Matt Phillips takes victory at the EnduroGP of Spain
Fellow Aussie Jess Gardiner had a rough weekend to finish in fourth on Day 2
In complete contrast to the sub-zero conditions at the opening round of the 2017 EnduroGP World Championship series in Finland, the AMV GP of Spain served up extreme dust as the world’s best enduro racers battled not only one another but also the hugely challenging, arid Spanish terrain.
New winners topped the podium in all classes with Matt Phillips (Sherco) earning his first EnduroGP class win of the year. Locked in a two-rider battle with Steve Holcombe (Beta) the Tasmanian did just enough to top the results, placing less than three seconds ahead of his British rival.
“Man, that was a tough day, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a track as rutted and beat up as that. The tests were difficult because the ground was so soft and dusty, but I think the time controls were even harder. Steve rode great today, it was cool to be battling with him. We both pushed so hard, it was so close all through the day.”
Best finishing two-stroke rider in the EnduroGP class, Steve Holcombe kept the pressure up on Phillips winning three tests including the closing Motocross Test. Nathan Watson (KTM) rounded out the EnduroGP podium despite a nasty crash during the third and final lap, finally finishing ahead of team-mate Christophe Nambotin (KTM) by less than one-and-a-half seconds.
Pushed every step of the way by both Christophe Nambotin (KTM) and Steve Holcombe (Beta), Matt Phillips (Sherco) brought his participation in the AMV EnduroGP of Spain to a winning close by claiming a hard-fought victory on day two. Earning the win by the smallest of margins, Phillips placed 0.29 seconds ahead of Nambotin with Holcombe less than one-second behind in what was a thrilling day-long battle for supremacy in the EnduroGP class.
Just as on day one, day two saw conditions in Puerto Lumbreras incredibly tough with the dry and dusty ground affording riders little in the way of rest, especially on the event’s Extreme Test. With the day shortened to a little over two laps the second stop of the 2017 EnduroGP World Championship unquestionably proved to be a demanding one.
At the top of the EnduroGP class there was next to nothing separating the eventual top three of Philipps, Nambotin and Holcombe. With all three enjoying the close competition, it was naturally Phillips who had the biggest smile on his face as he extended his EnduroGP championship lead.
“It’s been an awesome weekend for me and the Sherco guys. I can’t remember the last time it was that close between three guys for the win. It was tough, we were all giving it everything and I enjoyed the close competition. I lost about 11 seconds during the first two special tests, so I had some work to do after that. I just kept pushing and pushing and got back level with Nambo’ and Steve and finally things came good. I can’t ask for more than two wins.”
Overcoming a frustrating day one, during which the former champion crashed on several occasions, day two saw the Nambotin of old as he challenged young guns Phillips and Holcombe throughout the race. For Holcombe, like Nambotin, it was a case of mixed emotions after the race having come so close to claiming his first win of the season.
“The only real difference between the two days of the GP for me was that I didn’t crash on day two, but I did on day one. I pushed a lot to fight at the front of the EnduroGP class, but I wasn’t really able to ride like I wanted to. The conditions were very unpredictable and it was hard to feel comfortable. I’m happy that I made improvements on day two. It was still difficult to feel settled, but I’m happy. I know that my speed is good, so I will work hard to be ready for the GP of Italy and push for the win again there.”
Although unable to secure a place on the podium, Loic Larrieu (Yamaha) was another EnduroGP class rider to show impressive form on day two as the Frenchman placed just over five seconds behind Holcombe and ahead of countryman Christophe Charlier (Husqvarna).
One rider in the wars on day two was Nathan Watson (KTM). Third on day one the Brit was forced to retire from the race after just one special tests due to tendonitis in his left wrist.
EnduroGP Standings after Round 2
- Matthew PHILLIPS – 88
- Steve HOLCOMBE – 80
- Antti HELLSTEN – 74
- Loïc LARRIEU – 61
- Christophe NAMBOTIN – 55
- Giacomo REDONDI – 53
- Nathan WATSON – 51
- Christophe CHARLIER – 50
- Marko TARKKALA – 38
- Cristobal GUERRERO RUIZ – 36
Josep Garcia (KTM) secured his first ever senior class victory by topping the Enduro 2 class ahead of Jamie McCanney (Yamaha) and Eero Remes (TM).
Rising to the occasion of his home GP, Garcia hit the ground running by topping each of the three test during the opening lap. Crashing near the end of the technical enduro test on lap two he held on to his class lead to claim an eventual 15-second winning margin.
“I’m so happy to win here in Spain. The day was really tough and when I crashed on the enduro test I really made things harder for myself. But I managed to remain in the lead and completed the final lap without problems. Today was tough, but tomorrow is going to be even harder. I’ll give my best to try and get another win.”
Runner-up to Garcia, Jamie McCanney enjoyed an impressive day to claim a well-deserved runner-up result. Topping two of the day’s tests in the E2 class, Jamie kept himself ahead of Eero Remes (TM) – winner of the opening round of the season in Finland.
Another Spaniard to enjoy a good day in Puerto Lumbreras was Jonathan Barragan (Gas Gas). Just 14 seconds behind Remes, the Gas Gas rider was the first Enduro 2 class two-stroke rider home.
Pascal Rauchenecker (Husqvarna) rounded out the top five ahead of team-mate Danny McCanney (Husqvarna), Thomas Oldrati (Husqvarna), Davide Guarneri (Honda), Henric Stigell (Husqvarna) and Jeremy Joly (Beta).
A new name topped the Enduro 2 class on day two – that of E2 class round one winner Eero Remes (TM). With day one victor Josep Garcia (KTM) encountering some technical issues, Remes wasted little time in opening up what become a commanding lead at the top of the 250cc class.
Winning four of the day’s seven special tests Remes wrapped up his third day win of the series to extend his lead at the top of the E2 championship standings. Runner-up on day two went to Jamie McCanney (Yamaha), who completed a solid weekend having placed third on day one.
A little cautious on some of the tests, despite being unable to match Remes’ pace he finished eight seconds ahead of his brother Danny. Struggling to gel with the dry, slippery and unpredictable terrain on day one, Danny (Husqvarna) turned things around on day two to finish ahead of team-mate Pascal Rauchenecker (Husqvarna) with day one winner Josep Garcia (KTM) placing fifth.
Enduro 2 Standings after Round 2
- Eero REMES – 95
- Josep GARCIA – 79
- Jamie MCCANNEY – 75
- Pascal RAUCHENECKER – 67
- Henric STIGELL – 62
- Daniel SANDERS – 52
- Daniel MCCANNEY – 49
- Thomas OLDRATI – 44
- Jonathan BARRAGAN – 39
- Davide GUARNERI – 38
Competition was certainly close at the top of the Enduro Junior class where just 12 seconds covered the top four riders on Day 2. Italy’s Davide Soreca (Honda) eventually took the class win, completing the day just under 8 seconds ahead of Brad Freeman (Beta).
Unable to compete in the season opener in Finland following a pre-event crash, despite being buried deep in the dust of the EJ class throughout the day Freeman showed impressive pace.
Rounding out the podium was Sweden’s Mikael Persson (Yamaha). Eventually placing fourth Spain’s Kirian Mirabet (Sherco) saw his hopes of a class win ended when he crashed on the event’s final motocross test.
Runner-up on day one in the Enduro Junior class, Brad Freeman went one better on day two and claimed his first ever world championship day win. Unable to get to grips with the incredibly dusty Extreme Test on day one, on day two the young Brit’s best performances came on the Extreme Test.
Winning four of the day’s tests Brad placed ahead of Mikael Persson (Yamaha) and day one winner Davide Soreca (Honda). With Matteo Cavallo (Beta) fourth, the best performing Spaniard in the Enduro Junior class was Kirian Mirabet (Sherco) in fifth.
Enduro Junior Standings after Round 2
- Davide SORECA – 89
- Mikael PERSSON – 77
- Kirian MIRABET – 64
- Antti HANNINEN – 56
- Eemil POHJOLA – 50
- Brad FREEMAN – 47
- Henry OLENIUS – 46
- Matteo CAVALLO – 38
- Kevin OLSEN – 34
- Adam ANDERSSON – 32
125 Enduro Youth
Italy’s Andrea Verona (TM) claimed victory in the 125 Enduro Youth class, finishing close to half a minute ahead of France’s Leo le Quere (TM). Third went to Chilean Ruy Barbosa (Husqvarna).
Enduro Junior 125 Standings after Round 2
- Andrea VERONA – 80
- Hugo SVARD – 73
- Hermanni HALJALA – 47
- Leo LE QUERE – 42
- Ruy BARBOSA – 42
The battle for the top spot in the Women’s class on Day 1 saw Laia Sanz (KTM) and Maria Franke (KTM) distance themselves from eventual third place finisher Jane Daniels (Husqvarna) by more than two minutes.
With Sanz fastest through Friday night’s Akrapovic SuperTest a mistake in the day’s opening Extreme Test saw her fall behind Franke before the pair became locked in battle throughout the day. Although it was Franke who claimed the most test wins, Sanz eventually placed 10 seconds ahead thanks in no small part to her speed through the Enduro Test.
“Making a mistake on the first Extreme Test wasn’t a great start to the day, but eventually everything worked out ok. It was a really tough day but I enjoyed the battle with Maria a lot. We pushed each other on every test, there was no time to relax. Every part of the track – the tests and the trails – are so heavily rutted, tomorrow is going to be a very hard day.”
Again made to work hard for her win, Laia Sanz (KTM) emerged from the second day’s competition with another haul of 25 championship points. Topping three of the day’s tests, once again it was Germany’s Maria Frank (KTM) who pushed her every step of the way. Also with three test wins to her credit just 21 seconds separated the pair. As on day one Jane Daniels (Husqvarna) rounded out the podium.
“It’s been a great weekend for me but I had to work so hard for these victories. During both days myself and Maria were pushing so much. I pushed really hard during the second enduro test today, and it was nice to have a small advantage after that. I’m really relived that after all the hard work I managed to get two wins. It could easily have been Maria who won, so I expect some great battles between us this year.”
Australian Jess Gardiner endured a somewhat up-and-down start in the opening round of the Women’s FIM Enduro GP World Championship in Puerto Lumbreras at the GP AMV Seguros of Spain on the weekend.
Racing for the Outsiders Yamaha Racing – Team Enduro, Gardiner, who described the round as a “tough weekend” as it was a mentally and phyiscally exhausting race for her, managed to score a sixth and fourth place respectfully on a track which was covered in bull dust and challenging rocks to navigate her way over.
The first day of racing on Saturday proved to be quite difficult for Gardiner, which marked her sixteenth race start in the FIM Enduro GP series. Unfortunately, she lacked a bit of speed and crashed many times throughout the day which resulted her finishing in sixth place with a total time of 43min48.02.
Heading into the second day of competition, all Gardiner wanted to do was to improve on her finishing order the day before and simply get back to where she really should be.
The 24-year-old, who has previously raced in three Spanish GP’s (2013-14-15) had a much better of a day on Sunday, which saw her taking fourth place.
“Today was a much better day, I managed to stay up on two wheels for the whole day, improve my times and finished a lot better than what I did on Saturday. So overall I can leave here in a much better frame of mind and head into round two of the Enduro GP with a bit more confidence. It was still a very challenging day I admit. I don’t think I have pushed and pulled a motorcycle around like I did in a long time. However, as I said, I’m very happy with today’s outcome which is the main thing.”
Enduro Women Standings after Round 2
- Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 50 points
- Maria Franke (GER), KTM, 44
- Jane Daniels (GBR), Husqvarna, 40
- Sarna Karkkainen (FIN), KTM, 34
- Jessica Gardiner (AUS), Yamaha, 33
The 2017 FIM EnduroGP series now moves on to the EnduroGP of Italy, in Spoleto on May 26-28.