Italy’s Andrea Verona has claimed first blood at the end of the first full day of competition at the opening round of the 2022 WPTGlobal FIM EnduroGP World Championship, the ACERBIS GP of Spain in Lalin.
In what boiled down to a three-way fight for victory, the GASGAS Factory Racing rider emerged victorious from the final Just1 Enduro Test to secure his maiden EnduroGP overall win. With less than four seconds separating the top three, Britain’s Steve Holcombe and Australia’s Will Ruprecht completed the EnduroGP podium on day one.
The long-anticipated start of the 2022 WPTGlobal FIM EnduroGP World Championship began in earnest with the traditional Friday evening AKRAPOVIC Super Test. Italy’s Alex Salvini put in the best time to top the standings, but with Holcombe, defending FIM EnduroGP World Champion Brad Freeman, and Verona in close contention, the fight was on.
Holcombe wasted no time in getting up to speed on Saturday morning, winning the opening POLISPORT Extreme Test by an impressive seven seconds to take an early lead. From good, things very quickly went bad for the Brit as a heavy fall on the ACERBIS Cross Test saw him lose precious seconds. At the end of the opening lap the positions had changed – fastest in the JUST1 Enduro Test, Verona headed Holcombe by less than two tenths of a second, with Nathan Watson close behind in third.
Throughout the day the positions chopped and changed, and with Australian Ruprecht joining the mix, it was all to play for on the final lap. Entering the final test, Holcombe, Ruprecht, and Verona were separated by just two seconds. But with the Italian bettering his rivals, he exited the JUST1 Enduro Test as a first-time EnduroGP class winner.
“It feels amazing to get my first victory in EnduroGP class,” Verona said. “This year my goal was to try and win EnduroGP at least once, so to do it on day one is incredible. Hopefully, this is just the start of more victories to come.”
Behind the top three of Verona, Holcombe, and Ruprecht, a blisteringly fast final test by Spain’s Josep Garcia slotted him into fourth. Mistakes throughout the day ultimately kept Garcia off the podium. A strong ride from Watson saw him end the day fifth overall. A difficult season opener for Freeman dropped him to ninth, but he will look to rebound on Sunday.
As the EnduroGP class winner, Verona naturally also topped the Enduro1 category, to get his title defence off to a perfect start. Behind him, Thomas Oldrati earned a hard-fought second, with Frenchman Theophile Espinasse third.
With the top Enduro2 competitors fighting for the EnduroGP overall, the pace was high. Despite a small mistake on the final test, Holcombe hung on to win by just one tenth of a second from Ruprecht. After a mixed start, Garcia came on strong in the closing stages to finish third and place just two seconds behind Holcombe.
“Things started off great on the first extreme test, but I had a massive crash on the next cross test,” Holcombe explained. “But I’m pleased with how I regrouped and was able to get back in the battle for the win. I’m a bit gutted to have missed out at the end, but I’m fired up to go again tomorrow!”
Aussie Will Ruprecht was excited to get his season off to such a flying start.
“What a way to open the season, it was crazy close all day! I am happy with how I’m riding, so I’m pleased to be on the podium in this company. I’ll regroup and get ready to go again tomorrow.” Ruprecht said.
Australian Daniel Milner finished 5th in E2 and 11th Overall for the round.
While things didn’t go his way in the EnduroGP category, Freeman still put in a winning ride in Enduro3. Class newcomer for 2022, Davide Guarneri, who starts his 20th season of world championship competition in 2022, didn’t waste any time in settling himself in and muscled his way onto the podium in second place. Matteo Pavoni, Junior champion in 2021, made a strong step up into the senior ranks to finish on the podium in third.
The Women’s class was all about one rider – Jane Daniels. The Brit was the rider to beat winning all but two special tests to secure a commanding 70-second margin of victory. Mireia Badia enjoyed a strong ride to take second, with Rosie Rowett third.