Wil Ruprecht has won the opening day of competition at round five of the WPTGlobal FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Gelnica, Slovakia.
A wet and muddy day of racing at the GP of Slovakia saw the Australian come good in the final test of the day to edge out Andrea Verona by 11 seconds for the win. Steve Holcombe was having fun in the tricky conditions and finished third overall.
After the hot, dry, and dusty conditions of round four in Portugal last month, competitors were greeted with cooler, wetter, and muddier conditions at round five of the WPTGlobal FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Gelnica, Slovakia. Lingering clouds ensured conditions stayed at that optimum level of tricky and challenging. Mastering the mud and adapting to changing race lines was key to success today.
On Friday evening it was Brad Freeman who topped the AKRAPOVIC Super Test to start this morning with a slender one-second lead over championship leader Andrea Verona. And Freeman didn’t miss a beat as he charged through the opening POLISPORT Extreme Test to extend his lead to almost six seconds.
However, Ruprecht was beginning to find his rhythm and on the ACERBIS Cross Test he set the fastest time to reduce that margin to two seconds. At over 14 minutes long the JUST1 Enduro Test was set to play a big factor in the results. With Verona and Ruprecht going 1-2 respectively, the pair moved to the head of the standings as Freeman slipped from first to fifth.
On lap two, Freeman was again fastest on the POLISPORT Extreme Test to move up to fourth. Ruprecht led, but it was only just, with an incredible one hundredth of a second splitting Ruprecht and Verona. Holcombe was six seconds back and keeping the pressure on.
At the end of lap two, the positions had changed once more, with Verona now leading by three seconds. Holcombe was still third, but losing ground. Entering the final test of the day, the ACERBIS Cross Test, Verona held a three-second lead over Ruprecht. However, luck was not on his side and with two crashes coming the Italian’s way, it was just what Ruprecht needed to claim victory.
“I was fortunate to get the win today, but I wasn’t completely happy with how I rode,” Ruprecht said. “After my crash at the GP of Portugal my bike time was a bit limited coming into this race but, hey, I’ll definitely take a win if I can! It’s also my first win in the wet and mud, so that was cool. Hopefully I can do it again tomorrow.”
Despite falling short of the won Verona was happy with his day.
“It’s been a good day,” Verona said. “There were some mistakes today, but that was always going to happen in these muddy conditions. Overall I was consistent, and I think I was actually leading entering the final test until I crashed twice. Hopefully tomorrow I can stay on two wheels!”
Behind Ruprecht and Verona, Holcombe – spurred on by winning the final POLISPORT Extreme Test – ended his day third overall.
“It’s been a good day, it was great to have such a good enduro test too,” Holcombe said. “Of course, there were a few places I could improve on, but I’ll try to do that tomorrow. Finishing on the podium today with third has been a great start to the weekend for sure.”
Returning to racing having missed round four due to injury, Josep Garcia finished fourth. Freeman completed the top five.
Australian Daniel Milner struck mechanical dramas that ended his day and will stop him racing tomorrow.
Results: GP of Slovakia, Day 1
1 Wil Ruprecht (TM Racing) 1:03:55.70
2 Andrea Verona (GASGAS) 1:04:07.24
3 Steve Holcombe (Beta) 1:04:13.55
4 Josep Garcia (KTM) 1:04:51.84
5 Brad Freeman (Beta) 1:05:00.63
6 Thomas Oldrati (Honda) 1:05:43.84
7 Mikael Persson (Husqvarna) 1:05:44.26
8 Matteo Pavoni (TM Racing) 1:05:53.49
9 Nathan Watson (Honda) 1:05:55.68
10 Leo Le Quere (Sherco) 1:06:02.17