JET Racing rider Alex SALVINI got his weekend off to a great start on Friday evening at the Polisport Grand Prix of Portugal’s Akrapovic Super Test and ended it on a high this afternoon in Castelo Branco on this very same Super Test course, giving us a dramatic finale full of emotions. Indeed it was the first time that the Super Test (a short and technical special where the riders run head-to-head) was organised as the final special test of a Grand Prix... and the idea paid off on all levels with a big crowd who came to enjoy the fight in the city center - a grand finale of a day disputed in the heat and dust of Portugal’s tests.
But before reaching this final decisive special test, the riders had to draw on their reserves to overcome to get through the last day of this Iberian tour. And as is often the case in such tough circumstances, the retirement list was a long one; Mathias BELLINO (F - Honda ORC) who had to give up mid-way through the race because of a painful hand, despite his excellent result yesterday. Victor GUERRERO (E - Yamaha) broke his rear wheel, and local riders Luis OLIVEIRA (Yamaha) and Diogo VENTURA, who had a knee injury (Honda). There were also DNFs for Finns AITTA (Honda) and LEINO (KTM) and Suzuki Lunigiana rider Manuel MONNI.
Great Success for the event-ending Super Test!
As was the case yesterday, the top riders of EnduroGP started the race on a very high level, led by Christophe NAMBOTIN (F - Gas Gas) and Steve HOLCOMBE - who was seeking to make amends after his “average” result on Day 1. Eero REMES (SF - TM) also remained within striking distance and in with a shout for the EnduroGP podium, just like Jamie MCCANNEY (GB - Yamaha), while Alex SALVINI (I - Husqvarna) suffered in the first Extreme Test and was just 8th at the end of the 1st lap. Just like yesterday, NAMBOTIN upped his game at the half way point, and SALVINI began an incredible comeback. And while Steve HOLCOMBE was at the top of the standings, there was high drama as he was only 2 tenths ahead of NAMBOTIN (who put in a superb time on Enduro Test 3!) And just over a second ahead of "Rocky" SALVINI at the end of the third lap before the last two tests! NAMBOTIN lost out on a possible victory in the Extreme Test, and even saw the cheeky Brad FREEMAN (GB - Beta Boano) threaten him for the final podium, but the experienced Frenchman beat the young Brit by just 7 tenths of second! Then there was Alex SALVINI who showed up for the Super Test less than 2.5 seconds behind HOLCOMBE, the Brit having pulled a small margin in the Extreme before setting a 1'38.38 in the Super Test. SALVINI was on the startline with one aim: he had to complete the test in less than 1 minute 35 seconds to win. A tough challenge, even for a former Champion, on such a short test. The Just 1 supporte rider set a blistering time, an incredible 1’32''57, which allowed him to scrape through with a victory over HOLCOMBE. Alex SALVINI celebrated to the maximum on the finish line in front of his family and fans here in Castelo Branco. “SALVO” pulled off an impeccable double which propels him to the head of the EnduroGP standings, tied with Eero REMES (5th today).
The two factory Yamaha riders Jamie MCCANNEY (GB) and Loïc LARRIEU (F) finished in the 6th and 7th place, ahead of Christophe CHARLIER (F - Beta) and Danny MCCANNEY (GB - Gas Gas). And it was Thomas OLDRATI (I - Honda Red Moto) who completed the Top 10. We also have to give mention to the good points taken in EGP by Birthday boy, Anthony GESLIN (F - Beta) and his compatriot Romain DUMONTIER (F - Yamaha) who even finished ahead of Matthew PHILLIPS (AUS - Sherco) who suffered a huge crash in the last Super Test.
Alex SALVINI, Eero REMES, and Loïc LARRIEU filled the E2 podium, ahead of Christophe CHARLIER who took his best result of the season, and Thomas OLDRATI (5th in E2).
Brad FREEMAN brought splendid success to Beta Boano in E1, his first victory in a Senior class, ahead of his compatriot Jamie MCCANNEY and Gas Gas riders Antoine BASSET (F) and Eemil POHJOLA (3rd and 4th).
Steve HOLCOMBE responded today to Christophe NAMBOTIN in E3, and Danny MCCANNEY took another valuable 3rd place in the class in front of the consistent Anthony GESLIN and Romain DUMONTIER.
This incredibly close racing in the EnduroGP class somewhat overshadowed the great battle which took place in the Junior clas. Despite the close margins on the tests, Matteo CAVALLO (I - Beta Boano) was once again untouchable in Castelo Branco. Jarno BOANO’s protege put all his opponents to shame today.
He was also the winner in J2 ahead of Davide SORECA (I - TM), Enric FRANCISCO (E - KTM), Joe WOOTTON (GB - Husqvarna) and Tosha SCHAREINA (E - KTM) who completed the Top 5 just in front of Brittany’s David ABGRALL (F - Sherco Academy).
Andrea VERONA (I - TM) made a mistake today, after leading the first part of the race, but the young star still finished 3rd. But it was one of Ivan CERVANTES’ RFME (Spanish Federation) riders, Kirian MIRABET, who proved to be fastest in the J1 category, 10 seconds ahead of the very promising Belgian Antoine MAGAIN (KTM) - who after a year of learning is now reaping the fruits of his labour with this podium finish. This victory and subsequent joy from MIRABET, who was injured last year, was nice to see. Leo LE QUERE (F - TM XCentric) seems to have completed his apprenticeship in the category and he took a very good 4th place, placing him just in front of the promising Brazilian rider Bruno CRIVILLIN (KTM), who has long had his sights set on the podium.
The EnduroGP paddock will now be able to take a well-deserved rest for both man and machine after this gruelling Iberian tour which offered us all possible scenarios in very different race conditions from one day to another. There were also some surprises to take away; Steve HOLCOMBE was not as dominant as expected, and Alex SALVINI now stands out with total confidence after this tour, which also saw strong performances from MCCANNEY and FREEMAN, and also confirmed the experience and strength of Eero REMES, who is always at the front.
All of this bodes well for a very exciting and intense Estonian GP in Tallinn on June 1st and 2nd... in the mean time, you can check out the full highlights and best moments of this Polisport Grand Prix of Portugal on endurogp.org from this Thursday!
What They Said:
Christophe NAMBOTIN : “It was a great fight over all three days! I knew that I would have difficulties in the Extreme and the Super Test against Steve and Alex and I am nevertheless very happy to hold on to 3rd place against the strong finish of FREEMAN.”
Brad FREEMAN : “I thought I had lost everything in the Enduro Test 2 when I broke my rear brake... but the quick intervention of my mechanic, Tino, allowed me to stay on time. I did not expect to win in the Sneior class so soon, and of course I'm happy. It was a tough but great day and this Grand Prix was perfectly organised!"
Alex SALVINI : “After my fall in the first Extreme, I didn’t think I had much chance to achieve the double or to be at the top of the championship, and to have won everything here since Friday is pure happiness for me. This incredible fight at the final Super Test was the perfect way to finish!”
Loic LARRIEU : “Since late March I’ve had a problem with a ripped ligament in my wrist, which not many people know about. At the beginning of the race it’s fine but then it gets complicated with the pain throughout the day. And what's more, I cannot train much because of this injury. So it’s not been easy, but I made the podium… "