced a tough opening day of challenging Endurocross action. Rocks, water, logs, mud and tyre crossings became all the more challenging when heavy evening rain made conditions extremely slippery.
At the head of the field, the battles were intense in the Pro class as the race to become this year’s ultimate enduro champion took hold. From five qualifying heats, the 47-strong entry was whittled down into two semi-finals and a night ending seven-lap final.
Walker shot out to an early lead as Bolt, Cody Webb (KTM – USA), Colton Haaker (Husqvarna – USA), Lettenbichler and Kevin Gallas (Husqvarna – Germany) all gave chase.
By the mid-way point the fight for victory had become a three-way battle between Walker, Bolt and Haaker, with Walker holding station out front.
But with one lap to go, drama struck as Haaker washed out in the water pit. Piling on the pressure, Bolt found a way past Walker when the KTM rider came unstuck in the greasy rock section.
Remaining calm under pressure Bolt marched on for the win as Walker chased him home for second and Lettenbichler took advantage of Haaker’s mistake for third.
Round one of WESS at Extreme XL Lagares then continued with day two’s racing in the Urban Prologue in downtown Porto.
Day two of the opening round of the 2018 World Enduro Super Series got distinctively urban as competitors tackled the infamous cobbled streets of Porto, Portugal with Britain’s Jonny Walker (KTM) taking the win.
With thousands of spectators watching on, the 252-strong entry from 20 nations charged their way across on array of man-made obstacles along the Ribeira do Porto harbour front, while the Pro and Expert riders also raced past doorways and up staircases as they blasted their way around the surrounding streets.
Eager to make amends for the mistake that cost him victory during Friday’s Endurocross, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jonny Walker started his time trial qualifier in determined fashion. Pushing hard and risking everything, the Brit topped the result sheets to set the fastest time of the 47 Pro riders.
Fresh off his Friday night Endurocross victory, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Billy Bolt (GB) stopped the clocks just two seconds behind Walker, while 2017 Extreme XL Lagares winner Sherco Factory Racing’s Wade Young (South Africa) placed three tenths of a second behind Bolt.
With the fastest 10 riders lining up for the Prologue Super Final, all eyes were focused on who would take an early lead. Timing the start perfectly, Walker exited the tricky first corner in front and looked to make a break for victory. However, with Bolt, Kevin Gallas (Husqvarna – Germany) and Young all hot on his heels the pressure was on.
Keeping his cool, Walker entered the cobbled streets in the lead and despite the best efforts of Bolt, the KTM rider held firm to take a well-deserved win. With Bolt second, Gallas fended off a challenge from Young to complete the top three, while Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – Germany) rounded out the top five, crossing the finish line just one-second adrift of Young.
The third and final day of racing at the WESS opener at the Extreme XL Lagares then saw riders battle the slippery and technical riverbed and forestry of the Lagares and Penafiel regions during the main race.
Following two days of intense qualification action from Friday’s Endurocross and Saturday’s Urban Prologue, 252 competitors from 20 nations took to the start of Sunday’s Main Race. With Pro riders facing two laps and all other classes one lap, a tough day of riding in slippery, rocky riverbeds, high-speed forestry trails and technical climbs awaited all.
Starting in 15-second intervals, top qualifier Walker was the first rider flagged away, followed by Cody Webb (KTM – USA) and Bolt.
Despite facing the tough task of opening the course, Walker quickly settled into a fast rythym, setting the pace up front. Behind him Bolt reeled in and passed Webb as the duo tackled the opening stages of the race.
With a significant hurdle to overcome, Poland’s Taddy Blazusiak (KTM) was one of the later riders to start the race due to a poor qualification result.
Working his way through traffic at a considerable rate, the Polish star fought his way from outside the top 40 on lap one to become a possible race winner – on corrected time – as riders began lap two.
For Walker, a clean refuelling stop saw him begin the second lap with a six-minute advantage over his closest rival Bolt.
Further back Lettenbichler, Webb and Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna – GB) were engaged in a tight battle for a place inside the top five.
Struggling to overtake some of the Hobby riders ahead of him on the course, Walker saw his race lead diminish as Bolt upped his pace. With one-quarter of a lap to go the Husqvarna rider took control of the race lead and charged his way into the finishing arena to take the chequered flag, ahead of Walker.
However, with Blazusiak challenging for the win on corrected time Bolt faced a nervous wait for the KTM rider to arrive. But Blazusiak wasn’t able to finish on the podium as Bolt secured the win and the opening victory in the 2018 World Enduro Super Series. Despite his best efforts, Blazusiak had to settle for fourth, with Jarvis rounding out the top five.
After a difficult opening lap, Webb regrouped to end his day in sixth, while Sherco Factory Racing’s Wade Young (South Africa) placed seventh. Britain’s Paul Bolton (KTM) crossed the finish line as top privateer in eighth with Beta Factory Racing’s Travis Teasdale (South Africa) ninth and Spain’s Pol Tarres (Husqvarna) 10th. Adding in Yamaha mounted Blake Gutzeit (South Africa) and Gas Gas Factory Racing’s Lars Enockl (Austria) in 11th and 12th respectively, six manufacturers placed inside the top 12 at round one of WESS.
The 2018 World Enduro Super Series continues with round two at the Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble in Austria on June 1-3.
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB)
“I’m so happy to win round one of WESS at Extreme XL Lagares. There were some tense times at the end when I was waiting for the results but it’s a great feeling to stand on the top step of the podium. I started third today and tried to find a comfortable pace early on. The riverbeds were incredibly slippery but I just took the course as it was and remained focused on a long race ahead of me. On the second lap I pushed on and worked the back-markers to my advantage and caught Jonny as a result. Winning the opening round of WESS is fantastic and with just three weeks to go until round two at Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble I’m excited to keep this momentum rolling in Austria.”
Jonny Walker (KTM – GB)
“It’s really good to get onto the WESS podium with second. Of course, I’d loved to have won, but Billy just had that extra bit of pace towards the end. My opening lap was great and I managed to build a six-minute advantage over everyone. But as the first rider on the course that played against me on lap two when I had a lot of traffic to deal with. But I guess that’s how it goes sometimes. It’s nice to have round one in the bag and I know based on my speed today I can be a contender at the Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble.”
Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – Germany)
“I’m so happy with my result today. I was riding strong all weekend and coming into the main race I knew I could produce a surprise result, so to finish third at round one of WESS is amazing. It’s honestly the biggest result of my career to date. This gives me a lot of confidence now for the rest of the championship and I’m determined to continue showing what I’m capable of.”
Results – World Enduro Super Series, Round 1, Extreme XL Lagares
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB)
Jonny Walker (KTM – GB)
Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – Germany)
Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – Poland)
Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna – GB)
Cody Webb (KTM – USA)
Wade Young (Sherco – RSA)
Paul Bolton (KTM – GB)
Travis Teasdale (Beta – RSA)
Pol Tarres (Husqvarna – Spain)
Blake Gutzeit (Yamaha – RSA)
Lars Enockl (Gas Gas – Austria)
Josep Garcia (KTM – Spain)
Michel Bosi (Beta – Italy)
Diogo Vieria (Yamaha – Portugal)
World Enduro Super Series Standings (after round 1)
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