The fifth and penultimate round of the 2021 EnduroGP championship ran over the weekend in Portugal, with Josep Garcia taking a commanding victory as riders returned from their summer break.
Day 1 saw Garcia claim both EnduroGP and Enduro2 victories, while Roni Kytonen topped the Juniors and Albin Norrbin took his sixth consecutive Youth win.
Day 2 saw a repeat performance with Garcia wrapping up his round win with both EnduroGP victories, while Albin Norrbin became the first World Champion of the season, claiming the Enduro Youth title with another win.
Australia’s Wil Ruprecht finished eighth overall and fourth E2 rider on Day 1, while Andrew Wilksch was 19th and fourth E3 rider. Wilksch took 22nd on Day 2, and seventh E3 rider. Ruprecht wasn’t classified Day 2.
The 2021 Borilli FIM EnduroGP World Championship concludes with the sixth and final round next weekend in Langeac, France, October 15-17.
Day 1 – EnduroGP
After an extended summer break, the Borilli FIM EnduroGP World Championship returned to action in Santiago do Cacem in southern Portugal and from the word go the action came thick and fast as riders went head-to-head in the Friday evening AKRAPOVIC Super Test.
Britain’s Joe Wootton (Husqvarna) lead the way for the majority of the night until he was bested by the final two riders to hit the track – Brad Freeman (Beta) and Josep Garcia (KTM). Both were almost inseparable, but it was Freeman who narrowly took the win by just one tenth of a second.
However, knowing the sandy special tests would be to his liking, Garcia was quick to take over. Winning the opening NERVE by JUST1 Extreme Test, the Spaniard then topped the next five special tests to further extend his lead. Signing his day off with the fastest times in both the final CHAMPION Enduro Test and ACERBIS Cross Test, he won the day by an impressive 54 seconds.
Behind him the fight for the remainder of the podium positions was closely contested. Freeman faced a strong challenge from Italy’s Andrea Verona (GASGAS), with Britain’s Nathan Watson (Honda) and Steve Holcombe (Beta) both within striking distance. With four seconds to his advantage, Freeman held on to the runner-up position, with Verona taking third.
Watson made a welcome return to EnduroGP action for fourth, while defending EnduroGP champion Holcombe showed he’s returning to form following a difficult season plagued with injury and illness with fifth.
“I felt great on the bike today. I knew the conditions would suit me out there, so my goal this morning was to push hard from the beginning and see how I got on. I managed to build up a good lead and from midway I managed it as best I could. I’m excited for tomorrow now.”
Locked in a battle for the overall runner-up result, Andrea Verona (GASGAS) pulled clear of his Enduro1 classmates to take the win. A strong ride throughout the day saw him build up a comfortable 40-second margin of victory.
For Davide Guarneri (Fantic), the veteran Italian wasn’t able to match the pace of his countryman from the word go. Losing time in the morning, he came on stronger in the afternoon, taking two special test wins. For Sunday, he’ll look to come out swinging against Verona early on.
Ensuring an Italian sweep of the podium, Matteo Cavallo (TM) took third, with France’s Christophe Charlier (Beta) and Italy’s Samuele Bernardini (Honda) completing the top five.
Saturday was a day to savour for Garcia, with the Spaniard also claiming Enduro2 honours to take over the championship lead. With a dominant ride in Enduro2, the KTM rider was almost untouchable, winning by one minute and 22 seconds.
After a couple of years absence, Nathan Watson (Honda) wasted no time getting back into the swing of EnduroGP action. Second on day one and edging out Holcombe by just six seconds, the addition of Watson to the series in these closing stages of the championship certainly added excitement.
Behind the top three of Garcia, Watson and Holcombe, Australia’s Will Ruprecht (TM) was fourth – losing his championship lead to Garcia in the process. The Australian will need to fight back on Sunday to keep those title hopes alive. Only six seconds behind Ruprecht, Italy’s Thomas Oldrati (Honda) placed fifth.
The opening day of the TERRA ÚNICA GP of Portugal marked another Enduro3 class win for Beta’s Brad Freeman. Although not the most commanding of Enduro3 victories seen from Freeman this season, he still did more than enough to secure his ninth consecutive win.
Feeling quite at home in the soft sandy terrain, Spain’s Jaume Betriu (KTM) ended his day was runner-up to Freeman. Sherco’s Danny McCanney put in a solid day to take third, closing the gap to Betriu to 10 seconds come the end of the final test. Jamie McCanney (Husqvarna) was fourth and Andrew Wilksch (Husqvarna) took fifth.
The Enduro Junior class saw Roni Kytonen (Honda) come to the fore to secure his first victory of the season. After an early lead by Lorenzo Macoritto (TM), Kytonen topped the second NERVE by JUST1 Extreme Test to take over the proceedings. Continuing to fend off attacks from title favourites Matteo Pavoni (TM) and Macoritto, the Finn took a well-earned win.
The racing was tight in Enduro Youth with Fantic riders Albin Norrbin and Kevin Cristino leading the way. Norrbin looked strong all day, but with Cristino able to match his pace, he couldn’t relax.
With just five seconds separating the duo – in Norrbin’s favour – it’s sure to be another tight affair tomorrow. Behind them, Samuli Pujkainen (TM) was third, with Harry Edmondson (Fantic) and Federico Rocha (TM) rounding out the top five.
EnduroGP of Portugal Day 1 – Top 20
BETRIU ARMENGOL Jaume
Day 2 – EnduroGP
After the previous day’s dominant EnduroGP class win by Garcia, the KTM rider was forced to work much harder for the top step of the podium on day two.
Although off to a flying start by winning the opening NERVE by JUST1 Extreme Test, he faced a much tougher challenge from points leader Brad Freeman (Beta) throughout the day. The British rider was determined not to allow the Spaniard to gain any early advantage and piled on the pressure immediately.
At the end of the second Extreme Test on lap two, the duo were separated by less than one second, as Freeman eyed up the race lead. But Garcia was determined to hold him at bay and answered back by topping the CHAMPION Enduro Test. Freeman responded with the quickest time in the following ACERBIS Cross Test and as they began the final lap Garcia’s lead was just three seconds.
A mistake by the Spaniard in the final Extreme Test allowed Freeman to momentarily lead, but Garcia fought back by winning the final two tests to take a hard-earned EnduroGP class win. With just two days remaining in this year’s title chase, Freeman now holds a 16-point lead over Garcia, setting up an exciting finale in France next weekend.
“I was a bit bummed out with yesterday’s result, so I wanted to bring the pace to Josep today and I managed that. I would have loved to have got the win, but it was a great battle all day. Props to him on the win, but I hope I can turn the tables on him in France!”
Behind the top two, Nathan Watson (Honda) proved his day one form was no fluke as he upped his speed to claim a podium result with third. The Brit, although ending his day 30 seconds behind Freeman, did repeatedly match the leading duo for pace throughout the day and could prove a danger man in France.
Italy’s Andrea Verona (GASGAS) raced his way to fourth, with Davide Guarneri (Fantic) completing the top five.
After a strong win on day one, Andrea Verona (GASGAS) faced much stiffer competition for victory on day two.
Much more in tune with the tests, Davide Guarneri (Fantic) pushed his championship rival hard. Swapping test wins, Verona just held on by two seconds to top the podium.
“It’s been a tough two days in Portugal, but to get two Enduro1 class wins and some good overall results in EnduroGP has been great – just what I’d hoped for ahead of the final round of the championship next weekend. Overall, day one was a good one for me. I made a few mistakes on the first two laps, but I managed to improve my speed throughout the day. I’m happy, it was fun to race in the sand. Day two was hard. I wasn’t feeling so strong after a tough opening day. But I kept pushing and finally on the final test of the day I was able to get the E1 class win. I needed to ride a little harder than I would normally, but I got the job done and I’m happy with the result. Now it’s onto France. Conditions will be very different, but I’m looking forward to the final round of the series.”
With the pace of the top two very high, Davide Soreca (Husqvarna) placed almost two minutes behind in third. However, it was a closely fought podium, with Matteo Cavallo (TM) just six seconds behind in fourth. Samuele Bernardini (Honda) was fifth to ensure an all-Italian Enduro1 top-five.
Capping off a great weekend at the office, Josep Garcia also claimed top honours in Enduro2. The Spaniard won all but one of the day’s nine special tests as he looked very much at home in the sandy terrain.
“The whole weekend has gone really well for me. My goal right from the beginning was to push as hard as I could and that’s what I did. I had a small crash on the first test on day one, but it didn’t slow me down too much. To take the win on Saturday by such a large margin felt really good. Day two was more of a fight – I had a crash in the first enduro test, but this time it lost me a few seconds although I was still fourth quickest. The fight with Brad (Freeman) went on all day – he was really fast today, and we were both pushing to the limit in every test. Finally, I was able to get the win, which is really good after such a tough day. I want to thank my team for their hard work this weekend as everything was perfect.”
The other test win went to Nathan Watson (Honda), with the Brit now looking settled into EnduroGP racing once again. Watson, although 33 seconds behind Garcia, was 44 seconds ahead of Beta’s Steve Holcombe in third.
Thomas Oldrati (Honda) enjoyed a solid day for fourth, with New Zealand’s Hamish MacDonald (Sherco) fifth.
With his battle for overall honours intense, Brad Freeman once again pulled clear of his Enduro 3 classmates to secure his 10th consecutive win of the season. With a commanding 38-point lead over Jaume Betriu (KTM) in second, Freeman looks set to secure the Enduro3 title with a day to spare next weekend in France.
Betriu was again the next best rider to Freeman in Enduro3 with another strong ride from the Spaniard. Marc Sola (Husqvarna) produced his best form of the season so far, to secure a spirited third. He edged out Sherco’s Daniel McCanney by less than three seconds for the final step of the podium. Jamie McCanney (Husqvarna) was fifth.
The Enduro Junior class saw championship leader Matteo Pavoni (TM) return to the top of the podium, securing an important victory over closest rival Lorenzo Macoritto (TM) heading into next week’s finale.
Day one winner Roni Kytonen (Honda) was unable to repeat his winning result and had to settle for third behind the two Italians. Leo Le Quere (Sherco) and Max Ahlin (Husqvarna) completed the top five.
Enduro Youth saw Sweden’s Albin Norrbin become the first world champion of 2021. Doing it in style, the Fantic rider claimed the title with a victory, to mark his eighth win of the season.
“I’m so happy to have won the world title. It’s been a great season, maybe even better than I expected it to be. Today I just tried not to think about it and go for the win again and it worked out!”
Kevin Cristino (Fantic) was again the closest rider to Norrbin with second, while Finland’s Samuli Puhakainen (TM) took third. Britain’s Harry Edmondson (Fantic) and Arvid Modin (Yamaha) were fourth and fifth respectively.
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