Billy Bolt retains overall WESS lead heading to final
Images by Future7Media
It was local Swedish riders who dominated the 2018 Gotland Grand National, comprising Round 7 of the World Enduro Super Series, with Albin Elowson topping the podium ahead of Robert Kvarnstrom and Ken Bengtson in the muddy conditions.
Renowned as the world’s largest Enduro race, over 3000 riders competed in this year’s event, with Friday kickstarting the proceedings where up to 600 Hobby riders enjoyed near-perfect conditions. From Friday evening onwards however, the rain fell hard on the Scandinavian circuit, ensuring that the 35th GGN would be remembered as one of the wettest in history.
As the Elite, Senior and Junior class riders blasted off the start line on Saturday, thousands of riders jostled for position in the mud. Clearing the early carnage safely, Elowson moved into the race lead on lap one followed by Kvarnstrom.
The duo then went head-to-head, pushing a pace that quickly saw them distance themselves from the ensuing pack. By midway, Elowson showed no signs of slowing down and pulled clear of Kvarnstrom to claim a convincing win at the end of the sixth and final lap.
Despite a late push by Kvarnstrom, the Yamaha rider had to settle for the runner-up position, while Bengtson rounded out the podium in third. Apart from the local top three, Taddy Blazusiak worked hard in the final stages of the race to claim fourth, while Sebastian Martensson rounded out the top five.
When it came to WESS the title contenders, Spain’s Josep Garcia crossed the finish line in 12th to slightly close the gap to series leader Bolt, who finished 13th. Although holding 25th with one lap remaining, a crash in the closing stages of the race pushed Manuel Lettenbichler back to 43rd overall.
With just the final round of the championship remaining, Bolt extended his advantage over Lettenbichler to 275 points. Garcia, in third, closes to within 445 points of the second placed Lettenbichler. Blazusiak’s fourth place result at GGN sees him move up to fourth overall, but more importantly he now sits just 25 points behind Garcia as the race to become this year’s ‘Ultimate Enduro Champion’ moves to The Netherlands for Red Bull Knock Out.
Albin Elowson – P1
“I’m so happy to take the win here in Gotland. I knew I had the speed before the race, but you never know what can happen around here, especially in these conditions. I got a decent start and tried to make some passes in the early chaos. I had a good fight with Robert Kvarnstrom but after the first pit stop I was able to open up a small gap and managed to maintain that lead for the whole race. Overall, I felt good and was happy with my pace. I went through a lot of goggles – that’s one of the main things at this race, you have to keep your eyes clear in order to ride properly. Also, a big thanks to the team. They were great and both pit stops were excellent. Finally, it’s good to be able to show what I am capable of – especially with the GGN now part of WESS. I know I have the speed, I just have to build my confidence a little and hopefully I can get some more good results in the future.”
Robert Kvarnstrom – P2
“That was a really tough race. It was so wet and so muddy. I think it was one of the toughest editions of GGN that we’ve ever done. I got a good start and was running with Albin Elowson early on, but a few mistakes and some issues with the traffic cost me time and he gapped me. After that I just rode my own race. I found some more speed towards the end, but it wasn’t quite enough to pressure Albin for the lead. Congratulations to him for the win – I’ll have to come back next year and fight for the victory again.”
Taddy Blazusiak – P4
“I am happy with fourth place, especially as it’s my first time racing here and we had very little preparation for such a tough race. To finish as the top international rider feels really good, too. This is such a special event – you need the right set-up and without experience, it’s difficult to find that. We expected it to be wet and a little muddy, but nothing like what we had – it was next level out there. I had two small get-offs, which cost me some time and so it’s a little disappointing not to have finished on the podium. Fourth place has given me some good points for the championship though, especially as I finished a fair bit higher than the rest of the regulars.”
Billy Bolt – P13
“It’s been a really hard race, much harder than we initially expected when we first arrived in Gotland. The consistent rain from Friday onwards turned the entire track into a mud pit and from the very beginning it was a real tough battle. I had an ok start but then a really bad opening lap. A rider crashed in front of me and as I stopped to avoid him someone else crashed into me from behind and we all were stuck in a puddle. I got going again but got mixed up in another crash and went down again – that’s when I broke the throttle tube. I tried to fix it at the side of the track but lost so many places as a result and had to pit on lap one to repair the damage. When I got going again I had to push to recover. Although 13th is not the result I wanted, considering the issues it was a good result. With my championship rivals also not having the best of days I still managed to stretch my lead at the top of the standings as we now look towards to the final round of the championship at Knock Out.”
Josep Garcia – P12
“Overall, I am happy with how I rode but it would have been nicer to finish a little higher in the standings. I got a good start but crashed with another rider and a lot of the other competitors got past me – after that I had to overtake a lot of riders. Nathan and I rode together for a while and that was good, we were able to push and made up a lot of time. Unfortunately, I had another crash that damaged the bike a little so after that I just tried to make it safely to the finish. It was a tricky race for me – very cold and physically challenging racing in those conditions for three hours – but I earned some good points for the championship and now look forward to the last round in The Netherlands.”
The World Enduro Super Series concludes with the eighth and final round – Red Bull Knockout –on November 10.
WESS Round 7 – 2018 Gotland Grand National
Albin Elowson (Husqvarna – SWE) 6 laps, 2:59:02
Robert Kvarnstrom (Yamaha – SWE) 3:01:52
Ken Bengston (Husqvarna – SWE) 3:03:38
Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – POL) 3:06:59
Sebastian Martensson (Husqvarna – SWE) 3:08:33
Johan Carlsson (Husqvarna – SWE) 3:08:42
Calle Bjerkert (Husqvarna – SWE) 3:10:10
Joakim Ljunggren (KTM – SWE) 3:10:44
Oskar Ljunstrom (Husqvarna – SWE) 3:11:08
Marcus Gothenberg (Husqvarna – SWE) 3:11:16
Oskar Olsson (KTM – SWE) 3:11:17
Josep Garcia (KTM – ESP) 3:12:54
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB) 3:14:24
Paul Bolton (KTM – GB) 3:15:42
Nathan Watson (KTM – GB) 3:16:16
2018 WESS Standings – After Round 7
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB) 4420pts
Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER) 4145pts
Josep Garcia (KTM – ESP) 3700pts
Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – POL) 3675pts
Wade Young 3220pts
Nathan Watson (KTM – GB) 3103pts
Paul Bolton (KTM – GB) 3092pts
Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna – GB) 3010pts
Jonny Walker (KTM – GB) 2900pts
Lars Enockl (Gas Gas – AUT) 2272pts
World Enduro Super Series – 2018 remaining rounds
Rnd 8. Red Bull Knock Out (The Netherlands) November 10
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