Special Tests A Massive Hit With Portuguese Fans
The fantastic weather from day 1 of the UFO Portuguese Grand Prix was repeated on day 2, much to the delight of the riders and spectators alike. Superb conditions encouraged thousands of spectators, even more than Saturday, to watch the breathtaking exploits of the World’s best Enduro riders as they battled for honours in and around the historic cities of Fátima and Ourém. The 3 special tests on each lap of the demanding 60kms track were all mobbed by crowds, eager not to miss a single minute of the action as it unfolded within the picturesque Portuguese countryside.
Enduro 1 saw consecutive win number 4 for Ivan Cerventes (ESP – KTM), the highly motivated Spaniard proving that his move to the smaller class for 2005 was perhaps a shrewd career move. The all new 250cc KTM performed superbly and his genuine happiness during the podium celebrations was a pleasure to watch. Simone Albergoni (I – Honda) was 2nd and Alessandro Belometti (I – KTM) 3rd in a repeat of Saturday’s top 3, both Italian riders much more at home in the rocky surroundings of Portugal. Cervantes said “I’m delighted to win again here in Portugal. I also had a very strong start in 2004, but this time I’m determined to continue with the momentum that I have found this year and the new bike is working very well so I’m really looking forward to Italy”.
Stefan Merriman (AUS – Yamaha) returned to Enduro 2 as though he had never been away after retiring on Saturday with a knee injury. Samuli Aro (SF – KTM) however made him battle for every second and the pre-season billing of the tremendous fight between these two was beginning to live up to its expectations at last, as Merriman’s lead at the finish was just less than 1.5 seconds! Merriman explained afterwards “I was in very bad pain on Saturday and couldn’t stand up on the bike after wrenching my knee in a crash. There was no way I could continue without being able to stand up, so we took the decision to retire early and have lots of treatment overnight. It paid off and I’m delighted, but it was a very close call at the finish, Samuli pushed very hard and I only just held him off for the win”. Fabien Planet (F – KTM) was a strong 3rd but in reality, he couldn’t match the electric pace of the two leaders. Despite this, ‘Hollywood’ as he is known in the paddock was delighted with his weekend’s performance and promised that there was more to come this year.
David Knight (GB – KTM) seems virtually unstoppable in Enduro 3. Once again his Xtreme test performances were outstanding and the Isle of Man resident was very upbeat about the Grand Prix as a whole. Mikka Ahola (F – Husqvarna) improved on Saturday’s performance, but only just. Knight’s KTM team mate Marko Tarkkala (SF – KTM) traded special test times with Ahola in the afternoon and their positions changed twice on the final lap with Ahola just clinching the win by the incredible margin of 0.8 of a second. “That was a close one” said Ahola in possibly the understatement of the weekend.
Enduro Junior featured the same three riders from Saturday’s podium but the results did not tell the full story. Cristobel Guerrero (ESP – Gas Gas) fought hard with 2nd place man Jake Stapleton (Aus –TM) all day, but held on for his 4th consecutive win. Daryl Bolter (GB – Husqvarna) claimed 3rd place behind the leaders, but only just. He endured a couple of time consuming crashes which he blamed firmly on himself and said later “I rode well but made a couple of mistakes. I’m learning more in every Grand Prix but most of all, I’m really enjoying myself”.
Competitors now have a month’s rest before the next race; the Xausa Sped Italian Grand Prix which takes place over the weekend of the 7th & 8th May at Tolmezzo in Italy. In the meantime, you can watch all the highlights from the UFO Portuguese Grand Prix in the comfort of your own home. The action packed TV programme will be broadcast initially on Friday, 15th April on Motors TV, checkout www.motorstv.com for further details.
Info copyright ABC-WEC.COM – Photographer: D. Agrati