KTM Enduro Factory Racing kicked off the World Enduro Championship in good form in the opening round of the 2015 competition in Talca, central Chile, registering strong results in Stage 1. However changing weather conditions on Sunday made conditions more difficult.
Riders faced typical world championship standard challenges and plenty of dust on the opening day Saturday and came out with wins in E1 and E2 thanks to team stalwarts and French duo Christophe Nambotin and Antoine Meo. Australian Matthew Phillips, the E3 title defender finished with a podium third but his teammate Ivan Cervantes struggled after twisting his knee early in Stage One.
Heavy rain overnight caused organizers to scrap the Extreme test for the first two laps of Stage Two and make some other adjustments to the course. But it was a day where the KTM riders in the E3 class did not do so well.
Nambotin, the defending champion started Saturday with a 10 second penalty after burning out a spark plug at the start and wrapped up his efforts by a margin of 62 seconds. His effort drew praise from team boss Fabio Farioli for taking the win by such a big margin. All indications are that Nambotin’s comments before the championship began about being in peak physical condition are already paying off.
Nambotin said it had been a tough day. “With the 10-second penalty, and the fact that Marc Bourgeois was very fast on the first lap, I had to keep pushing all day. It was very easy to make mistakes, especially on the extreme test, but it’s great to start the new season with a win.” Bourgeois and class rookie Daniel McCanney rounded off the Stage One E1 podium.
Nambotin crashed on the opening test of Stage Two on Sunday and despite a strong performance he was not able to make up the time, eventually conceding defeat to Remes. He still came away leading the class points after the opening action for 2015, even though he admitted he didn’t have a good feel for the terrain.
Christophe Nambotin: The first day was good for me, I felt really good on the drier conditions. Although things didn’t start very well on the Super Test I found my speed early on day one and was able to win. I made a big mistake on the first motocross test and lost a lot of time. I started to feel better as the conditions dried. I finished second, which with my win on day one is a positive start to the championship.”
Farioli said in Stage One that Meo “…had been relentless, like a diesel, he crashed a few times but was always pushing.” Meo was the winner of the KTM Super Test on Friday, an occasion that was celebrated by a big crowd of enthusiastic fans. At the half way mark, o Saturday he was in third place but then turned up the heat in the second half and was well positioned to capitalize on the situation when race leader Pela Renet crashed in the final Enduro test.
Antoine Meo: “The competition is always close in the Enduro 2 class and today it was exactly like that. I pushed hard during the final lap and things worked out great. The terrain was very slippery but the day ended in a very good way for me.” Alex Salvini and Johnny Aubert completed the Stage One E2 podium while KTM’s Victor Guerrero of Spain was a solid fifth.
Meo continued his good form on Sunday and was incredibly fast, surprising even himself with his speed in the first test. He maintained a very fast pace to go on to take a deserved win.
Antoine Meo: “Winning on day one was a great way to begin the season. The conditions were incredibly dry, but I felt stronger and stronger with each lap. I was surprised to be as fast as I was on the first test. Normally Renet is faster than me when it’s wet and slippery. But I got a big advantage immediately and felt better and better on each test after that. It was a great day. My feeling with my bike is really good. We worked a lot this winter to get a great set-up and I felt great all weekend. Also, I did a lot of training during the winter following my injury last year. Looks like we are in a good way and I’m looking forward to the season.”
Stage One saw title defender Matthew Phillips have a mixed day. He was strong on the three cross tests but a number of crashes saw him have to scramble for an eventual podium third on a day when French rider Mathias Bellino dominated the action. Finn Matti Seistola passed Phillips in the penultimate test to take second place.
Stage Two was not a good day for the KTM E3 riders. Phillips finished in an uncharacteristic eighth place. Teammate Ivan Cervantes, who has been troubled with recent injuries only managed a twelfth place finish in the second stage.
The championship resumes for Round 2 on May 9-10 in Jerez, Spain.