Merriman and Salminen claim double wins in the Enduro 1 and 2
UFO Corse Yamaha rider Stefan Merriman added a double class victory to his first place result on day one of the season opener in Spain to come away from the GP of Portugal with a 50-point maximum score in the Enduro 1 class this past weekend.
Comfortably topping the E1 class on day one ahead of Honda Italy rider Simone Albergoni, Merriman found himself just seven seconds ahead of KTM Racing’s 125cc rider Petteri Silvan at the close of day two. With Albergoni claiming the runner-up spot on day one, before being pushed down to the third and final rostrum position on day two, French Yamaha rider Marc Germain claimed third on day one in what will more than likely be his second and last WEC event of ’04.
As expected Juha Salminen dominated the Enduro 2 class in Portugal finishing a massive one minute and 13 seconds ahead of Italian Alessandro Botturi on day one. With Botturi again placing on the podium as he did in Spain, Spaniard Arnau Vilanova proved that his impressive rides at his home GP weren’t just one-off performances as he finished third, just under 10 seconds behind Botturi.
Day two again saw Salminen run away with the class win with the runner-up spot going to British Honda rider Paul Edmondson. Making his first visit to a WEC podium in ’04, Edmondson placed 50 seconds behind Salminen but four ahead of Botturi.
In the Enduro 3 class victory was shared between Farioli KTM rider Ivan Cervantes and KTM Racing rider Samuli Aro. With Samuli setting the pace on day one, but then crashing twice and handing victory to Cervantes, the Finn made up for his day one disappointment to claim the victory on day two – but only just.
Finishing less than one second ahead of Cervantes Aro proved that while things are certainly going to be close in the E3 class in ’04 he’s not prepared to let the Spaniard walk away with the title, as many have suggested he might.
Finishing as the runner-up on day one behind Cervantes was David Knight aboard the D3-Racing KTM while finishing on the podium for the first time in ’04 was Mika Ahola in third. With the KTM duo of Aro and Cervantes battling for the class win on day two, Husaberg rider Marko Tarkkala joined Ahola in making his first trip to the rostrum with third on day two.
While certainly not as dusty as the season opener in Spain, conditions in Portugal were dry and rocky with the three laps per day testing the endurance of all but the fittest riders. And with most of the events course being littered in rocks, the event, like the Spanish race one week earlier, will be remembered as a difficult one.
Photo (C) D. Agrati – Info www.abc-wec.com