Life is very much about times and places, and this is highly evident in any form of sport. Just take a look at just how many motorcycle riders have undoubted talent, who have been overshadowed by other riders who kept them away from the top spot of the sport as a world champion. The Trial World Championship is no different as we have seen two riders dominate the series since Adam Raga won world titles in 2005 and 2006 before Toni Bou controlled the world championship until the present day. Spain’s Jeroni Fajardo arrived on the international trials scene in 2002, winning the FIM European Championship title. In the same year, he started to compete in the world championship, scoring his first points in America for Gas Gas. Over the next 16 years, he would be a constant thorn in the side of his fellow competitors as he battled for the top spot in the sport. Two world round wins came his way, but he has very much been a man in the shadow of the top two. Showing some of his best form in 2018, we decided it was time to have a chat with the man himself, who appears to be enjoying life to the full.
Your 2018 Trial World Championship season has been one of your best, can you explain why?
The move back to Gas Gas was like coming home, as it was with that team that I first moved into the world championship back in 2002. It’s like a family to which I belong. Also, the machine is so, so good. Every time I get on the Gas Gas, my passion and competitive levels go up to another level. It’s a strange sensation but, in my heart, I feel as though I want to always, at every event, give them my very best — which works well for the team.
I witnessed the win in Japan on day one; that was some ride.
You know, sometimes you wake up in the morning, and you just know it’s going to be a good day. Well that was Japan on day one.
Qualifying had been very disappointing as you are penalised so heavily for even the smallest of mistakes. It may be a slow time, or maybe losing marks, but the pressure to perform in such a short space of time is so intense. With the slowest time, I was the first rider away from the start on day one. I decided to ride my own event; I rode every hazard first on the opening lap. After the first few hazards I felt really good and, with this, confidence. I completed the opening lap parting with no marks! I rode the second lap very much knowing that everyone else was under pressure to catch me up. Everyone in the team worked so well and, with it, the result came, which was the reward to Gas Gas for having faith in me when I joined the team for 2018.
The 2018 Gas Gas team had a mix of both youth, with Jaime Busto, and experience with yourself.
Yes, it is, shall we say, quite an interesting combination of the two: youth and experience. Jaime wants to win at everything, full stop. Such is his competitive level (his life is 100% based around enjoying himself on a motorcycle and I understand this), he is young and ambitious and it’s good to see him starting out in his trials career at the very top. On the other hand, I have a family and two young children and my life is much calmer than that of
a younger person. I can evaluate situations better, having seen and experienced so much in life. The team works very well, and we both have massive mutual respect for one another, which is very important. At this moment in time, my life is very good, and I enjoy every aspect of it.
Does the Gas Gas you ride have many changes from the production machine?
Gas Gas provides very well put-together production machines. Ours are taken from the same production line as the ones you can purchase yourself. We take it apart right down to every last nut and bolt and then rebuild it. During this process we can make any changes or adjustments but, believe me, there are very few. Yes, we are always working with the suspension and the engine to make sure we can get the best performance in all areas. I have my personal preferences applied from the many sponsors who support the team. I have two what we term ‘race’ machines and two which are used to test new parts and for training. These machines will be rotated during the season and introduced with any updates etc.
Your fitness has never been in doubt. Can you give us an insight into your training programme?
Generally, I love cycling and putting the road miles in which is where I find the solitude. Where I am alone, it’s a chance to clear the head. I spend time in the gym, as do all athletes, to keep all areas of my body at their very best. Riding the motorcycle is also very important, and I train on it as much as possible. Sometimes it’s just me, the team and others or with other riders from the trials ‘family’. If I need any entertainment, I take Jaime along!
Toni Bou has dominated the sport. What makes him so good?
He is a machine; it’s as simple as that. In any one lifetime someone comes along who is exceptionally good; just look at Valentino Rossi in MotoGP and how dominant Michael Schumacher was in Formula 1. No one ever thought there would be another Jordi Tarres; then came along Dougie Lampkin then, of course, Toni Bou. His chase for constant perfection is what makes him so good. At every hazard, he looks to be perfect all the way through. In his mind, he is also so focussed and can zone in so well. As I rider, if I'm able to challenge him, I have to try and understand how to break his ‘armour’. It’s difficult but not impossible, as I have proved.
At such a young age you were around as the new generation Gas Gas Pro model was introduced in 2002. Were you involved in its development?
I was in a very privileged position as the Gas Gas ‘family’ were literally like that to me — a family. In the early days, the Pro model was tough work as it was so new, to the point of being radical. The workings of the two-stroke engine and its manufacturing process changed to make it so small and compact. All the other manufacturers knew they were in trouble when the Pro was introduced.
Gas Gas always innovates. The introduction of the diaphragm clutch was a significant breakthrough in the trials worlds and the benchmark for everyone else to follow. At such a young age, it was exciting for me to be involved with this project. It taught me so much about machine set-up which I would benefit from in the later stages of my career.
How tough was your first year in the world championship?
My introduction to trials came about through cycle trials when I was very young, as it does with many of the Spanish riders. In the early days, it’s just such a tough learning curve as everyone looks better than yourself. You have to dedicate your life to the sport to succeed, and this was something I decided to do at a very young age. You first have to learn how to get through the hazards and then understand how to read the hazards. Once I had gone through this process, it was very much a case of working very hard.
After finding your feet in the world championship from 2002–2004, you took your first podium in France 2005 with a second position.
Both Dougie Lampkin and Takahisa Fujinami were so dominant; they had the support of the Repsol Honda Team. Gas Gas had Adam Raga. When you are up against these people, week in and week out, you just have to remain focussed and keep your sights on the ultimate goal in an early career, which is the podium. When I arrived there, it was a very happy day, believe me, with a massive sense of relief too!
At the end of 2006, you decided to move from Gas Gas to Beta.
The move was for me, personally, was a very difficult one as Gas Gas had treated me so well. Adam Raga was the world champion, and I fully understand that he was the main focus. I wanted a new motivation, and the move to Beta was to another good solid team. The whole package was very good, and I believed that I had the knowledge to challenge for the world championship with the new team around me. They made me very welcome.
You moved up to sixth in 2007 and then fourth in the world championship for the next three years, taking your first world round win in Andorra 2009.
In the world championship, there were some terrific battles for the victory with a very high standard of riding. Toni had taken to the four-stroke like, as they say in England, 'a duck to water'. The marks were sometimes very close. One five-mark penalty could push you away from the podium and, in many cases, the victory. As was the case in Japan my first world round victory came off the back of having a very good feeling, as it did in Andorra. I felt very good all day, and, in fact, I was not surprised I won. It was a very special day and a reward for all my hard work and commitment to the world championship.
In 2011 the move to Ossa resulted in a difficult year.
It was a project that promised so much. I really looked forward to the challenge of a new machine, but it did not work out. I was fortunate enough to be able to move back to Beta.
The move back home to Beta resulted in your best years in the TWC?
After the disappointment and upset with Ossa the return to Beta was a massive breath of fresh air. I was very, very motivated and wanted to show the world I could still compete with the very best. As always, Beta gave me a superb machine to compete on. Because I was so happy my results returned naturally and, once again, I was enjoying the sport I had invested so much time and effort.
Were the two years on the Vertigo not what you expected?
With the move to electronic fuel injection and quite a radical looking new machine, the project was very exciting. Maybe I was not as happy as I would have liked, however, having to learn how the fuel injection worked to gain the benefits from it. I looked at where I was in my career and when the opportunity to return to Gas Gas came it was time to make a move 'home’.
Back on the Gas Gas for 2018, you looked like a new rider!
At this moment in time, I am very happy with life in general. I have my family with my two young children and I am riding as well as I have ever done in my trials career. Yes, life is good. The results in 2018 have come from superb support both at home and in the Gas Gas team, and the constant search for perfection in my riding has definitely been rewarded this year.
How much longer can you be competitive as a top rider in the FIM Trial World Championship?
The biggest fear is injury as we have seen with Toni. Twice this year he has had to overcome the pain barrier to continue winning. If I can keep injuryfree and the opportunities in the sport continue, I believe I can remain competitive at this level for many more years to come!
Youth: Jaime Busto; and experience – Jeroni Fajardo. We are Team Gas Gas.
2018: Taking the win on day one in Japan – the perfect day arrived!
That incredible feeling when you are on top of the world – Japan 2018.
2002: European Championship Podium: 1 Jeroni Fajardo; 2 Sergi Lenzi; 3 Fabio Lezi; 4 Gregory Eyres; 5 Michael Phillipson.
52 2007: A move to Beta for the season, seen here in Spain at the opening round.
2006: World Championship action on the Gas Gas.
2009: The first win at the very top of the sport in Andorra.
2008: Luxembourg on the Beta.
2010: All action, at the world championship round in Scotland.
2011: The move to Ossa did not work out.
2015: Very much in control on the Beta high up in Andorra at the World Trials Championship.
2012: Back in the calm of the Beta factory team.
High flying on the Vertigo in France.
2018: This is how we arrive at the results in the Trial World Championship, as a team.
2018: Alongside one of the newer riders in the Trial World Championship Jack Price.
Winners with Gas Gas.