With a dominant display at the Fast Eddy Cross-Country at Hawkstone Park, UK, Josep Garcia jumps into contention of the World Enduro Super Series with two rounds remaining.
Almost unbelievable speed at Hawkstone Park’s tough course produced a start-to-finish victory for Josep Garcia who has “waited a while for this race to come around.” Enduring events like the ErzbergRodeo and Romaniacs, both distinctly outside his area of expertise in enduro, the Spanish rider has been patiently waiting his turn to shine. At Hawkstone Park, UK for round six, Garcia finally got his chance to show what he is made of and boy did he show it.
Garcia benchmarked his speed on the KTM 250F at the sandy circuit 12 months previously when it was a GP round: “I’m back on my KTM 250 four-stroke for this race and it feels really good.” Said Garcia after winning the day one Sprint races. “I haven’t had much chance to ride it so far this season because I used the two-stroke for the Hard Enduro races, so it’s nice to be back on the bike I won the world championship on last year.”
Firmly stamping his authority on the proceedings, Garcia set about breaking the field for Sunday’s main Cross-Country race with an opening handful of laps which blew his rivals away. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider eventually topped Sunday’s two and a half hour race 1m:34s clear of Nathan Watson in second.
Securing his first win of the 2018 WESS series, Josep said: “I am really happy to win my first race in WESS. I felt really good in the race – I set off first and stayed in front the whole time. My team were great, they let me know how much of an advantage I had and so I was able to gauge the gap back to Nathan. I did have a couple of crashes but thankfully it was nothing too serious and I didn’t lose too much time. I’ve really enjoyed myself here at Hawkstone Park. It’s been an awesome weekend and to win both days is perfect. It’s given me added motivation for hopefully another good result at the next round.”
It ain’t over till it’s over
By no means can you count any of the top six (or so) riders out of the WESS title. The points system is deliberately competitive and rewards winners. With the next round at the Gotland Grand National in Sweden followed by the Red Bull Knockout beach race in Holland, Garcia is gaining momentum.
WESS Series standings after six of eight rounds:
- Billy Bolt (Husqvarna - GB) 4060pts
- Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM - GER) 3935pts
- Josep Garcia (KTM - ESP) 3320pts
- Wade Young (Sherco) 3220pts
- Taddy Blazusiak (KTM - POL) 2985pts
- Jonny Walker (KTM - GB) 2900pts
- Nathan Watson (KTM - GB) 2778pts
- Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna - GB) 2768pts
- Paul Bolton (KTM - GB) 2752pts
- Lars Enockl (Gas Gas - AUT) 2076pts
The unfortunate rider in all of this is Jonny Walker. His fall at the previous round in Poland, Megawatt, breaking bones in his wrist and hand, took Jonny out of the race and out of the championship. It was a cruel blow for the British rider who had been in impressive form throughout the series. Though he sits sixth currently, Jonny is unlikely to return to racing in 2018.
Romaniacs and Megawatt winner, Wade Young was never down to race the WESS championship and so also sits out of the equation in the above points table. That means the fight for the top positions between Bolt, Lettenbichler, Garcia, Blazusiak and Watson remains very much open.
How Hawkstone unfolded
Garcia took the Saturday qualifying sprint race win to give him pole position for the main XC race. Josep then grabbed the holeshot and immediately set a blisteringly pace to distance himself from the chasing pack. The rest is history.
Behind Garcia and the battle between Nathan Watson and Billy Bolt traded positions throughout much of the race, matching each other until the latter stages when Bolt conceded to Watson’s relentless pace.
Speaking at the finish, Watson said: “That was a great race. I got a good start and moved into second but then on the first lap a stone flew up and damaged my goggles, so I had to make an early pit stop. Billy caught me and was really fast through the stones – he was riding straight through the middle, but I was riding around them. I was gaining time back on the faster stuff and eventually got into a good rhythm and was able to move back into second. I didn’t have enough left to go after Josep, he was riding well today but overall I am happy with my result and it’s great to get my first WESS podium.”
For Bolt, the result was never-the-less a strong one in terms of the championship: “I knew my pace was good today but my plan was to just ride my own race and see where I finished. I knew Josep and Nathan would be fast so my goal was to stick to a steady rhythm and hopefully not be too far behind them. I caught up to Nathan at one point and was a little stronger in some of the sections. I started to crash a little bit though so just eased off and focused on claiming a safe third for the championship.”
For a racer it is always good to have home support from the crowd and it is a rare treat for British riders like Billy to have that backing: “The track was great, there was one rock-step that I was hitting quite hard and jumping – the crowd really loved it! The support from the fans was incredible – all the way around the track they were cheering and spurring me on. It’s fantastic to get my second podium in as many races and also take the lead in the championship. Of course, there’s still a lot of racing left to go but this is motivation to keep working hard.”
Battles through the field
Taddy Blazusiak and Jaume Betriu both put in strong performances all weekend and it was great to see. In an event where fitness as much as skill and technique around the tough, sandy MX track and rocky and rutted steep hillside terrain, it was surely a full test of enduro skills. Taddy came home in fourth ahead of Betriu but it was a good day in the office for both riders.
Hawkstone was a memorable race for British fans who had plenty of UK enduro riders pitched into the WESS battle. Alex Snow was best of the ‘locals’ in a fine sixth place. The former motocrosser turned enduro rider put some of his Hawkstone experience to good use mixing it with the big hitters. Jed Etchells, Daryl Bolter and Will Hoare all deserve mention for being in the mix all weekend and placing top 15.
WESS points leader heading into the sixth round was Manuel Lettenbichler who showed steady form through the Saturday sprint races for sixth place. Come Sunday the young German had one too many crashes to take the fight to Bolt and keep his championship points lead. That said, Manni remains a strong second in the points.
Behind, Paul Bolton, Graham Jarvis and Alfredo Gomez completed the top 10.
Results – Hawkstone Park Cross-Country, Round 6:
- Josep Garcia (KTM - ESP) 15 laps, 2:30:03.444
- Nathan Watson (KTM - GB) 2:31:34.016
- Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 2:32:52.010
- Taddy Blazusiak (KTM - POL) 2:34:39.777
- Jaume Betriu (KTM - ESP) 2:35:58.297
- Alex Snow (Honda - GB) 2:37:39.788
- Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM - GER) 2:40:29.096
- Paul Bolton (KTM - GB) 14 laps 2:31:09.353
- Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna - GB) 2:31:50.623
- Alfredo Gomez (Husqvarna - ESP) 2:33:26.699
WORLD ENDURO SUPER SERIES – 2018 SCHEDULE
Rnd 1. Extreme XL Lagares (Portugal) May 11-13
Rnd 2. Erzbergrodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble (Austria) May 31-June 3
Rnd 3. Trèfle Lozérien AMV (France) June 8-10
Rnd 4. Red Bull Romaniacs (Romania) July 24-28
Rnd 5. Red Bull 111 Megawatt (Poland) September 8-9
Rnd 6. Hawkstone Park Cross-Country (England) September 22-23
Rnd 7. Gotland Grand National (Sweden) October 26-27
Rnd 8. Red Bull Knock Out (The Netherlands) November 10
Photo Credit: Future7Media/Robert Lynn/Andrea Belluschi
Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org