2012 X-Trial World Trial Championship Round3

Marseille, France - 27-28/1/2012

Fought Hard but Lonely Fourth

photoX-Trial returned to France for the Round3 of the championship at the world famous port city, Marseille. According to the organizer, last year, there were 5,500 people wanted to come to see the show, but the stadium could not hold the all the spectators because of the capacity of 4,000 people. To solve the problem, the organizer separated the event into two, the Qualification Lap on Friday and the rest of the event to be held on Saturday to give more people a chance to come.

-- Qualification Lap --

There were ten riders participated in the event on Friday for the Qualification Lap. The eight nominated riders with the two wild-card riders, the local rider Alexandre Ferrer and Pol Tarres, a nephew of the seven-time world champion, Jordi Tarres. The young Tarres appeared with the new JTG bike, which Jordi has been putting his effort for its development. It was also the first time that the current junior rider participated in the X-Trial, where in the past, only the ex-junior class champions like Challoner and Gomez were eligible to participate.

The severity was high, and some of the sections were long. The organizer must have pumped to make the two days show appealing. Allotted time was too short, although it was extended to 12 minutes to accommodate two additional sections.

The young Tarres riding the X-Trial with a new bike attracted people's attention, but the Marseille round was not the ideal place for the debut of JTG as his participation ended early when he finished 7th. Still, 32 point riding was the best among the four riders to be eliminated at the QL. The next was Gomez with 33 points, Brown finished with 35 - all fived, and Ferrer finished with 41 points, after spending some time for fixing tire puncture.

Fujinami spent about a minute when he fived in the middle of the section1. He then spent a minute and a half to be fived at the end of the section2. It was obvious that he would not finish the lap in time. The section3 was tough - eventually only Bou would mark clean and all the other five - Fujinami thought it was not worth spending time, so he fived at the beginning of the section to save time. The next section in turn, Fujinami rode carefully with a single point. He fived at the middle of the section5, then rode with a single point at the rest of the two sections. Fujinami completed his QL with 23 points at fifth, one point better than Gubian.

Bou rode all seven sections tidily without being fived. He rode with one point at the section1, two points at the section5 then another point at the section6. The time was too short even for Bou, as he dropped two time penalty points in the end, to finish with six points, more than ten points less than the runner up Raga. The battle was fierce for the rest of the field, as there was only five points separation from the 2nd to 6th.

That was all for the Friday evening. The event started from 9 in the evening with ten riders riding with 12 minutes. Simply, it was almost mid-night when competitors could call it for the night to leave the stadium. They returned to the hotels to have a good rest. They could get up very late if they wanted to, as they were only to come back to the stadium sometime in the afternoon. Fujinami thought the two days format was not a bad idea. Usually, the event starts in the late afternoon, then it halts at the end of the QL to wait for the spectators. The event resumes about 9pm, but it is hard for the riders to keep their body warmed up with a long interval.

-- Semi Final --

The day two started with the Double-Lanes of the Semi-Final. Being fifth at QL, Fujinami rode against Gubian. In Geneva last week, Fujinami opted to race with the Frenchman by losing the tie breaker of QL. His plan did not work out as the Frenchman beat the Japanese in the speed race instead. In Marseille, again the Frenchman crossed the line earlier than the Japanese. Fujinami made a mistake at the U-turn area, allowed Gubian to overtake.

There was a change of the rule for the DL this year, by the way, that the rider finishing first will win regardless of how many footings he makes or even after crashing. Fujinami supports that change as it will make the speed race more exciting as the riders will ride hard and vigorously.

Modifications took place to some of the sections to make them reasonable, for instance, a cable core at the section1 became stable after reinforcement work. At the previous night, the core was not strong enough to hold its shape for the entire evening, changing its severity, too. Raga, the final starter had a hard time riding on the unstable object. He fived at the different point of the section, but if he made any error related to the obstacle, the Spaniard mush have been very furious. Also, the length of some of the sections were shortened.

At the section1, Fujinami footed twice and dropped two time penalty points. Together with a point at the DL, his dropped five points for a total to be even scored with Gubian, who fived at the first section.

At the section2, only Bou and Raga managed to mark clean, but both dropped time penalty, one for Bou and two for Raga. Fujinami rode with a single point with two over-time penalty points. The rest of the riders fived at the section. As a result, Fajardo, Cabestany, and Fujinami became even scored with eight points.

At the section3, Gubian, Fujinami, and Fajardo fived, but Cabestany rode with a single point with two time penalty points. That left Fajardo and Fujinami to be the joint fourth with 13 points, and they had the final section to decide who to be eliminated.

Fujinami thought before his start that dropping at least one time penalty point was unavoidable. He watched Gubian footing twice and dropped two time penalty points, then he rode with one footing with one time penalty point. It was a good riding to give Fajardo a pressure. Fajardo did not need to ride better but only needed to finish with two points to beat Fujinami. Fajardo pushed hard from the start, probably trying to finish in time. That turn out worse as the Spaniard fell down from the Hume concrete pipe thus dropping full mark, to let his chance for the evening go away.

That was close fight till the end of the lap, but Fujinami captured the position to proceed to the Final Lap for the third consecutive time in the season.

-- Final Lap --

photoA single point less or more after the Double Lane costs a lot in the X-Trial. Especially for Fujinami in Marseille, he needed to win all three DLs to minimize his disadvantage. Based on the scores at the Semi Final, he had to start the Final Lap with three points behind Cabestany, and eight points behind Raga from the beginning.

The Race1 was between Fujinami and Cabestany, and the Japanese won it. He lost the second race against Raga at the Race4. Then Fujinami's third and the last DL was the Race5 agasint the team-mate at the Race5. Practically speaking, Bou did not need to win the speed race against the team-mate. He had six points advantage to start the lap with, and he won the other two DLs, too. His victory number three was undoubtable. Many viewers did not surprise if the Spaniard would give a way to let the team-mate go first. However, when the race started, Bou took off and rode with a furious pace. Fujinami chased hard, and shortened the gap to Bou at the U-turn. He then lost the balance as he went over the steel trash box, and landed on the angle. Theory said ease off the throttle, but he kept it open, as he knew he still had a chance to win it, and would definitely lose by closing the throttle. He went up the slope before the finish line still being out of balance. Finally, when he
crossed the finish line, he could not hold the bike, and he had to let it go into the grand stand. There was no spectator around the area thankfully, but the media people, riders and minders were nearby to watch it closely.

No one except Fujinami got hurt, that was at least a good news with the crash like that. He hurt the old injury on his shoulder a little, but it was not so serious. The damage of the bike was a problem with the peg was torn apart and the shift lever got bent. There was no time to fix them, so he had to switch to the 2nd bike. Although the 2nd bikes are supposed to be set up exactly the same as the 1st bike, there are always some delicate differences between the two that only the riders can sense, and it affect their riding. Fujinami did not blame the change of the bike but he dropped five points at the first section with the 2nd bike. Interestingly, Bou made his one and the only full mark error of the day at the section, too.

When all four riders finished the three observed sections, Bou rode with six points, Raga with three, Cabestany with five points, and Fujinami dropped 12 points. The combined points with the Semi Final, Fujinami was fourth with ten points separation from Cabestany.

Thanks to the Final Lap appearance for the three consecutive rounds, Fujinami stands fourth in the championship with 30 points chasing the joint second of Raga and Cabestany with 39 points. The team-mate Bou, by the way, stands at the top with massive 60 points. Fujinami is followed by Fajardo at fifth with 17 points, and he expects the Spaniard will make his fight back The Spaniard has been struggling with the change of the bike and being out of luck. Still, Fujinami will focus on the Spanish duo in front so he can be mixed up in the battle for the second place in the coming rounds.

Quote from Fujigas:

Last year in Marseille, I had a huge crash at the Double-Lane riding against Raga and hurt my neck. It made me laugh when some French media asked me before the event if there was any influence of the neck injury for this year's riding. I performed another huge crash at the DL, so I have to get ready to be asked more question about me with the DL. At the previous rounds, I finished 3rd with a good chance to be even 2nd, but this time I was a distance fourth. My marginal goal for the coming rounds is to be up there at the Final Lap, like always. I will see how far I can improve my result from there without putting too much pressure to myself.

2012 X-Trial World Trial Championship
Round3 Marseille, France
Final Lap
1 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa Honda 7
2 Adam Raga Gas Gas 12
3 Albert Cabestany Sherco 19
4 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa Honda 29
5 Jeroni Fajardo Beta 18
6 Loris Gubian Gas Gas 19
Qualificarion Lap
1 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa Honda 6
2 Adam Raga Gas Gas 19
3 Albert Cabestany Sherco 21
4 Jeroni Fajardo Beta 22
5 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa Honda 23
6 Loris Gubian Gas Gas 24
7 Pol Tarres JTG 32
8 Alfredo Gomez Montesa 33
9 Micheal Brown Gas Gas 35
10 Alexandre Ferrer Sherco 41
1 Toni Bou 60
2 Adam Raga 39
3 Albert Cabestany 39
4 Takahisa Fujinami 30
5 Jeroni Fajardo 17
6 Loris Gubian 16