2017 FIM Trial World Championship
The opening round of this year’s Trial World Championship arrived with the riders welcomed to Camprodon in Spain with an exciting 2017 series to look forward to, as the introduction of a new promoter Sport7 would bring many changes with it. The area for the trial world championship offered a vast range of challenging conditions including rivers, rocks and steep climbs found in abundance in this mountainous region in the Pyrenees close to the French border. Motorcycle trials has witnessed many changes over the years. The sport started to generate European interest in the early sixties and a new championship was introduced titled the ‘Challenge Henri Gouthars’ series in 1964. In 1968 the series was granted FIM European status and was won by Sammy Miller, riding a Bultaco. With motorcycle trials becoming better recognised internationally the FIM granted full world championship status in 1975. Spain has hosted a round ever since as the series has grown, but the venue this year is a new and virgin one where the new promoters would introduce some radical changes.
Bringing trials in line with the other FIM motorcycle world championship disciplines, TrialGP is the top category featuring the most elite riders. The other classes are as follows: Trial2, Trial125, TrialGP Women and Trial2 Women, with these categories making up the rest of the championship. The latter three classes would only contest six of the eight events. The 2017 FIM Trial World Championship will be contested over eight rounds in venues all around the globe. Six events will take place on a single day, with the other two far away rounds in Japan and America having two days of points scoring rounds, making a total of ten points-scoring championship events for TrialGP and Trial2. Qualifying will take place the day before to decide the competition day’s starting order, with observation and time deciding the better start positions making for an exciting start to each event.
Promoters Sport7 have also introduced a new format for the TrialGP classes. Each day’s competition will include fifteen sections contested over two laps with a maximum time allowance of five hours. This will be allocated as two-and-a-half hours per lap, with a twenty-minute break after the first lap is completed.
Another ‘first’ for the championship is changes to the manufacturers’ championship and the way the points are scored. Montesa/Honda has dominated this category with 23 victories since its introduction in 1975. For 2017, manufacturers that have registered for this championship are able to choose a maximum of two riders per constructor, from the two categories TrialGP and Trial2, with the top riders in each class awarded points towards the constructors’ championship.
The action started in this new era of world trials in the bright sunshine. Starting on time the new elimination procedure over the qualifying section was soon under way and added a new dimension to the sport. After watching some spirited attempts from the Trial125 followed by the Trial2 class it was time for the TrialGP riders. The starting positions offered were decided by ballot and, as you would expect from Takahisa ‘Fullgas’ Fujinami he soon set the benchmark, but parted with a single foot down to hamper his progress up the order. Toni Bou was then the one to lead the way before a very smooth but spectacular Jamie Busto raised the bar as the last rider, Eddie Karlsson, went out to claim the last position after he also parted with a mark.
After the event opened to a fine start during the qualifying round on day one the conditions on race day took a turn for the worst as a thunderstorm halfway through the opening lap changed the nature of the 15 dry hazards. Heavy rain and hail came down and the conditions deteriorated quickly, affecting all three classes. Taking full advantage of this situation after a poor qualification, Albert Cabestany on the Sherco took a very slender lead going into the second lap just one mark in front of the ten-time FIM World Champion Toni Bou and two marks ahead of Adam Raga on the TRS. The youngest member of the Repsol Honda team, Jamie Busto, was the last rider out on the course but was not able to take advantage of this situation as the weather favoured the earlier riding numbers. After finishing the first lap just outside the top four on very close marks in a group which included Jeroni Fajardo on the Vertigo and Fujinami and Jorge Casales on the Beta, the podium dream for Jamie came crashing down with nine five-mark penalties incurred on the second lap.
On his way to another clear victory and his 90th outdoor world championship win Toni Bou just got better, opening up a winning twelvemark advantage from his career-long rival Adam Raga. Despite the changes to the event format it was very much a podium as seen before, as fellow Spanish rider Albert Cabestany took the final step. The battle for fourth position was much closer as Jeroni Fajardo finished just one mark in front of Japan’s Fujinami, who was the first non-Spanish rider. After a poor 2016 season by his standards Casales showed much better form to push a very disappointed Busto into seventh. Great Britain’s James Dabill on the Gas Gas rescued a poor opening lap to move into eighth, followed by another of the hot young talents from Spain, Miquel Gelabert on the Sherco, in ninth with Italian champion Matteo Grattarola rounding off the top ten on the Gas Gas.
Despite the many changes at the top level of the sport the reigning champion Toni Bou has once again thrown down the gauntlet as he took a clear-cut win on home soil in Spain. His latest victory also gained valuable points for Montesa in the new-format constructors’ championship, with an important win for Trial2 rider Gabriel Marcelli who is also four-stroke mounted on the Cota 4RT.
The action started in qualification, with Norway’s Hakan Pedersen setting the standard with the fastest time as three riders did sub-26-second times. But as with Busto in the TrialGP class Hakan could not turn this advantage into a solid race day result. Everyone knew at the start of the season that this very competitive class would throw up some surprises as potentially you have ten riders who can all win a round during the course of the championship. Now officially a world championship and not just a ‘Cup’ class the 2016 winner Jack Price had moved up into the TrialGP class for 2017, so a few fireworks are expected as we look for a new world champion.
Having moved through the world championship into the Trial2 class with support from the Spanish Federation, Gabriel Marcelli on the Montesa had not looked anything special in the qualification, taking eleventh position. Fellow team rider and also four-stroke mounted on the Cota 4RT, Francesc Moret used all his experience to gain an opening lap advantage, parting with just nine marks. A round winner last year, Luca Petrella was next on twelve on the TRS, followed closely – just a single mark behind – by the elder of the two Peace brothers from Great Britain Dan on the Gas Gas. Last year’s runner-up in the ‘cup’ class was Welsh rider Iwan Roberts on the Beta, who trailed Peace by just a single mark. Eventual winner Marcelli was a lowly eighth, on 21 marks lost.
In the rapidly deteriorating wet and cold conditions Spain’s Gabriel Marcelli finally managed to gain the advantage on section eight to take a single-mark win from Roberts, who was far from happy with his final score claiming he had parted with fewer marks than had been recorded. The secret for Marcelli was his two consistent laps of 20 and 21 to give him the close victory over Roberts. In third position, and showing his championship credentials, Petrella kept in front of a chasing pack on the TRS. The next positions were separated by single marks, with Moret fourth followed by the Gas Gas pairing of the two brothers Dan and Jack peace.
It was the same for the remainder of the top ten that included another Spanish Federation rider Marc Riba on the TRS followed by yet another 2016 round winner Gael Chatagno from France, who has moved from Sherco to Gas Gas in his quest for a world title. The last two remaining top ten positions would be taken by regular world series rider Filippo Locca from Italy on the Beta. Great Britain’s Toby Martyn made his world championship debut on the Vertigo and should be happy with his top-ten performance as he continues the process of learning at this high level of competition.
Promoted by Sport7, the new TrialGP FIM Trial World Championship opened its doors for the first time in Spain.
Franz Kadlec (Gas Gas-GER) entertains the crowd with his qualifying attempt that yielded 5th position. Jamie Busto (Repsol Honda-ESP) recorded history as the first winner of the newly introduced qualification process in the FIM Trial World Championship. Toni Bou (Repsol Honda-ESP)
Hakan Pedersen (Gas Gas-NOR) set the standard in qualifying with a time of 25.46, followed by Filippo Locca (Beta-ITA) at 25.61 and Francesc Moret (Montesa-ESP) 25.83. Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa-ESP) may have only finished eleventh in qualifying, but took the first victory in Trial2 of 2017. Iwan Roberts (Beta-GBR) was frustrated to finish second with the marks so close to the eventual winner.