2010 Trial World Championship Round2-3

Pacos de Ferreira, Portugal - 24-25/4/2010

First Victory in Two Years!

photoIn the first of three consecutive double headers, the Portugal Grand Prix, Fujinami finished fourth on Saturday but bounced back strongly on Sunday to take the victory first time in two years, in the nerve-wracking battle for both days.

Round 2 - Saturday

When the riders inspected the sections on Friday, the severity was too low at the most of the sections, and some of the sections were too long to ride within one minute time limit. Riders then appealed - second time in two rounds - to make them reasonably comepetitive. There were even some frustrated voices to boycott the Portugal rounds and no-show in Japan if they see no improvement for organizing the championship.

The organizer responded the riders' appeal, and the modification took place on Friday evening. 2010 rules do not allow the competitors to enter the sections for inspection on competition day, but because of the modifications, an additional section observation time was given to the competitors from 8:30 in Saturday morning. There, they found the sections not great but good enough to be competitive.

The winner in the opening round, Bou was the first rider in Portugal, and Raga, Fajardo and Fujinami to follow. Again, Bou had to work as a vanguard, but it was not as bad as in Baiona because the surface of the sections at the rocky stretch was very dry, the riding lines made by junior riders did not bother him too much.

Bou started with a clean and continued his faultless ride all the way to the end, eventually, to finish the lap with zero penalty point. Raga could not trace his compatriot's performance to foot at the section2, 3 and 4. Fujinami dropped one point at the section4 and three points at the section5. There was a big stone at the end of the section5, where both Bou and Raga chose the straightforward line to climb over the stone to mark clean. Fujinami did not think the stone was a big problem, and by watching Bou and Raga's riding, he was convinced to choose the line. Fujinami footed once at the beginning, but he thought he would ride the rest of the section without any trouble at the time. He though stuck at the top of the stone, and had to put his both legs down to pull the bike. What he did not know then was that the riders competing behind Fujinami would choose another line to go roundabout the stone and marking good scores. Fujinami dropped another point at the section1,
but marked all clean till the end to finish with five points.

As Lap1 was over, Fujinami was second by five points down from the leader Bou. Fajardo was even score with the Japanese minus one clean to be third. Dabill was fourth with six points, Cabestany followed at fifth with seven points, and Raga was sixth with nine points. Five point seemed to be too big for Fujinami to catch Bou in the battle with the severity was so low. However for Bou, it wasn't an easy battle, as only one mistake would cancel his lead. In turn, there was a fierce battle for second to sixth with small point gaps separating them.

Bou, like he did at the opening round, rode fast trying to break free from the followers. Fujinami tried to follow the team-mate in Baiona, but in Portugal, he concentrated on own riding and let Bou go away. Still he could catch Bou occasionally at the sections required careful thinking.

Fujinami arrived at the section5, where at the previous lap he made a three point error. He knew by then that there was another line to go roundabout the big stone, but he did not think it was the way to go. He thought it would take too much time, and he wanted to avoid the detour as it was not the type of hazard he was very much fond of. Fujinami took the straightforward line, but made a worse mistake than Lap1, could not climb up the stone to fall down. Josep grabbed the bike at his best to minimalize the damage, but the handle bars and a lever got warped in the incident. That five points turned to be the decisive mistake for Fujinami on Saturday, otherwise he could easily finish second at the end of the day. Looking at the score sheet, many - some low rank - riders rode with a clean or with a single point taking the roundabout route. Although Fujinami felt uncomfortable with the route, it wasn't very difficult after all.

Fujinami dropped one point at the section11 when he could not climb the big stair-case and put his foot down to pull up the bike. He explained later that he was having a bit of odd feeling with the clutch. The surface condition was very dry so the small problem directly affected his riding and messed up a precise timing. If the condition was damp, the problem might not have been so noticeable. Fujinami and the team thoroughly maintained the clutch in the evening. Although it is devastating if the problem persists after not being able to find the solution on to the next day in the double-header, it is also good to have a chance to make a precise, direct and effective adjustment for the very next day.

From the section12 to 15 were easy and none of the top seven riders made an error. Practically speaking, the battle was already over when they finished the section11. Fujinami was welcomed at the finish of Lap2 by Bou , who marked impressive all clean again. Raga had a good run at Lap2 to finish with a single point, and he was a point ahead of the Japanese rider. Fujinami waited for the followers being tentative third, but when Cabestany came in with a single point at Lap2, the Japanese was pushed out from the podium.

Second consecutive time Fujinami finished outside the podium after being second at the end of Lap1, but he had a positive feeling with the way he fought. Fourth was not a great result at all, especially he had a good chance to finish second, and he needs to take it seriously why he ruined it. Still, holding his composure after dropping five point at the section5 to go on to mark clean at the tough section6 was a good sign. Fajardo meanwhile dropped five points at the section5 and 6 to put himself from third at Lap1 to seventh in the end. The result looked similar to the opening round for Fujinami - down from second to fourth - but the way he fought was completely different between the two rounds. In Baiona, he was impatient and put himself into making mistakes, but he was able to concentrate on his riding in Portugal. That gave enough reasons for Fujinami to very much look forward to the competition on the next day.

Round 3 - Sunday

photoOvernight modification again took place to bring the severity higher; four sections with minor changes of relocating the markers and shortening the run up area, and one complete change of section set up. Then the riders were allowed to have a morning section inspection before the competition. It looked more difficult than they were on Saturday, but the severity was still low, and the battle was expected to be another nerve-wracking with every mistake would be decisive.

The starting order was based on the classification on Saturday, thus Bou was first followed by Cabestany, Raga, and Fujinami was fourth starter. Marking all clear at both Laps on Saturday, Bou, however he made an early mistake to drop one point at the section3. It was a stair-case with run-up area being shorter than the previous day. Fujinami marked clean at the section both laps on Saturday, but he too suffered one penalty point. At the section4, Cabestany and Fajardo both dropped one point. At the section5, Fujinami did not repeat the mistakes to take the roundabout line to mark clean.

Everybody knew it was a tight and fierce battle with every decisive point. Raga rode mistake free at the beginning of the lap to be a step ahead of his rivals, but the Spaniard made a costly error at the section6 to drop five points. He was first at the section5 but to go down to fourth with the mistake.

Then the situation drastically changed at the section9. At the section completely new for Sunday's trial, Bou made a full mark error at a jumping zone. He hit the engine against the stone and crashed to let his first position go. Fujinami intentionally footed to ride with a single point, so as Raga and Cabestany managed to ride with one point. Fujinami told us that he felt a big accomplishment riding THE TOUGH section with a minimum penalty point, especially after the team-mate's incident, but disappointed to find out after the event that many riders managed to ride the section with a single point. It wasn't a tough section after all.

With Bou making an uncharacteristic mistake, Fujinami and Cabestany were only two among the top four without dropping a full mark, and their score was even at the section10. Fujinami finished the lap with three points after dropping one more point at the section11. Cabestany stayed away from any more mistake to finish Lap1with two points, and he became the leader going into Lap2. Raga and Bou were joint third with six points and the exact number of cleans. With the sections severity being so low, three points were huge, so Fujinami and Cabestany looked to be the favorite for the day.

Fujinami stopped at the pit for a quick adjustment of the bike before Lap2. When he arrived at the section1, there were no sign of Bou and Raga, but Cabestany was still there. Fujinami decided to ride ahead of the Spaniard, as he figured the riding time could be decisive in their close battle. When Fujinami started Lap2, he could see Raga and Bou in the distance. By the time Fujinami arrived at the section5, two Spaniards were completely out of sight. As Cabestany did not seem to try to follow the Japanese, Fujinami became all alone focusing his own trial. Then Fujinami heard the news that Cabestany dropped one point at the section3, and lost his lead.

At the section9, Fujinami made an intensional footing again to ride with one point. He didn't care for sacrificing another point there, because he knew Cabestany would do the same for a steady result. As expected the Spaniard dropped one point too, thus the point gap stayed equal.

Fujinami had a strong feeling for the victory when he marked two more cleans to arrive at the section12. Four sections left, and they almost trouble free. Fujinami had a firm confidence to ride without further penalty point. The level of Fujinami's concentration was very high on Sunday, as he was relaxed chatting and joking with his staff, yet kept his composure. Josep meanwhile, seemed to feel differently and being nervous having a good chance for the victory for the first time in two years. Fujinami have enough breathing room to read Josep's mind from the expression.

photoFujinami marked 4 cleans, as expected, from the section12 to finish his competition with 3 hours and 16 minutes. He was welcomed by Bou and Raga at the finish line, where they finished earlier with 3 hours and 6 minutes and 3 hours and 8 minutes, respectively. Fujinami did not have to wait for Cabestany to know he won, as he started later than Cabestany and finished earlier. Cabestany came in 18 minutes later with another one point penalty at the section10. It turned out that riding time did not matter after all.

It was a happy first victory in two years for Fujinami. However it means at the same time, that Fujinami will be the first rider in Motegi on Saturday. The squashy soil of Motegi expected to have many riding lines by the junior riders, and starting earlier will be a huge disadvantage. Many congratulated Fujinami's long awaited victory, but they also did not forget to mention "You are starting first!".

photoFujinami moves up to third in the championship with the victory in Portugal. He is in the middle of a close battle in the championship standings - which he does not care too much at the moment though - being sandwiched between Raga and Cabestany each with one point separation. The championship will return to Motegi for another double-header. It is very interesting to see how Fujigas will do starting first on Saturday.

Quote from Fujigas:

Finally, I won! I finished fourth on Saturday, but I had a good trial on both days. I was able to keep my rhythm, and also I was relaxed enough to observe the surroundings without getting distracted. It was one of my personal goals to win at least one round before Motegi, so I am glad I achieved one of them. Double win in Motegi will be great, but I really like to win at least one of them. Starting first in Motegi doesn't help because of the characteristic of the surface is a lot differs from what we had today. I actually thought for a moment that I should have footed once to miss the victory here. There will be Japan and UK, two double-headers, and they are very important rounds for me. I did not take my family to Portugal and missed the chance to take my daughter Yumena up on the podium. I will take her up there in Japan!

FIM SPEA Trial WorldChampionship
Round2 - Pacos de Ferreira, Portugal
1 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa HRC 0
2 Albert Cabestany Sherco 8
3 Adam Raga Gas Gas 10
4 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa HRC 11
5 James Dabill Gas Gas 14
6 Dougie Lampkin Beta 16
7 Jeroni Fajardo Beta 16
8 Loris Gubian Gas Gas 23
L1: Lap1 L2: Lap2 TO: Time Over Pts: Penalty Point CL:Clean
1 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa HRC 4
2 Albert Cabestany Sherco 5
3 Adam Raga Gas Gas 10
4 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa HRC 11
5 Dougie Lampkin Beta 11
6 Jeroni Fajardo Beta 14
7 James Dabill Gas Gas 19
8 Loris Gubian Gas Gas 25
L1: Lap1 L2: Lap2 TO: Time Over Pts: Penalty Point CL:Clean
1 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa HRC 53
2 Adam Raga Gas Gas 47
3 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa HRC 46
4 Albert Cabestany Sherco 45
5 Jeroni Fajardo Beta 34
6 Dougie Lampkin Beta 30
7 James Dabill Gas Gas 30
8 Daniel Oliveras Sherco 23