2014 X-Trial World Championship Round1

Sheffield, United Kindom 4/1/2014

Fourth, Missed the Podium, but Well Done.

photoFujinami participated in the first round of 2014 X-Trial World Championship held in Shiffied, UK, the venue hosted the season opener for two consecutive years. After occupying a special off season, nursing the injury and getting ready for the new year, Fujinami fought hard and strong in UK. He missed the podium appearance in the end, but the fourth was well beyond his expectation.

Fujinami suffered a knee injury damaging the anterior cruciate ligament in the last September. He had the two options to deal with it; to have an operation or no to. Without a doubt having an operation would be the proper and the safer way to fix the problem. However, it would take time to rehabilitate, so four months interval did not seem to be long enough if he wanted to be ready for this Indoor series. Without having an operation, he would be able to start training when swelling of the knee eased off. After intensive talks with his doctors and trainers, Fujinami decided to go without an operation. While he waited his knee to get stabilized, he concentrated on physical training, and he received a special treatment on his knee so that the muscles of his leg would not get too much weaker.

December 2013, three months after the incident, he started his training on the motorcycle for the first time. Fujinami felt the body built up much differently from the previous seasons with the intensive physical training. He said his muscles were much stronger, and some of the riding technics became easier to perform. Outdoor trial training, that he started to ride first went smoothly. It gave him a confidence to go into the coming season. Then it was when he moved on to indoor type of trial training, and one day, after riding almost the whole day without break time, his knee got swollen again. Fujinami's plans recessed. It was then around the Christmas time that he started to ride a motorcycle again. He knew riding a long period of time would get him, so he actively took a break after about 1 and a half hour of riding to continued his training.

The riders to be participated in X-Trial are pre nominated. FIM made a prudent invitation to Fujinami for his appearance at the series knowing the his physical condition. Still being anxious how he would be able to perform, Fujinami made a GO and contacted FIM just before the closing date for application in November.

X-Trial, meanwhile, had many regulation changes in 2014. One of the changes directly affect riding was that putting the engine under guard onto the obstacle was included in 'Machine Leaning'. It became a subject for penalty, where such a penalty has been seen in the French local events previously. There were disagreements from the competitors toward the new rule, but FIM kept their plan. The competition procedure was drastically changed, too. In the Qualification, the nominated riders and the guest riders will be divided into two groups, then the pairs will be made with a nominated rider with a guest rider. In UK, there were five pairing, so the total of six riders, five winners and a rider with the least penalty points among the five losers-Best Loser-proceeded to the Semi Final. In the Semi Final, the pairings were made among the six riders, and then the two would compete against. A total of the four riders, the three winners and the Best Loser proceeded to the Final. The
Double Lanes, which held a big part in the results in the past seasons, became solely the races to decide the starting order in the Semi Final and the Final. There will be no penalty points for the losers.

photoFujinami's objective at the Qualification was clear, especially at the first round of his comeback, which was to ride effectively to proceed to the Semi Final. Being fifth in the last year's X-Trial, Fujinami paired with Casales, the junior class world champion in 2013, to compete with the seven sections. Although at his debut challenge, the Spanish new comer was very good at indoor trial like senior Spanish riders, so it was not an easy battle for the Japanese to take a victory with injured knee. Fujinami finish the lap with 15 points to beat the Spaniard, who finished the lap with 22 points, and the Japanese rider grabbed the ticket for the Semi Final.

At the following pair, Dabill rode with 12 points to lose the battle against Fajardo, who rode the lap with seven points. It was an interesting point to notice under the new rule, that although Dabill rode better than Fujinami, there will be no comparison in points among the riders in the different pair. Bou, Raga and Cabestany won their battles at their paring. Dabill captured the last chance ticket for the Semi Final as the Best Loser.

In the Semi Final, the pairings were made among the riders of the best and the worst, the second best with the second worst, and likewise, based on the classifications at the Qualification. Dabill was the Best Loser in the Qualification, but he had the less penalty points than Fujinami. Although, Fujinami was one of the winners, his classification in the Qualification was sixth, the worst position. Fujinami paired with Bou-did we mention he was the best?-at the Double Lane to decide the starting order. Fujinami won it to have a privilege to start last for the following four observed sections, which turned to be a very helpful factor later to move up to the Final.

The first starter in the Semi Final, Dabill rode the sections with six points. Fajardo, Raga, Cabestany and Fujinami all rode with five points, and Bou rode without error. In the event of riders being tie, the riding time at the final section will be taken into account to decide the classification. Being the final starter, Fujinami was well aware of the situation before riding, so all he needed to do was to ride faster than the slowest rider among the three, Raga. Fujinami rode 7 seconds faster to secure the position for the Final, and he went passed all four riders to finished the Semi Final at 2nd.

The sections to be used for Final were the four of the sections used at the Qualification in the reverse direction. First, there were the Double Lanes, and the first paring was between the 3rd and 4th riders at the Semi Final, Fajardo and Cabestany. Cabestany won the race, then he rode the race again against Fujinami to win, then another race against Bou. Cabestany failed the last challenge to captured the 2nd starting order. All three speed races combined starting order was decided as, Fajardo as the first starter, then Fujinami, Cabestany, and Bou as the final starter.

photoAt the Final, there were two groups of intense battle between Bou and Cabestany, and Fujinami and Fajardo. The later of the two lost the touch of the leading two when both riders made a full mark error at the Section2. Fujinami seemed to grab a change for the podium finish when he rode the Section3 with a single point after Fajardo made another full mark error. But the Japanese rider's hope was short lived as he too made a full mark error at the Section4 consisted of the two big steps. He mis-judged the hight of the second step, and he was distracted a little with the new rule with the machine leaning, too, to lose the rhythm to end with five points. That brought him two points down from Fajardo, and Fujinami had to settle with the fourth place.

Still, less than four months after the incident, the performance and the results were far better than Fujinami could imagine. It was true that he was fortunate to have an advantage of the starting order thanks to the new regulation, but considering the condition, which he has not made a full recovery yet, the fourth finish was a big accomplishment. Thanks to an intensive physical training, the muscles worked as the natural protectors of his knee when bending the leg, but he could not rely on the muscles when the leg was extended. At the Section2 and at the final section, he threw away the bike trying to avoid further damage to his knee when getting out of control.

It is still uncertain that how much he will recover and to perform at his best. His knee did not seem to take a long time riding yet, as it got swollen a bit after the competition. If the condition got a lot worse, he may change his plan to have an operation, too. The doctor has told Fujinami that the Japanese rider was too optimistic to wish for the best without an operation. Perhaps, things turned out in UK in the best possible way. It is just the beginning of the 2014 season, and Fujinami is expected to face many situations he has never experienced in his 19 years of World Championship career. Anxiety and expectations, Fujinami should have mixed feelings toward the challenges. We just hope for the best.

Quote from Fujigas:

I never thought I could do so well in UK. My knee still hurt when trying to go over the staircases, as well as trying to have a balance on a bike and so. I admit that I found myself riding timidly, too. In the off season, I had an intensive physical training, very intensively and deeply to the level that I have not done before, when I could not ride the bike. I am surprised to find my body has shaped up at the different level now, that some of the riding technics became easy to perform. I am still far from where I should be at, recovering wise, but I can only try to go on to conquer the new challenges this year.

2014 X-Trial World Trial Championship
Round1 Sheffield, United Kindom
1 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa Honda 3
2 Albert Cabestany Sherco 5
3 Jeroni Fajardo Beta 12
4 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa Honda 14
Semi Final
1 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa Honda 0
2 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa Honda 5
3 Jeroni Fajardo Beta 5
4 Albert Cabestany Sherco 5
5 Adam Raga Gas Gas 5
6 James Dabill Beta 6
Qualificarion Lap
Win Toni Bou Repsol Montesa Honda 0
xxx Loris Gubian Ossa 21
Win Adam Raga Gas Gas 4
xxx Michael Brown Gas Gas 27
Win Albert Cabestany Sherco 14
xxx Jack Challoner Ossa R
Win Jeroni Fajardo Beta 7
BL James Dabill Beta 12
Win Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa Honda 15
xxx Jorge Casales Gas Gas 22
1 Toni Bou 20
2 Albert Cabestany 15
3 Jeroni Fajardo 12
4 Takahisa Fujinami 9
5 Adam Raga 6
6 James Dabill 5
7 Loris Gubian 4
8 Jorge Casales 3
9 Michael Brown 2
10 Jack Challoner 1