The penultimate round of the World Enduro Super Series, the Gotland Grand National, kicked off today, Friday October 26 with the support races battling the 22-kilometre course.
The small Swedish island of Gotland welcomed thousands of riders for the 35th edition of this massive enduro event. For the riders in Saturday's main race, particularly the WESS contenders who haven’t experienced the Gotland Grand National before, it was chance to get a feel for the scale of this the epic event.
2018 race action officially began with a series of morning races for Youth competitors followed by a three-hour afternoon race for Veteran, Hobby, Women and Military riders. In total nearly 600 competitors took to the start line on Friday afternoon.
With seven laps complete, Mikael Bjorklund claimed the overall win. Bjorklund set a fast pace from the off, eventually pulling 10 minutes clear of Mats Algotsson and Stefan Karlsson.
The battle for the remainder of the top five was close with Christian Kronna beating Lars Blomberg by eight seconds to grab fourth, while Lars Hult shadowed Blomberg across the line for sixth.
Main race day on Saturday will see Billy Bolt look to maintain his series lead over closest rivals Manuel Lettenbichler and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Josep Garcia (ESP). Sampling the atmosphere of the Friday race, Bolt was amazed by the number of riders in Gotland: “I’m totally blown away by the amount of riders here, it’s unbelievable.” Said Billy. “Everywhere you look there are Enduro bikes. The track looks cool, nothing majorly technical, but when you put 3000 riders out on track then it gets difficult.
“We’re at a very crucial stage in the championship now and although I have the points lead I can’t take anything for granted. With so many riders you are really going to have to fight for position, it could be very easy to lose 20 or 30 places with one mistake or crash out there tomorrow.”
Expect WESS regulars Taddy Blazusiak, Nathan Watson, Lars Enockl, Alfredo Gomez, Graham Jarvis, Paul Bolton and Rannar Uusna to all be in the mix.
Local favourites to watch include Norwegian Kjetil Gundersen and Swedish riders Albin Elowson, Joakim Ljunggren and Mats Nilsson among many others hoping to use track knowledge to their advantage to deliver a strong performance.
For Elowson, a former Junior winner at the Gotland Grand National, it is time to step up and be counted on home soil: “The Gotland Grand National is such an important race for Swedish Enduro. I’ve raced here many times and won the Junior category but never quite managed to win the big one. Hopefully tomorrow I can make that happen. It’s quite a unique race in terms of the terrain. It’s rocky and slippery, you really have to find your rhythm and ride to that.”
Swedish ace, Joakim Ljunggren has raced the Gotland four times but has yet to win the event: “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I’ve actually only ever done this race about four times and never won, so I’d love to finally tick it off my list.
“I think it’s going to be a fast pace tomorrow. Of course, with so many world class riders here, everyone will be pushing the limits but also the ground seems much drier than previous years. There is rain forecast but at this stage it’s difficult to tell how muddy it will get. Either way I’m excited for it and keen to show my speed in WESS.”
The Gotland Grand National concludes on Saturday October 27 with a further morning race followed by the three-hour Elite, Senior and Junior race from 12:30pm.
Results – 2018 Gotland Grand National – Friday races:
- Mikael Bjorklund (KTM – SWE) 7 laps, 3:30:10
- Mats Algotsson (KTM – SWE) 3:40:20
- Stefan Karlsson (Husqvarna – SWE) 6 laps, 3:05:55
- Christain Kronnas (KTM – SWE) 3:07:12
- Lars Blomberg (Husqvarna – SWE) 3:07:20
- Lars Hult (BETA – SWE) 3:07:22
- Jocke Sodergren (Yamaha – SWE) 3:07:53
- Matti Petersson (KTM – SWE) 3:08:07; 9.
- Orjan Brink (KTM – SWE) 3:09:05
- Olof Adielsson (Yamaha – SWE) 3:11:10
Gotland Grand National information: nordicsportevent.se
Photo Credit: Future7Media/Andrea Belluschi/Robert Lynn