Talca City – The Synopsis
The city of Talca, that played host to the GP of Chile, is situated in central Chile approximately 250km south of the capital Santiago. Home to almost 200,000 residents the area thrives on agriculture and wine production due to it’s Mediterranean style climate – wet winters and dry summers. Although hard to believe that the area does see rain, the many storm drains dotted across the landscape prove this to be true. The area is also prone to earthquakes - this we got to experience first hand. Located on one most active areas of the South American tectonic plate the city was partially destroyed in 1928. In 2010 disaster struck again when an earthquake of magnitude 8.8 rocked Talca for almost three minutes causing major damage and loss of life.
Dust, Glorious Dust
We always knew that dust would be an issue in Chile. With the city of Talca not receiving any precipitation for many months the extremely dry and hard ground saw riders kicking up thick clouds of dust. Those that had the benefit of starting first were able to take advantage of a clear track – and it showed in the results. First on the road, Antoine Meo (E1), Juha Salminen (E2), Christophe Nambotin (E3) and Mathias Bellino (EJ) all won their respective classes on day one.
Back To Basics
Due to the event being a fly-away race for all of the European based teams in the EWC paddock, the race seemed slightly naked without their usual race trucks. Based in a large car park of a newly built shopping centre, many teams operated under an array of pop-up tents. Using cargo boxes that shipped the rider’s bikes to South America, mechanics rigged up makeshift workbenches. Husqvarna and Gas Gas benefitted most from the support of their South American importers with the use of Dakar Rally style trucks.
Super Test Showtime
Getting proceedings underway on Friday evening, organisers laid on one of the best Super Tests seen for a long time. Utilising a disused patch of land in the centre of the city, the test was fast and spectacular. Thousands of spectators gathered to watch the world’s best enduro riders, while munching on popcorn and candyfloss. The event created a great carnival atmosphere. However a mix up in communication between race organisers almost saw Enduro 1 winner Antoine Meo being run over when officials started the first Enduro 2 class race while the Frenchman was still being interviewed on track.
For 2012 the FIM introduced a new ruling of mandatory timing of the Enduro Test on lap one. However due to the difficulty of the test in Chile that idea was quickly scrapped. With the test perched high on the mountain it encompassed some incredibly narrow and twisty descents along with some near vertical climbs. Billed as the most important test of the weekend, the Enduro Test played a big part in deciding the results.
The GP of Chile went anything but to plan for Enduro 2 favourite Johnny Aubert. Although finishing fifth and 11th was considerably better than his double DNF in Spain 12 months ago, Aubert had hoped for much more. Setting a pace that should have seen him challenge for victory on day one, his shot at winning ended when he became a victim of the unpredictable Enduro Test. With his path blocked by slower riders Aubert lost over a minute and ruled himself out of contention for the win.
Monni on the Money
Crossing over from motocross, KTM’s new recruit Manuel Monni made a promising start to his newly found enduro career. Competing in Enduro 3, the Italian finished in eighth place both days in Chile. Showing great speed he also posted the fastest times on the in places hard-pack Cross Test in the final two runs on Sunday evening.
Viva la France
France reigned supreme in Chile. With Meo, Nambotin and Bellino winning their respective classes on both days they also locked out the winning step of the podium on day two when Husaberg’s Pela Renet won Enduro 2.
The One That Got Away
In his debut EWC season, Gas Gas’ Danny McCanney briefly won the Enduro Junior class on day one. Although finishing second overall on the special test results, a clerical error by officials entering the time control work area caused race leader Mathias Bellino (Husaberg) to clock in early. With organisers initially awarding the Manxman with first in class Danny got to enjoy the spoils of victory from the top step of the podium (and still has the trophy to prove it). However immediately after showering the Chilean crowd with champagne, he was then pushed back into second as Bellino was reinstated as the winner.
Shake, rattle and roll…
With the second day’s podium celebrations over and with most riders either back at their hotels or heading away from Talca en route for the GP of Argentina, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake shook Talca at around 7.35pm. Lasting close to one-minute the quake scared the life out of just about all non-Chileans, as well as causing a fair bit of distress for those more used to feeling the effects of shifting tectonic plates. Needless to say experiencing a true earthquake was something most weren’t in a hurry to feel again.