Say What? Riders quotes and notes from 2024 SuperEnduro Rnd 1 in France
What Billy, Jonny and Will had to say after the podium at round one of the 2024 SuperEnduro World Championship in Lievin, France – plus more on the FIM’s decision to stop Stark and Taddy Blazusiak from racing.
The opening night in the 2024 SuperEnduro World Championship did not disappoint. A flowing track inside the Stade Couvert in Lievin, near Lille was a great comeback to the series from the French organisers.
The track layout produced some great races in all classes with enough technical sections to slow, but crucially not stump the flow and cause bottlenecks which can ruin a race.
It was a strong start to the season then, with some awesome skills on display and just a touch of controversy.
Nailing starts and hitting marks – Bolt’s perfect round one
Billy Bolt made a textbook start to his ’24 SuperEnduro season, as you might expect from the three-times champ but there was potential at least for it not to have been so easy as he made it look.
From only just finishing the Hard Enduro World Championship season, to having an eye over his shoulder at what his rivals like Jonny Walker were carrying fresh from EnduroCross success, a new 2024 Husqvarna FE 350 to get to grips with, very little testing time...he’d have been excused a nervy start to his title defence.
But Bolt showed no signs of any of that and in fact the reality proved the opposite was true.
From the opening practice session he was piecing the obstacles together better than anyone and was setting a pace no-one could match. Flowing through one section, tripling another, lap after lap…no-one else was getting it done in quite the same way.
Come the races it was a case of nailing the starts and hitting his marks and before we knew it the three motos were ticked-off: “I think I was definitely a little bit rusty and it is a completely different intensity riding indoors.” Billy explained to Enduro21. “No matter how tight we make the practise track in Spain, it always feels tighter when there’s a roof over your head.”
“I got better each time I went out and I didn’t especially try and put a charge or pull away, because there was such little separation on the track. I just tried to keep it mistake-free, hits my marks and for the most part I managed to do that.
“I think Jonny had a crash in the first race but in the second and third he didn’t and I managed to pull a gap by being consistent and hitting my marks. When the track is so close in time and everyone’s doing the same thing, pretty much, it is difficult to breakaway and stay mistake-free but I managed to do that so I’m really happy.”
“Shit, I hope it starts!” – Jonny Walker on two-year-old bike but do you even care Beta?
You might not know it from looking at Jonny Walker in the SuperEnduro World Championship pit area under the Lievin stadium but in theory he is at least a Beta Racing factory supported rider.
Really? You really wouldn’t know at all because he arrived at this round with last year’s bike, untouched and not even started up since the last round of the 2023 season. Jonny works on his own bike between motos and relies on mates to help essentially. Maybe the question to Beta should be: do you even care about the SuperEnduro World Championship?
Two of the three riders standing on the Prestige class podium were on a Beta with Jonny also having just finished second in the AMA EnduroCross series (after winning it last year), and starting the ‘23 SuperEnduro World Championship where he left of last year as the second fastest rider behind Bolt.
Beta offer factory support, even a mechanic and a few spares at the races? Is it worth it to to Beta? Si or No?
“I basically took my last year’s bike out the garage, loaded it up and came here,” says Walker after a 2-2-2 scorecard in France.
“I’m happy because the main focus was to just get here on time, make sure everything went smoothly which it did, and hope the bike runs sweet. I didn’t even think about the race before because we were too busy getting here from America.
“My bike is the same one from last year that finished championship on and has about four hours on it. So I put new plastics on, changed tyres and put it in the van. I didn’t even start it from last year and then when I got here then I was like, shit, I hope it starts!
“I’m happy ‘cause we’re totally under-prepared compared to the other guys. The others are testing, changing suspension and I haven’t ever done a suspension test on this bike. So it’s good, I’ve got something to work on for round two and hopefully we can have a mechanic for the next one and make life a little bit easier.”
“I think I’d better get driving to Poland in a couple of weeks now!” – Will Hoare takes maiden Prestige class podium
A single nation podium doesn’t happen too often in enduro. It’s pretty rare to get one nation standing on any world championship podium but it did happened on Saturday night in Lievin with three Brits on the boxes.
Arriving on a fresh Beta UK-supported RR 300 two-stroke, Will Hoare completed that podium having looked confident on the flowing track and hitting fast lap times straight away in practice session one.
Hoare carried that through to the three motos where, apart from one crash, he proved the point that finding fast lines, plus consistency lap after lap, heaps reward in this strength-sapping race format.
Was it a surprise to stand on the podium next to Billy and Jonny? “Well, yeah, but honestly I felt good all night and the bike was ace so I just kept doing what I knew I was capable of.” Explains Will.
“I’ve only just jumped on the Beta really, without much time training. When we got here the times were pretty good and I was up there, I was second in the timed qualifying I think so it was a matter of making it happen in the races.
“The first race I had a big crash and ended up fifth and then I think I went 3-3 or fourth in heat two after they took five seconds off me. It gets a bit hectic out there but I enjoyed it and the bike felt mint all night.
“I wasn’t gonna go to the other rounds but I think I’d better get driving to Poland in a couple of weeks now!”
Taddy and Stark – it wasn’t a good look for the FIM
The biggest news story this weekend was the sudden U-turn from the FIM on allowing electric motorcycles in this “open class” race championship.
This should have been a spectacular debut for Taddy Blazusiak and Stark Future, both were due to make the start line with Taddy joining the electric motorcycle manufacture immediately after the EnduroCross season ended last week and committed to a new challenge and, he thought, the full indoor season.
In the end it was a shambles and embarrassing as much as confusing for everyone. Initial concerns around the Varg meeting regulations were all met by Stark who say they did everything and more to conform to the FIM demands.
So too did the French organisers and the SuperEnduro series promoters who were certainly ready for the big exclusive.
But in the end the FIM changed their rulebook less than 24 hours before the technical inspection opened in the Stade Couvert.
The series is open class, any motor size is ok so long as it is a production enduro motorcycle. The regulations have included electric powered motorcycles for several years, since KTM in fact fielded a Freeride, and they remained in the FIM documents as late as Thursday (which was the last time Enduro21 took a look).
But late Thursday night the rulebook had suddenly been updated to show the open categorisation (E1, E2 and E3 for all classes) no longer included electric motorcycles. By this time Stark, Taddy and his team were fully prepared and already on route to Lievin.
Taddy did get some laps on the track in front of the crowd but it was awkward. The Varg sure has the juice though as Taddy proved by over-jumping and landing off the track. It was a nervy business and many wondered why.
Stark were naturally scratching their heads after so much hard work and putting a long list of requirements to meet the regulations to race. The oddest thing in some ways is how the FIM were previously so much for it, looking at the green future of the sport and all that, but then performed a U-turn.
None were immune to the theories about how this might have happened including one that says other manufacturers had potentially lobbied the FIM to get the rule change. It seems unlikely the fact is with no-one responsible turning up in Lievin, there remains no explanation from the FIM. Just a ‘we changed the rules’ email from them to Stark at the eleventh hour.
Taddy meanwhile was diplomatic but straightforward in the press conference, comparing the situation to a sport being run like something closer to a communist state.
Make of it what you will but it makes no sense to us. It’s clear from social media comments that opinion is divided on the whole electric bike thing. We get that and understand the feelings (though some of the wildly misguided comments are getting a bit tired by now…).
But we do see electric powered bikes have a place in off-road and it seems like SuperEnduro is the natural place to begin. Stark, and Taddy, can see that, that’s why he signed, and these bikes are good for enduro.
Round two of the series is in his home country of Poland in two weeks, let’s hope for some movement here.
Mani Lettenbichler “battling hard and getting elbows up”
A couple of years sticking with the outdoors, following injury and concentrating on the Hard Enduro World Championship, got turned around this weekend as Mani Lettenbichler brought an orange factory bike back to SuperEnduro.
Mani admitted pre-event that “pressure from the manufacturer” was a big reason for the return and it’s hard to ignore a sense that he’d prefer not be doing this ideally but KTM want a rider in the series so it is what it is and there was no denying his commitment on track.
(Side note to KTM: wouldn’t it be great to see Josep Garcia give it a shot if Mani is not so keen?)
Mani says his night back in the bar-banging world of indoor enduro was peppered with a crash or two and some set-up issues. But last place to third in moto one (eventually conceded P3 back to Olszowy) was one of the trackside highlights of the night.
“It was definitely harder coming back!” Says Mani. “It was a mixed evening for me and definitely wild. The boys are unbelievable fast right now, especially Billy and Jonny, they’re on another level. But then from third until almost tenth they’re on a really good level and it’s quite cool to see that the boys are really stepping it up. They’re battling hard, getting their elbows up and really fighting for their positions.
“I was struggling quite a bit and I feel like I went to extreme on my suspension, too soft in the settings so I think we’re going to go back and try to find something more for Poland.”
Flying the flag for Israel
If Billy Bolt was visibly the fastest rider in Prestige class, Suff Sella can claim the same from his Junior World Championship opening GP.
This class can get nuts out there as the axe-murderers put brawn before brains sometimes, behaving more like youth MX racers. In fact Sella himself has had his own share of erratic results in previous seasons but there was a new air about him this weekend.
A more mature Suff turned up for round one in France and the Israeli rider ticked-off three convincing moto wins in style. Even when his nearest rivals, Ash Brightmore and Roland Liszka, were ahead off the start of the reverse grid second moto, Sella always looked like he had the pace needed and bided his time to make overtakes stick.
The Israeli flag around his shoulders on the podium was a poignant moment in the otherwise rowdy French atmosphere.
New non-qualifiers Open class races
The evening’s entertainment in Stade Couvert had a slightly different programme than usual with new Open races for the non-qualifiers in both Prestige and Junior classes.
Both were over-subscribed which made room for a couple of extra races, filling the programme and replacing the sometimes shambolic national class that can support a SuperEnduro GP.
Jordan Scott was disappointed to miss out on the main Prestige class races by a gnats chuff but made up for it with a start-to-finish win in the first Open race ahead of Dan Peace.
European Champion from last year, Peace reversed the result in heat two which meant he took the overall from Scott with Gerard Salla in third.
Photo Credit: Future7Media | Nicki Martinez