Day two of the opening round of the 2018 World Enduro Super Series – the Extreme XL Lagares – got distinctively urban as competitors tackled the infamous cobbled streets of Porto, Portugal with Britain’s Jonny Walker (KTM) taking the win.
With thousands of spectators watching on, the 252-strong entry from 20 nations charged their way across on array of man-made obstacles along the Ribeira do Porto harbour front, while the Pro and Expert riders also raced past doorways and up staircases as they blasted their way around the surrounding streets.
Eager to make amends for the mistake that cost him victory during Friday’s Endurocross, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jonny Walker started his time trial qualifier in determined fashion. Pushing hard and risking everything, the Brit topped the result sheets to set the fastest time of the 47 Pro riders.
Fresh off his Friday night Endurocross victory, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Billy Bolt (GB) stopped the clocks just two seconds behind Walker, while 2017 Extreme XL Lagares winner Sherco Factory Racing’s Wade Young (South Africa) placed three tenths of a second behind Bolt.
With the fastest 10 riders lining up for the Prologue Super Final, all eyes were focused on who would take an early lead. Timing the start perfectly, Walker exited the tricky first corner in front and looked to make a break for victory. However, with Bolt, Kevin Gallas (Husqvarna – Germany) and Young all hot on his heels the pressure was on.
Keeping his cool, Walker entered the cobbled streets in the lead and despite the best efforts of Bolt, the KTM rider held firm to take a well-deserved win. With Bolt second, Gallas fended off a challenge from Young to complete the top three, while Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – Germany) rounded out the top five, crossing the finish line just one-second adrift of Young.
In the highly-competitive Expert class there was joy for Spain’s Antonio Molares (Sherco) who claimed a commanding 21-second margin of victory in the Prologue. As runner-up, Britain’s Lee Sampson made it a Sherco 1-2, while Josu Artola (Husqvarna – Spain) edged out Portugal’s Paulo Esteves (KTM) by two hundredths of a second for third.
The Hobby category saw one of Portugal’s own come out on top of the 65 entrants with Emanuel Costa Jr. (Husqvarna) winning from Jordi Castella (Husqvarna – Spain) and Filipe Silva (Husaberg – Portugal).
The third and final day of racing at the WESS opener at the Extreme XL Lagares will see riders battle the slippery and technical riverbed and forestry of the Lagares and Penafiel regions during the main race. The Pro riders will complete two laps of the course, while all remaining classes will ride one lap.
Jonny Walker (KTM – GB): “That Prologue was really good. I know how difficult it is to overtake people here so I knew I needed a good start in the Super Final. Billy was pushing hard, but I didn’t want to give in. We were close going over the big tyres, but I had the better line and was able to commit more and hold on for the win.”
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB): “The Prologue was really good fun. This is my first time here and until you actually ride the course you have no idea how tight it is or how steep the staircases are — the videos don’t do it justice. In the final I had a really good fight with Jonny. We were neck-and-neck over the tyres, but he had the inside line going into the corner. With a first and second place so far I hope I can keep this momentum going into Sunday’s main event.”
Kevin Gallas (Husqvarna – Germany): “That was a crazy race. It is such an amazing event and it feels so good to be here. To go up against all the factory riders is great, but to get a result like this feels brilliant. I’m over the moon to finish third against the best riders in the world.”
Results – WESS Round 1, Extreme XL Lagares Prologue Super Final (Pro Class)
1. Jonny Walker (KTM – GB) 4:31.64; 2. Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB) 4:34.01; 3. Kevin Gallas (Husqvarna – GER) 4:42.19; 4. Wade Young (Sherco – RSA) 4:45.70; 5. Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER) 4:47.14; 6. Diogo Vieira (Yamaha – POR) 4:54.80; 7. Pol Tarres (Husqvarna – ESP) 5:03.71; 8. Josep Garcia (KTM – ESP) 5:06.56; 9. Mario Roman (Sherco – ESP) 5:08.56; 10. Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – Pol)