We look back at the FunnelWeb Filter Grand Prix of the United Kingdom which will go down as a highlight in the Maxxis FIM EnduroGP World Championship annals...
In 2016 when Alain BLANCHARD (ABC Communication) asked British Enduro legend Paul EDMONDSON to organise a World round in Great Britain, the quadruple World Champion did not hesitate for a second! With his "Fast Eddy Racing” team, they took on this challenge and proposed an unprecedented format: an Enduro Sprint combined with a GNCC! EDMONDSON and his team were determined it could work, and they showed a lot of sincerity and professionalism from the beginning to the end... The choice of the circuit of Hawkstone Park proved a winner with the many national riders (about 160) and the compact nature of the venue pleased all the riders and teams, as well as the promoter and the FIM! Undoubtedly, one of the great favourites for the "Organisation of the Year” title!
It was a big surprise for us when we saw our quadruple World Champion Laïa SANZ (E - KTM) in the paddock on Friday afternoon. In full preparation for the Rally of Morocco, the Catalan decided to take a few days off and come to see this "atypical" GP: "I have excellent memories of Hawkstone Park when we had the World Trial Championship here in 2005. And then this formula intrigues me a lot so I was curious, and I must confess that it is very interesting for the future!"
In the Sunday GNCC regulations, each rider was obliged to make at least two “pit stops”, where they could top up their fuel and make some adjustments to the bike. These pit stops played a key role in the race. After 45 minutes, Steve HOLCOMBE (GB - Beta), in the lead at the time, was forced to take his first stop. Reason: a damaged rear wheel. The British rider lost more than 10 minutes, which took away any hope of a final victory. These pits stops also played an important role in the final victory in the EnduroGP category: Christophe CHARLIER (F - Husqvarna), in the lead, made the decision to pit again while Nathan WATSON (GB - KTM) gambled on staying out to try and win the race. A winning decision by the factory KTM rider who took the top spot after a dramatic and intense race!
Driving in Britain was a daunting prospect for many people from the paddock, and they had to get used to driving on the left! Unfortunately, old habits are hard to break. Indeed, after the race on Saturday, the friendly Michel ST JEAN (agent for several French riders) as well as Philippe LARRIEU (father of Loïc), were victims of a road traffic accident. The teams and the riders from EnduroGP join ABC Communication to wish a good recovery to these two well known and nice members of the paddock...
Spectators Turn Out
The Fast Eddy Racing crew had put everything in place to attract the maximum number of spectators; good communication and promotion on social media, a commercial village right next to the pits and the circuit, and an evening of entertainment organised on Saturday with a concert... And the crowds responded throughout the weekend! Several thousand British fans made the trip to see the stars of EnduroGP and cheer their idols: Steve HOLCOMBE, the MCCANNEY brothers, Brad FREEMAN (GB - Beta), Nathan WATSON and David KNIGHT (GB - KTM). They also gave a lot of support to EGP World Champion Matthew PHILLIPS (AUS - Sherco) who treated them to some spectacular riding on Saturday’s Cross Test!
We often say that Enduro is a sport which sees riders pushed to their limits and testing their mental strength. For many people, Enduro riders are like warriors. This weekend, the whole paddocks were able to show that they are indeed fighters just like Giacomo REDONDI (I – Honda) who ended the Cross Country with an injured shoulder. But if we had to pick one in particular, it would be Christophe CHARLIER (F - Husqvarna). A rookie in Enduro this year, the Corsican is building a strong reputation as a man who is hard to keep down, and who keeps fighting until the end. This was proven further on Sunday at Hawkstone Park. The factory Husqvarna rider got off to a bad start, but he was quickly up to second place, before passing WATSON. He was then leading after the 2 hour mark, before falling heavily for the first time. But CHARLIER was not going to let it go, he attacked hard and was once again on the hunt for the British rider. He clawed back 25 seconds before falling a second time, very heavily. At the end, dehydrated and on the edge of passing out, the Frenchie put everything into one final push, earning himself an incredible second place before requiring urgent medical attention. You said warrior?!
At this FunnelWeb Filter GP in the UK, some sponsors were keen to come and see the very first round mixing Enduro Sprint and Cross Country. Of course, the title sponsor FWF was present with Niels VAN KEMPEN and their British importer Clive HUNTLEY. The air filter manufacturer had an exhibition stand right in front of the podium. We also saw Martin WABNEGGER from Motorex and Sjoerd FOKKENS from Maxxis Europe. All were won over by this new format, which could allow more countries where it is difficult to run traditional Enduro to be able to host a round of the World Championship!
RAUCHI Makes History!
The victory by Austrian Pascal RAUCHENECKER (Husqvarna) on Sunday afternoon at the GNCC will remain in the history books of World Enduro for two reasons! In fact, the factory Husqvarna rider became the first rider to have won a Cross Country in the history of the EnduroGP, but in addition he became the very first Austrian to win a day on the international stage. Things are looking good for the future of RAUCHENECKER, who also won the scratch by pulling out one minute over the stars of EnduroGP. An incredible performance from the HVA rider.
It was not until the penultimate round of the championship that Chilean Ruy BARBOSA (Husqvarna) finally climbed to the top of the podium in Youth 125cc! Very close during the whole season, but often making mistakes, the rider supported by Jolly Zanardo finally managed to tie everything together to beat his two strong rivals Andrea VERONA (I - TM) and Léo LE QUERE (F - TM)...
"This GP has been so special for me! I made too many mistakes during the season and here, where the competition between us has never been so close, I managed to stay focused and win the two days. It is magic!” Confessed BARBOSA who was able to ‘do the double’ in front of his father, the young Chilean was delighted and excited to share such an excellent victory!