Topping the 1000-strong start list, Nathan Watson has won the 2018 Red Bull 111 Megawatt qualification races on day one, round five of the World Enduro Super Series.
British rider Nathan Watson has relished the sandy terrain of Europe’s largest coal mine and grabbed the chance to show his true colours for the first time in this year’s WESS championship. Watson led home a Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1-2-3, with teammates Josep Garcia and Jonny Walker second and third respectively.
Speaking from the paddock Watson said: “It feels great to qualify fastest for round five of WESS. When I saw the sand quarry I knew I could put in some quick times as it’s the terrain I’m most comfortable in.
“The Motocross test was really good and even though it was rough on lap two it rode faster. There was better grip in the corners and you could really push hard. The Endurocross test was long, rough and tough, with some big jumps, too.
“Overall, it’s been a great day and hopefully I can continue this form for tomorrow. I’ve no real idea what to expect but I’ll give it my best shot. Hopefully I can get a good start and put myself into a good position on lap one and be there when it counts at the end.”
World's longest Endurocross track
With 1000 competitors at Red Bull 111 Megawatt, the opening day saw riders compete for a place in Sunday’s main event by battling it out on a 12-minute-long sandy Motocross special test and the world’s longest Endurocross track.
At the top of the standings, Classic Enduro specialists Watson and Garcia were set the pace, heading the provisional standings at the end of the opening qualification run. Walker and Blazusiak were close behind in third and fourth.
Despite rougher conditions, the majority of riders went faster for run two. Considerably improving his time on the Motocross test (by 42s...!), Watson topped the results sheet heading into Sunday’s final.
With just eight seconds separating them overall, Josep Garcia took second place and like his teammate, was quick to show his enduro skills in the fast Magawatt MX test: “Today was a lot of fun. Both special tests were very fast and nice to ride. I made a couple of small mistakes but nothing major during the day. I’m pleased with my speed and Nathan and myself had a really good battle.
“We were pushing each other hard but he just had a little more on me in the afternoon. Tomorrow of course will be a different story and a different type of race. It’s my first time here and so it’s hard to know what to expect. I’ll try to learn from those with more experience and be ready to push hard in the final stages.”
Walker strong in third
Series leader Jonny Walker was again Mr Consistent with a strong third ensuring a good start position for Sunday’s main race.
“I’m pretty happy with third today.” Said Walker after qualification. “I knew Nathan and Josep would be fast because today was like a Classic Enduro special test. I decided to make a switch to the KTM 350f four-stroke for this race with the intention of staying on it for the remainder of the series. I’ve put a lot of time training on the bike and feel comfortable with it over the long cross-country style races. As series leader a win tomorrow will be a big result for the championship, I’ve won here three times, so I know what it takes.”
South African's filling the top 10
Round four winner in Romania, Sherco Factory Racing’s Wade Young was sixth fastest behind Bolt and Blazusiak. Setting the seventh fastest time, Dominik Olszowy ensured two Polish riders qualified inside the top 10.
Finishing five seconds behind Olszowy, Beta Factory Racing’s Travis Teasdale was eighth and fellow South African Blake Gutzeit ninth. Second to Walker in the championship standings, Germany’s Manuel Lettenbichler confirmed his place on the front row with 10th.
Sunday’s race schedule, for round five of WESS, will commence in the morning with the GoPro B Final for the 501-750 fastest qualifiers. At precisely 1.11pm the top 500 qualifiers will blast off the line for the three-lap feature race where a 30-kilometre long course weaves its way around the coal mine.
The Red Bull 111 Megawatt final will be broadcast live on Red Bull TV from 13.05CEST.
Photo Credit: Future7Media/Robert Lynn/Andrea Belluschi