Bringing his season to an unforgettable end at the 24MX GetzenRodeo in Germany, Billy Bolt rightfully cemented his place in dirt bike history. The record books will forever show the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider as being the first ever FIM Hard Enduro World Champion!
Proving to be a sensational season of racing, the outcome of the title featured two riders – Billy Bolt and Manuel Lettenbichler. While Lettenbichler won on the day, it was Billy who ultimately secured the championship. Finishing second, the Brit clinched the title live on Red Bull TV…
Firstly Billy, we have to ask, what time did Saturday night’s world championship celebrations finally end?
Billy Bolt: “The celebrations didn’t go on too late, but that was because they got going once we got back to the truck after the race! It felt like the whole paddock arrived at the Husqvarna truck. The vibes were good, the music was pumping, and we had a good time celebrating – not just my win, but the season in general. I didn’t get out of my race kit until 9.00pm!”
When you crossed the finish line to become world champion, we could see the emotion hit home. Can you describe what that moment meant to you?
“I’m not sure what the exact emotion was, but there was a lot of it. This was my third world title after WESS and SuperEnduro, but it felt so much more real. I can’t really explain why. With WESS in 2018 I was still young in my career and just went with the flow. SuperEnduro came during lockdown, so I missed that whole final day of nerves and celebration. But with Hard Enduro it was so much more intense because the outcome could have gone either way. There was a sense of relief to reach the finish, but elation that I was champion.”
We had a couple of weeks to wait between Hixpania Hard Enduro and the finale at GetzenRodeo. How did you manage the time?
“In the build up to GetzenRodeo I could feel the enormity of the race and championship building. I was struggling to know what to do with myself. Most days I would think about what I needed to do and if I needed to change anything I was doing. Should I be testing, looking to improve or do more riding? I’d then tell myself to relax, I’d been winning all year, so why change things now at this stage. They were a tough few weeks, just trying to keep chilled and stay focused.”
You had us on the edge of our seats when you dropped to sixth during the GetzenChamp race. Did you need a mental reset to get back into the race again because you recovered very quickly?
“Believe it or not, I wasn’t stressing too bad. I wasn’t riding great because I had hurt my clutch finger in the morning race and was struggling to be smooth on the clutch. There was also a niggle in my left shoulder that was causing me to lean forward, which pushed my head down. I therefore couldn’t weight the rear wheel properly to get traction. I knew I wasn’t riding right due to those issues, but with the track being so intense I couldn’t correct it quickly. But eventually I settled down, allowed my rhythm to return and found the balance point, traction, and feel of the bike. I was sixth at that point, but I had complete faith in myself to get back to where I needed to be. Based on my pace in the morning race I knew I had the speed to do it and time was on my side too, so I didn’t panic. I even opted for a couple of easier lines to avoid wasting energy. My goal at that point was get back to second because I knew that’s what I needed to do to win the title.”
There was a time when you might have cracked in a high-pressure situation like that. Is it now a combination of experience, maturity, and confidence as a rider that’s helping you rise to the occasion?
“One hundred per cent. A few years ago there was a time when the outcome might not have been the same. The head would have boiled! The mental side of my racing was a weakness of mine, but now I feel like I’ve turned it around to be one of my strengths. These days when I’m in an intense racing situation, I can now control my emotions and make better decisions.”
It must be impossible to top your title winning moment, but what other race or moment stands out to you in this year’s championship, as one of the highlights?
“Winning Abestone Hard Enduro is up there. It set the tone for the year and showed the level I was at with Mani. We hadn’t raced in such a long time due to Covid and I wanted to prove myself. Red Bull TKO tops it though. That was a big win for me as a rider. We had a lot of drama during the week due to our bike parts being held up in customs. I wasn’t on my own bike there. The battle was tight and I won it on the final lap. For me it was a turning point in the championship.”
Of course, you’re the rider out there on track racing, but it feels like for us watching that the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team acts as a really solid unit. Is that the case?
“Without doubt I wouldn’t want to be in any other team in the paddock. The environment we’ve built is special. We’re all pulling in the same direction and moral is always high. For GetzenRodeo, even though Graham wasn’t riding, his mechanic Damien Butler came to the race to support me. That shows how close of a team we are. I also feel like I’m allowed to be myself. They let me get on with doing the social media and vlogging side of my career that I enjoy because they see it relaxes me and benefits my riding. To be on a team that supports all the things I enjoy doing is special.”
Both you and Mani have really raised the bar this year and we saw some titanic battles. Did you enjoy those battles, and do races like that make you push the level even further than you thought possible?
“I enjoy the battles. We both do. We share a high level of respect for each other and can trust ourselves to go at it hard, but safely too. We get on well and are good friends away from the track too.”
Finally, as the first world champion of Hard Enduro, how do you see the sport growing from here?
“I think the sport is in a good place. Everyone involved is young and is going to be around for a long time. The decision making is for the better and for the future, so we’re heading in the right direction. Our ideas are being listened too. We need to be live on TV and in a close proximity so fans can watch and invest in what we do, so I can see some elements evolving and adapting. But right now we’re going in the right direction.”
2021 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship (Final Standings)
1. Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 104pts
2. Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 104pts
3. Wade Young (Sherco) 83pts
4. Mario Roman (Sherco) 76pts
5. Jonny Walker (Beta) 66pts
6. Alfredo Gomez (Husqvarna) 63pts
7. Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 46pts
8. Teodor Kabakchiev (Husqvarna) 36pts
9. Taddy Blazusiak (GASGAS) 29pts
10. Dominik Olszowy (KTM) 24pts
2022 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, Provisional Schedule
Round 1: Minus 400 – Israel, April 5/6/7
Round 2: Xross – Serbia, May 19/20/21
Round 3: Red Bull Erzbergrodeo – Austria, June 16/17/18/19
Round 4: Abestone Hard Enduro – Italy, July 8/9/10
Round 5: Red Bull Romaniacs – Romania, July 26/27/28/29/30
Round 6: Red Bull TKO – USA, August (date TBC)
Round 7: Red Bull Outliers – Canada, August (TBC, two weeks after TKO)
Round 8: HERO Challenge – Poland, September 10/11 (location TBC)
Round 9: Hixpania Hard Enduro – Spain, October 7/8/9