Trials

Toni Bou and Emma Bristow In control On Day One of TrialGP of Japan

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Toni Bou at 2024 Hertz FIM Trial World Championship in Motegi, Japan. Photo: Future7Media

Defending champions Toni Bou and Emma Bristow dominated the TrialGP and TrialGP Women classes on day one of the Taisei Rotec TrialGP of Japan – the opening round of the 2024 Hertz FIM Trial World Championship.

In Trial2 former champion Sondre Haga claimed an historic first win at this level for an electric motorcycle.

The majority of sections at the Mobility Resort Motegi were laid out on a super-steep wooded hillside with a mixture of imported boulders and natural rocky outcrops providing a tough test for the world’s best riders. Warm weather resulted in dry conditions which left grip in short supply as the loose soil was dragged onto the imposing rocks studding the near vertical climbs and descents.

Bou – who is chasing his eighteenth consecutive TrialGP title this season – started the day looking strong and as the Trial progressed the Spanish superstar continued to build, taking command of the premier class and cruising clear as the challenge of his rivals fell away.

“The first round of the season is always very special,” said Bou, “and even more so in Japan because it is Honda’s home. I had a great start with a very good first lap and I followed it with one of the best second laps of my career. I’m super-happy to start the season in this way.”

With a rule change allowing riders to stop and go backwards in 2024, Bou only fell foul of the new ninety-second section time limit once, adding a mark to the twelve penalties he collected on observation on his first lap, but that still saw him nine clear of his team-mate Gabriel Marcelli – who picked up four time penalties – at the halfway stage.

Veteran Spaniard Adam Raga, making his TrialGP debut for his new team, held third following the first lap on twenty-eight after reeling in France’s Benoit Bincaz who was two marks further back.

Bou’s miserly second-lap total of just one mark put the result beyond doubt as Marcelli added another sixteen to his score for second ahead of Raga who reduced the deficit to his young compatriot to just three with Spain’s Aniol Gelabert moving into fourth ahead of Matteo Grattarola from Italy.

At the start of the day Jaime Busto, TrialGP vice-champion for the last two seasons and winner of the opening event of 2023, was expected to provide Bou’s main opposition. However, after cleaning the first section a suspected fuel problem put him at a severe disadvantage and the Spaniard was forced to push his bike to the end of the lap, picking up a series of maximums that left him at the bottom of the leaderboard at the beginning of lap two.

Fighting all the way until the final section, his second lap total of fourteen was only good enough for him to claw back one position and he ended the day in ninth.

Emma Bristow at 2024 Hertz FIM Trial World Championship in Motegi, Japan. Photo: Future7Media

After tasting defeat at the opening round of 2023, Britain’s Emma Bristow – who is bidding to make it ten TrialGP Women titles in eleven years in what she has stated will be her final season of top-level competition – started the day in a determined mood. A pair of early maximums looked to be expensive, but she still caught and passed Berta Abellan to lead by a single mark at the end of the first lap before taking control.

Adding just five marks on her second lap, Bristow’s final total of nineteen saw her finish sixteen ahead of Andrea Sofia Rabino from Italy who took full advantage of a series of maximums by Abellan on lap two to take second from the Spaniard by a single mark.

“It’s been a great start to the season,” said Bristow. “I rode quite well, but I made a couple of mistakes which hopefully I can cut out tomorrow.”

France’s Naomi Monnier ended the day in fourth a further twenty-two marks adrift with British hopeful Alice Minta claiming fifth on a total of sixty-five.

Sondre Haga at 2024 Hertz FIM Trial World Championship in Motegi, Japan. Photo: Future7Media

Trial2 champion in 2022, Norwegian star Haga ensured the new GASGAS TXE made an impressive debut in top-level competition as he led home an electric motorcycle one-two from France’s Gael Chatagno with Alex Canales from Spain completing the podium.

“It’s a really amazing feeling,” said Haga. “Everyone in the team has been working really hard so to come here and win at the first attempt is incredible.”

A pair of dabs were Haga’s only loss on the first lap, putting him seven clear of Chatagno and Canales. Losing a single mark on lap two, Haga made sure of victory as Chatagno went clean to break free of Canales who picked up an additional four.

Britain’s Jack Peace also recorded a faultless second lap as he advanced to fourth on a total of fifteen which put him three clear of Arnau Farre from Spain with defending champion Billy Green from Britain slumping to a disappointing tenth.

The action from the Mobility Resort Motegi resumes tomorrow.

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