A new season has begun and with it, the return of our traditional Paddock News. Our year on the road started with the AMV Grand Prix of Finland, integrated into the legendary “Lake Päijänne” race! We look back at a weekend which taught a lot to everyone in the EnduroGP paddock.
It is the exact number of volunteers who were present throughout the weekend to lend a hand to the highly professional HMK club! With 26 different special tests over two days, these 800 volunteers had their work cut out, but they did an excellent job. Guided by Mauri PENTTINEN and Kenneth LAAKSONEN, the whole organisation was very impressive and there were no hiccups. No wonder that this race has been going strong for so long, with last weekend marking the 82nd edition! Hats off to the HMK and its 800 volunteers who put together a spectacular event. Hoping to see them again in 2018!
AMV Assurance with Super Support
Title sponsor of the Grand Prix of Finland, AMV Insurance, put together a great support package last weekend. Indeed, Agnes ROUVIERE, Audrey PUJOL and Jean-Thomas BABLET invited and welcomed a large contingent of journalists for this event. Whether from the printed press (Moto Journal, Enduro Mag, Moto & Motards) or from television (Direct Auto, High Side or AB Motors), all the journalists were impressed by the Grand Prix and left Finland with a new perspective on World Enduro. Brilliant work from AMV, who never do things by halves, and have therefore increased media coverage of EnduroGP!
The Kytonen Invasion
The Finnish Husqvarna team “Kytonen Motorsport” is well known in their homeland, where they have won the last three editions of the Päijänne Enduro thanks to Marko TARKKALA (SF) and Antti HELLSTEN (SF). And while they could not achieve a clean sweep in 2017 due to Eero REMES’ (SF – TM) dominance in Enduro 2, they nevertheless put together a strong attack on the World Championship. HELLSTEN left the Grand Prix with the EnduroGP points lead, while Marko TARKKALA was second in the same category, just ahead of Steve HOLCOMBE (GB – Beta) and Matthew PHILLIPS (AUS – Sherco). In E2, Henric STIGELL (SF – 2/3) is the provisional main combatant of his compatriot REMES. While in Junior, Eemil POHJOLA (SF) dominated against the regulars of the Championship; SORECA (I – Honda), PERSSON (S – Yamaha) and MIRABET (E – Sherco). Finally, the team managed by Harri LEPPALAAKSO were also impressive in the 125cc Youth Cup, where they occupy the first two places in the class with Hermanni HALJALA (SF) and Hugo SVARD (SF)… this team is full of riders ready to attack the standings!
Riding at Night?!?!
Having to race at night is almost unthinkable for many Enduro competitors, and even for fans. And yet the stars of EnduroGP were forced to race in the dark for the last special test of the day on Saturday – they even had to change their tyres in the dark! It was a new experience for everyone, giving photographers some stunning images, and giving fans a chance to see World Enduro from a new angle.
VECCHI, a Privateer for Päijänne
AMV Assurance offered the winner of its AMV Trophy Andros (Snow Racing) Cup the chance to participate in this legendary race. The victor who earned this special prize was former World Championship competitor Elie VECCHI (F – Husqvarna). The Corsican did not hesitate to accept the offer and take on the Päitsi adventure! Arriving with just his mechanic he took part in the race as a privateer, and was therefore helped by the Finnish organisation who offered him a place to carry out bike servicing after each special, as well as refuelling, and warm clothes. The Kytonen Motorsport Team helped by providing him with a brand new HVA 250… Finally the Frenchman, who was not really prepared for this adventure, received advice from Enduro superstar Kari TIAINEN just before the start. VECCHI showed a lot of perseverance, finishing both days without any big problems.
Unfortunately it is fairly common at the beginning of the season for the EnduroGP stars to experience injuries. The first rider down was Mathias BELLINO (F – Husqvarna) who injured himself two days before the race at a private practice session with his team (on the infamous SAARENKOSKI training area that caused costly injuries to Anders ERIKSSON in 2005)… the result: multiple fractures to his left scapula, three cracked ribs and some bruising to his lung. The Frenchman will need to undergo further examinations this week. Other favourites injured during this Grand Prix were Junior rider Albin ELOWSON (S – Husqvarna) who sustained painful damage to his ribs, liver and lung. Victor GUERRERO (E – Yamaha) was also forced to stop on Saturday after a sternum injury. We would like to wish these riders a speedy recovery and hope to see them back very soon!
One of the main criticisms made during the announcement of the arrival of the Lake Päijänne race was the assumption that there would not be many spectators on the tests or around the paddock because of the inclement weather and the lengthly rally-style race. But it is clear that the objectors were wrong, as many fans enjoyed the 26 tests featured in the race. Jean-Guillaume MEILLER, director of the Enduro committee at the FIM, as well as numerous team managers from KTM, Beta, Husqvarna and Yamaha and Sherco, were impressed by the number of spectators who followed the race throughout the weekend. All of them enjoyed this first experience in the cold Finnish forests…
The Last Special – Live on TV!
To make the event even bigger, the HMK found a way to broadcast a special test live on Finnish TV’s main television channel, YLE. The last test of the weekend, which took place in the district of Malmi in Helsinki, was followed by many spectators and viewers, and Mauri PENTTINEN and Kenneth LAAKSONEN welcomed the media coverage of this 82nd edition of Päitsi…
A few seasons ago, Aleksi JUKOLA (SF – KTM) took part in the FIM Maxxis EnduroGP World Junior Championship with the Beta Boano team. He struggled and was only able to score a few points in this tough Under 23 category. But last weekend he took his revenge by going for a brilliant podium in EnduroGP on Saturday (he even led a good part of the race) and a 6th place on Sunday. The Finn is now in 5th place in the standings in front of big names such as Nathan WATSON (GB – KTM), Loïc LARRIEU (F – Yamaha) and Giacomo REDONDI (I – Honda). Even though we are sadly not likely to see him again for the rest of the season, his performance was a nice way to put his difficult Junior season behind him…