Manuel Lettenbichler has won round two of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, the Xross Hard Enduro Rally in Serbia.
The German racer made a triumphant return from injury to secure the top step of the podium.
Behind Lettenbichler, history was made as Teodor Kabakchiev become the first Bulgarian to finish on the FIM Hard Enduro podium in second. Graham Jarvis put in another outstanding performance to finish in third. Jarvis now shares the championship lead with Billy Bolt after round two.
With the outcome of the Xross Hard Enduro Rally boiling down to the final day of racing in Serbia, all eyes were on Lettenbichler who started Day Three as the new race leader. The German was outstanding on Day Two and to his credit held a near eight-minute lead over closest rival Kabakchiev. With three Special Stages standing between him and the top of the podium, Lettenbichler was focused on the job in hand.
Off to a flying start, Lettenbichler topped the timesheets on the first Special Stage. At nearly two hours long it was a close battle but again had his classmates covered and extended his lead by another three minutes. Wade Young took second with Bolt third quickest. Although losing ground to Lettenbichler, Kabakchiev pulled time on Jarvis to strengthen his position in second overall.
A short 44-minute stage awaited riders for Special Stage 2 and this time it was Jarvis who edged out Bolt by four seconds, with Lettenbichler shadowing them across the line for third. The final Special Stage of the Xross Hard Enduro Rally was almost a formality for Lettenbichler and with no mistakes made, the KTM rider did enough to win round two of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship.
“Amazing! I am honestly so surprised to have won,” Lettenbichler said. “I didn’t come here expecting to, but things began to go my way and I got the job done. I think yesterday was the deal-breaker, building a big lead. But I know luck can quickly change so I had to keep focused today. It’s been a long time away from racing so to be back, and back winning, it’s amazing.”
Delivering a performance that was arguably every bit as impressive as Lettenbichler’s winning ride, Kabakchiev won the final stage in style to secure the runner-up result. In what’s been an incredible week for the Bulgarian, he’s shown that he’s ready to mix it with the world’s best Hard Enduro riders.
“It’s been an unbelievable week,” Kabakchiev said. “I came here hoping conditions would suit me and they did. Each day I gave my best and I think that was the best way. Hopefully this is just the beginning and I can keep racing with these guys at this level!”
For Graham Jarvis, the Brit again put his Husqvarna on the podium with a third place finish. Jarvis started out the final day with a comfortable cushion over Bolt in fourth. But he was still determined to push the pace and won the penultimate special stage. With two podium results from two starts, the Jarvis Racing Team Husqvarna rider now jointly leads the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship with Bolt.
“Wow, I’m pleased with this podium,” Jarvis said. “Two-from-two is cool. I just took each day as they came and it sort of worked itself right. I feel like my old confidence is coming back to me now. I’m worrying less about my knee and that’s a good sign. Erzbergrodeo is next, I’ll be giving it all I’ve got.”
For Bolt, the Serbian event was one of mixed fortunes. It started well by winning Wednesday’s AKRAPOVIC Straight Rhythm prologue as well as also leading at the end of Day One, but it was Day Two that ultimately pushed him off the podium. Dropping to fourth, it was a tall ask for the Brit to pull back that time on Jarvis and he had to be content with a fourth place overall result. However, he now jointly leads the championship with Jarvis.
Completing the top five was Young. The South African put in his best performance of the race on Day Three, with two top-three Special Stage times. The Sherco rider placed a close three minutes behind Bolt.
Results – FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, Round 2
Xross Hard Enduro Rally
1 Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 11:10:04
2 Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM) 11:20:07
3 Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 11:28:35
4 Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 11:37:27
5 Wade Young (Sherco) 11:37:27
6 Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 11:47:10
7 David Cyprian (KTM)12:07:55
8 Alfredo Gomez (GASGAS) 12:23:55
9 Will Hoare (GASGAS) 12:27:10
10 Matt Green (GASGAS) 12:45:20
Championship Standings (After Round 2)
1 Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 30 Points
2 Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 30 Points
3 Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM) 27 Points
4 Mario Roman (Sherco) 25 Points
5 Wade Young (Sherco) 22 Points
6 Alfredo Gomez (GASGAS) 21 Points
7 Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 20 Points
8 Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 18 Points