Zlatibor, Serbia - 20 May, 2023 — Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Manuel Lettenbichler has claimed victory at the opening round of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship in Serbia. Cementing a strong performance with victory on the third and final Offroad Day, Lettenbichler topped the overall Xross Hard Enduro Rally podium.
Putting the finishes touches to a super-strong week of riding, Sherco Factory Racing’s Mario Roman was second, while ECONT Bulgaria’s Teodor Kabakchiev grabbed the final step of the event’s outright podium.
In the FIM Hard Enduro Junior World Championship supported by KLIM, Rigo Racing’s Matthew Green secured victory over TTR Squadra Corse’s Mitch Brightmore in second, with Robert Crayston (Baydale D3 KTM) in third.
Manuel Lettenbichler claims first victory of 2023 FIM Hard Enduro season
Mario Roman and Teodor Kabakchiev complete the podium
Matthew Green makes solid championship start to finishes as top Junior
After three days of racing, the first round of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship at Xross Hard Enduro Rally was brought to a close in thrilling fashion with Offroad Day 3. Proving that in racing it’s never over until you cross the finish line, today’s action was a nail biter for the final step of the podium.
Lettenbichler rides to victory in Serbia
Comfortably out front as he started the day, it looked all but certain that race leader Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) would march clear to the overall victory. The German had racked up a 25-minute lead over Mario Roman (Sherco) in second and barring any mishaps had a comfortable cushion in hand as he looked to take the win. Mani had no intentions of slowing up though and pushed hard from the off. Eventually riding on to take a two minute and 37 second margin of victory on Offroad Day 3, the KTM rider ended the Xross Hard Enduro Rally as the winner for the second year running.
For Sherco’s Mario Roman, his tactics for today were clear. Knowing that catching Mani in the overall classification would be a tall ask, the Spaniard rode to defend his runner-up position. Bunched together with his rivals for the majority of the day, Mario rarely put a foot out of place. Ending his day third, he more importantly finished the race second overall to Lettenbichler.
Fight for third heats up
Behind the top two, the outcome of the final step of the podium was turned on its head. After yesterday’s winning ride, Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Billy Bolt had leap frogged from ninth to third and was eager for silverware. However, a string of problems early on ultimately ruined his chances of a top-three result and he dropped off the leaderboard. Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM), GASGAS’ Michael Walkner and FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Trystan Hart were now all suddenly in the running for third.
The Bulgarian Kabakchiev was on a mission. Putting in arguably his best performance of the week, he topped numerous timed sectors to claim second on Offroad Day 3. Beating Hart and Walkner by over five minutes lifted him to third overall.
Another strong ride for fourth saw Hart take fourth overall, while Walkner, who ended today in fifth, completed the top five in the overall classification.
Green takes Junior victory
In the FIM Hard Enduro Junior World Championship supported by KLIM, round one belonged to Rigo Racing’s Matthew Green. As the defending Junior World Champion, Green couldn’t have asked for a better start to his season. Winning the Juniors he also finished 11th outright.
After leading the Juniors on Offroad Day 1, TTR Squadra Corse’s Mitch Brightmore’s bid for glory came undone on Offroad Day 2. Regrouping today, the young British rider bounced back with 13th outright, which was enough to secure him the runner-up result in Juniors. Baydale D3 KTM’s Robert Crayston ended his Xross Hard Enduro Rally on a high to finish third overall.
The FIM Hard Enduro World Championship continues with round two at Austria’s Red Bull Erzbergrodeo on June 8-11.
1st - Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM): “To take the overall win here in Serbia for the second time in a row is awesome. I’m really stoked with my riding. I feel like I was consistent and strong each day and was enjoying it a lot out there. Obviously, it’s just the first round of a long season, but I really want to keep this momentum rolling along.”
2nd - Mario Roman (Sherco): “Today was an intense battle, there were a bunch of us really close together. But I knew for the overall that as long as I kept it safe and steady then I could secure second. Hats off to Mani this week, he was flying. But I’m happy with what I achieved here and it’s given me a good feeling for the rest of the season.”
3rd - Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM): “Today was a battle for the podium. Three of us were really tight in the classification, so I had to push like crazy to get it. I’m super happy about that. It took a couple of days to get my bike setup right, but the changes we made yesterday really helped me to come out fighting today. I can’t thank my team ECONT Bulgaria enough for the support and hope to bring more results like this for the rest of the season!”
1st Junior - Matthew Green (KTM): “I’m super happy to come away from round one winning the Junior class and fighting for a top-10 result. I had a few errors this week, but overall it went pretty good. Today was an awesome track. We were high up in the mountains above the cloud line and it was incredible to see.”
Results: Round 1 - Xross Hard Enduro Rally
Offroad Day 3
1. Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 3:18:33.90
2. Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM) 3:21:11.86
3. Mario Roman (Sherco) 3:26:40.56
4. Trystan Hart (KTM) 3:27:02.21
5. Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 3:28:43.25
6. Wade Young (Sherco) 3:35:23.57
7. Alfredo Gomez (Rieju) 3:38:00.79
8. David Cyprian (KTM) 3:39:36.96
9. Will Hoare (GASGAS) 3:41:07.78
10. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 3:42:53.27
Unofficial Event Classification
1. Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 9:49:28.60
2. Mario Roman (Sherco) 10:22:38.10
3. Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM) 10:29:04.12
4. Trystan Hart (KTM) 10:33:04.42
5. Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 10:36:49.98
6. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 11:10:00.80
7. Alfredo Gomez (Rieju) 11:16:53.92
8. David Cyprian (KTM) 11:24:27.03
9. Will Hoare (GASGAS) 11:29:22.13
10. Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 11:41:41.05
Championship Standings (After round 1)
1. Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 20pts
2. Mario Roman (Sherco) 17pts
3. Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM) 15pts
4. Trystan Hart (KTM) 14pts
5. Alfredo Gomez (Rieju) 11pts
5. Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 11pts
7. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 10pts
8. Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 9pts
9. David Cyprian (KTM) 8pts
10. Will Hoare (GASGAS) 7pts
Junior Championship Standings (After round 1)
1. Matthew Green (KTM) 20pts
2. Mitch Brightmore (GASGAS) 20pts
3. Robert Crayston (KTM) 15pts
4. Marc Fernandez (KTM) 13pts
5. Richard Moorhouse (GASGAS) 11pts