Spain’s Josep Garcia (KTM) has put in a dominant display of riding at the Hawkstone Park Cross-Country to claim a start-to-finish victory at round six of the World Enduro Super Series. Firmly stamping his authority on the proceedings, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider continued on his winning performance from Saturday’s qualifying Sprint Enduro to charge to the top step of the podium in Sunday’s Original Fast Eddy Cross-Country, securing his first win of the 2018 WESS series.
It was a memorable race for British riders as fan favourites Nathan Watson (KTM) and Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) secured podium results at their home race with second and third respectively. In finishing third on the day Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Bolt becomes the new championship leader with two rounds remaining.
With scattered showers blowing through the iconic Hawkstone Park venue, the skies cleared for the start of Sunday’s two-and-a-half-hour Original Fast Eddy Cross-Country, much to the welcome relief of the 250 riders on the start line. After Saturday’s electric qualification event, Garcia took pole position and was quick to turn that advantage into a holeshot as the riders blasted off the start line. With his nose in front, the Spaniard immediately set a blisteringly fast pace to distance himself from the chasing pack. Lap after lap the KTM rider edged further and further ahead from his closest challengers Watson and Bolt to charge his way to an eventual one-minute and 34-second margin of victory.
However, behind Garcia the battle raged on between Watson, Bolt and early contenders Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – POL) and Jaume Betriu (KTM – ESP) with British wildcard Alex Snow (Honda) and Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER) close behind.
During the first hour both Watson and Bolt swapped positions as they broke clear of Blazusiak and Betriu. With a perfect pitstop, Watson jumped into second and it was a position he would control until the chequered flag. Despite keeping Watson honest throughout, Bolt had to settle for the final step of the podium, but in doing so also moved to the top of the championship standings.
While Watson and Bolt battled for the runner-up result, Blazusiak and Betriu similarly went head-to-head for fourth, with the KTM duo enjoying a race-long fight. Finding a bit more energy in the closing stages, Blazusiak was able to keep his pace high around the physically demanding sand circuit to secure fourth, with Betriu completing the top five.
Impressing in his debut WESS ride, Snow showed competitive pace amongst the series regulars. Unfazed, he charged his way to a well-deserved sixth. Enduring an up-and-down race, Lettenbichler’s progress was hampered by numerous crashes and he slipped down the running order to an eventual seventh.
Behind the top seven, Paul Bolton (KTM – GB), Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna – GB) and Alfredo Gomez (Husqvarna – ESP) rounded out the top 10.
The World Enduro Super Series continues with round seven at Sweden’s Gotland Grand National on October 26/27.
Josep Garcia (KTM – ESP): “I am really happy to win my first race in WESS. I felt really good in the race – I set off first and stayed in front the whole time. My team were great, they let me know how much of an advantage I had and so I was able to gauge the gap back to Nathan. I did have a couple of crashes but thankfully it was nothing too serious and I didn’t lose too much time. I’ve really enjoyed myself here at Hawkstone Park. It’s been an awesome weekend and to win both days is perfect. It’s given me added motivation for hopefully another good result at the next round.”
Nathan Watson (KTM – GB): “That was a great race. I got a good start and moved into second but then on the first lap a stone flew up and damaged my goggles, so I had to make an early pit stop. Billy caught me and was really fast through the stones – he was riding straight through the middle, but I was riding around them. I was gaining time back on the faster stuff and eventually got into a good rhythm and was able to move back into second. I didn’t have enough left to go after Josep, he was riding well today but overall I am happy with my result and it’s great to get my first WESS podium.”
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB): “I knew my pace was good today but my plan was to just ride my own race and see where I finished. I knew Josep and Nathan would be fast so my goal was to stick to a steady rhythm and hopefully not be too far behind them. I caught up to Nathan at one point and was a little stronger in some of the sections. I started to crash a little bit though so just eased off a little and focused on claiming a safe third for the championship. The track was great, there was one rock-step that I was hitting quite hard and jumping – the crowd really loved it! The support from the fans was incredible – all the way around the track they were cheering and spurring me on. It’s fantastic to get my second podium in as many races and also take the lead in the championship. Of course there’s still a lot of racing left to go but this is motivation to keep working hard.”
Results – Hawkstone Park Cross-Country, Round 6
1. Josep Garcia (KTM – ESP) 15 laps, 2:30:03.444; 2. Nathan Watson (KTM – GB) 2:31:34.016; 3. Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 2:32:52.010; 4. Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – POL) 2:34:39.777; 5. Jaume Betriu (KTM – ESP) 2:35:58.297; 6. Alex Snow (Honda – GB) 2:37:39.788; 7. Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER) 2:40:29.096; 8. Paul Bolton (KTM – GB) 14 laps 2:31:09.353; 9. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna – GB) 2:31:50.623; 10. Alfredo Gomez (Husqvarna – ESP) 2:33:26.699…
Provisional Championship Standings (After round 6 of 8)
1. Billy Bolt (Husqvarna – GB) 4060pts; 2. Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM – GER) 3935pts; 3. Josep Garcia (KTM – ESP) 3320pts; 4. Wade Young (Sherco) 3220pts; 5. Taddy Blazusiak (KTM – POL) 2985pts; 6. Jonny Walker (KTM – GB) 2900pts; 7. Nathan Watson (KTM – GB) 2778pts; 8. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna – GB) 2768pts; 9. Paul Bolton (KTM – GB) 2752pts; 10. Lars Enockl (Gas Gas – AUT) 2076pts…
Hawkstone Park Cross-Country Event Information
Photo credit: Future7Media