With the rule book thrown out of the window it was a time for change at the opening round of the 2018 FIM X-Trial World Championship, which opened the door to a new dawn for the future of indoor competitions. The Vendeespace stadium in France and the new promoter 2Play had the five fixed riders Toni Bou (Repsol-Honda-ESP); Adam Raga (TRS-ESP); Jaime Busto (Gas Gas-ESP); James Dabill (Beta-GBR) and Benoit Bincaz (Scorpa-FRA) and the four invited riders Arnau Farre (Vertigo-ESP); Jorge Casales (Vertigo-ESP); Matteo Grattarola (Montesa-ITA) and Jeroni Fajardo (Gas GasESP) on show in front of a packed stadium of a crowd of 3,200 motorcycle fans. The action was very ‘compact’ and intense but one element still remained the same, the winner Toni Bou!
Before the opening event a press release was made to explain what was happening with the changes: ‘The FIM and the company 2Play are pleased to announce that they have signed a Promoter Agreement for the FIM X-Trial World Championship – indoor trial. The Agreement is initially for five years and it will take effect for the 2017–18 season. This partnership is in line with the FIM’s strategic objectives for the development of the quality of its World Championships and the modernisation of its organisation. In addition to the X-Trial des Nations the 2017–18 calendar should feature between 7 and 8 events’.
The FIM President Vito Ippolito welcomes the Agreement: “For some time now the FIM Board and the Trial Commission have been exploring ways of reinvigorating our indoor Trial World Championship. The new concept put forward by 2Play and their ideas for the sporting side are very appealing. Also, the considerable experience of Bernard Estripeau and Josep Vergel in the world of motorcycling sport, and of Trial in particular, impressed us as a solid indicator of their ability to carry off the growth of this spectacular discipline. The FIM looks forward to working with 2Play for this new chapter in the history of X-Trial.”
The 2Play Event Production Manager Bernard Estripeau added: “This new working relationship with the FIM and 2Play will enable us to launch a new concept for X-Trial. The rules will be a total innovation in our discipline. This new system will enable us to change the concept of the sections and open up the sport to a larger number of riders. We also hope to attract young riders into the discipline. Altogether the new concept should make the sport more spectacular and dynamic.”
Under the new process where the riders qualify and go through to the final this has also changed. A new format will see three groups of riders go through the elimination stages to determine the competition’s eventual winner, as the top six then proceed to the next round in two heats and then the semi-final, where only the best of each of the two groups will go through to dispute the final. With the changes to the Championship it is expected it will be both exciting and spectacular, with a demanding selection of hazards while racing against a time limit of six minutes that will put the skills and balance of each of the nine riders to the test in this new competition format over the timed lap. Out of the nine riders six were making their first appearance on new machinery for the 2018 season.
The new format had the riders out in groups of three, with the six minute time allowance playing a part in the qualifying process. In heat one Matteo Grattarola, having moved to a satellite Montesa team, took first blood in front of Vertigo’s Jorge Casales and Arnau Farre. Making his debut with the Gas Gas team Jaime Busto then edged out his team-mate Jeroni Fajardo in the opening heat in the second group of riders. Great Britain’s James Dabill looked the most nervous in the third group but he finished one mark in front of Raga, who had a massive crash on the final hazard when his hand came off the handlebars as he dropped down from the high section six. Bou parted with a single mark.
Round two with its two heats would determine a winner from each one to proceed to the final. Busto had switched his skills from Montesa fourstroke to Gas Gas two-stroke power, and pushed Raga down to second as Fajardo dropped off the pace. Bou easily headed both James Dabill, who was debuting with his Beta, and home French rider Benoit Binaz. In the Spanish final between Bou and Busto it was the 11 times defending champion who raised his game to another level to throw out a warning to anyone who wants to challenge for his undisputed crown as the king of indoor trials: they will have to come up with something special, as he once again dominated the action.
Jaime Busto (Gas Gas-ESP) Jeroni Fajardo (Gas Gas-ESP) James Dabill (Beta-GBR)
Toni Bou (Repsol Honda-ESP) Adam Raga (TRRS-ESP)
Jorge Casales (Vertigo-ESP) Benoit Bincaz (Scorpa-FRA) Arnau Ferre (Vertigo-ESP) Matteo Grattarola (Montesa-ITA)