Mika Ahola, Johnny Aubert, Ivan Cervantes and Oriol Mena were the big winners at the fourth round of the '09 World Enduro Championship, the GP of Finland staged in Riihimaki, as all four riders claimed double-class wins at the series' one and only Scandinavian event.
With eight weeks having past since the third round of the '09 WEC series took competitors to the Italian island of Sardinia in mid-April, last weekend's GP of Finland marked the midway point of the eight-round World Enduro Championship, and proved to be the demanding event many expected it to be.
With the WEC having not visited the land of a thousand lakes for several years, the Riihimaki event was a worthy addition to the '09 WEC series and one that certainly separated the men from the boys. With fine weather on day one and wetter conditions on day two following a heavy overnight thunderstorm, each of the event's special tests proved challenging, due in no small part to the unpredictable rocks and tree roots.
But for Enduro 1 Championship leader Mika Ahola, the GP of Finland was an event that ended predictably, as the Honda star topped the E1 class on both days. But instead of dominating the E1 class as many expected he would, Mika was made to work extremely hard for his podium topping results.
On day one, two riders - Finn Eero Remes and Frenchman Antoine Meo - both showed that they were fast enough to win. But mistakes by both riders enabled Mika to secure the win, finishing less than one-second ahead of Meo.
Determined to go one better and top the class on day two, Husqvarna-mounted Meo again showed great pace, but Mika was again the rider who remained mistake free and claimed a comfortable 40-second winning margin come the end of the day. As on day one, Remes returned to the podium in third.
"I was expecting things to be much easier for me here in Finland," admitted Mika after the race. "I'd not done a lot of riding in Finland before the race. I was surprised how fast both Meo and Remes were. It was really close on day one, but I enjoyed having to ride at 100 percent."
While things were extremely close at the top of the E1 class on day one, they weren't at the top of the E2 category. Championship leader Johnny Aubert again proved to be simply too fast aboard his KTM and placed one-and-a-half minutes ahead of BMW rider Juha Salminen. For Salminen, second place marked his best result of the season so far, as well as BMW's highest ever WEC results. Third went to Husqvarna's Bartosz Oblucki who ensured that the E2 podium wasn't an all four-stroke affair.
On day two the exact same three riders filled the top three positions in the E2 class, and in the exact same order. Aubert was again comfortably ahead, while behind him things were a lot closer than on day one. Oblucki finished just 20 seconds behind Salminen with Finnish Husaberg rider Valtteri Salonen just 11 seconds adrift in fourth.
"It's been another really good weekend for me," offered Aubert after the event. "I don't know why, but I found it really hard to keep my concentration during the special tests this weekend, especially on day two. The first day was generally good; I didn't have any big problems or make any big mistakes. I enjoyed it but it was quite hard. I crashed on the motocross test on the second day, which cost me some time, but I still managed to win most of the test so I'm pretty pleased. The important thing is that I took more good championship points, it's been a good event."
Aubert remains unbeaten in the E2 class so far this season and 56 points clear at the top of the championship.
With just 10 riders finishing on day one and nine finishing on day two, the Enduro 3 class was again the smallest in terms of numbers but competition at the sharp end of the category was fierce.
Despite the best efforts of defending E3 class champion Samuli Aro and French Husqvarna rider Seb Guillaume, it was Spaniard Ivan Cervantes who emerged as the day-one winner, despite struggling to perform at his best having fitted the wrong front tire to his KTM.
Winning by less than one second, having been unable to fully attack the special tests, Ivan was joined on the podium by Aro, with Guillaume less then five seconds behind.
Day two again saw Cervantes claim victory and, in doing so, stretched his lead at the top of the E3 World standings. Made to work hard by Gas Gas-mounted Frenchman Christophe Nambotin the pair pulled themselves clear of third placed rider Samuli Aro.
Husqvarna's Seb Guillaume ruled himself out of any possible top three result when he crashed heavily as the day neared its close, which meant that Cervantes, Nambotin and Aro filled the podium.
"I made a small mistake on the first day by running a sand tire on the front of my bike," explained Ivan. "It was great in the sand but there were a lot more rocks and tree roots than I was expecting. Halfway through the first day, I realized that it wasn't possible to push hard to try and win. Although I was still trying hard I was quite lucky, because I was able to win the first day by a few seconds, which was a surprise.
"The second day was much better. I really enjoyed the tests and was able to push much harder. I did make some mistakes in the extreme test, which allowed Christophe Nambotin to reduce my lead, but I had a good final lap and managed to win again, which is great."
David Knight's disastrous '09 WEC season continued in Finland as the Manxman's event lasted no more than the opening lap on day one. Continuing to feel anything but happy with his factory BMW, Knight withdrew from the event, deciding not to continue.
2009 World Enduro Championship
Grand Prix of Finland - Day 1
Enduro 1 class
1. Mika Ahola (Honda) 1.05:01.64; 2. Antoine Meo (Husqvarna) 1.05:02.47; 3. Eero Remes (KTM) 1.05:45.06; 4. Simone Albergoni (KTM) 1.06:27.35; 5. Thomas Oldrati (KTM) 1.07:12.99; 6. Fabien Planet (KTM) 1.07:41.36; 7. Jari Mattila (Suzuki) 1.07:43.13; 8. Julien Gauthier (Honda) 1.07:56.83; 9. Xavier Galindo (KTM) 1.09:10.42; 10. Filipe Zanol (Yamaha) 1.09:45.38; 11. Maurizio Micheluz (TM) 1.09:53.82; 12. Niklas Gustafsson (Honda) 1.10:36.83; 13. Jari Pulkkinen (Honda) 1.10:54.11; 14. Jordan Curvalle (Sherco) 1.11:06.67; 15. Aston Bird (Husqvarna) 1.11:18.94; 16. Carl Johan Bjerkert (Honda) 1.11:22.46; 17. Fredrik Georgesson (KTM) 1.11:31.74; 18. Petri Koli (Kawasaki) 1.12:13.16; 19. Mika Karma (Yamaha) 1.13:11.04; 20. Jakub Horak (KTM) 1:18.46.94
Enduro 2 class
1. Johnny Aubert (KTM) 1.04:59.09; 2. Juha Salminen (BMW) 1:06.25.45; 3. Bartosz Oblucki (Husqvarna) 1.07:21.33; 4. Matti Seistola (Husqvarna) 1.08:02.86; 5. Simo Kirssi (BMW) 1.08:09.34; 6. Joakim Ljunggren (Husaberg) 1.08:11.89; 7. Rodrig Than (TM) 1.08:33.94; 8. Fabrizio Dini (Beta) 1.08:35.52; 9. Hans Vogels (Yamaha) 1.08:50.35; 10. Nicolas Deparrois (Gas Gas) 1.08:56.71; 11. Mike Hartmann (Husaberg) 1.09:08.52; 12. Luca Cherubini (TM) 1.09:11.22; 13. Oskari Kantonen (KTM) 1.09:35.60; 14. Patrick Wicksell (KTM) 1.10:08.69; 15. Antoine Lettelier (Aprilia) 1.10:21.54; 16. Erwin Plekkenpol (Honda) 1.10:49.69; 17. Kevin Gauniaux (Gas Gas) 1.15:00.89; 18. Jani Lajunen (KTM) 188.8.131.52
Enduro 3 Class
1. Ivan Cervantes (KTM) 1.05:52.47; 2. Samuli Aro (KTM) 1.05:52.91; 3. Sebastien Guillaume (Husqvarna) 1.05:57.28; 4. Christophe Nambotin (Gas Gas) 1.06:17.83; 5. Fabio Mossini (Honda) 1.07:29.69; 6. Marko Tarkkala (BMW) 1.07:36.51; 7. Marcus Kehr (KTM) 1.08:32.21; 8. Bjorne Carlsson (Husaberg) 1.10:05.25; 9. Gordon Clarke (TM) 1.15:39.52; 10. Antti Lehtonen (KTM) 1.21:02.04
2009 World Enduro Championship
Grand Prix of Finland - Day 2
Enduro 1 class
1. Mika Ahola (Honda) 1.04:47.82; 2. Antoine Meo (Husqvarna) 1.05:28.03; 3. Eero Remes (KTM) 1.06:08.28; 4. Thomas Oldrati (KTM) 1.06:14.38; 5. Simone Albergoni (KTM) 1.06:44.58; 6. Fabien Planet (KTM) 1.07:44.24; 7. Jari Mattila (Suzuki) 1.08:24.38; 8. Julien Gauthier (Honda) 1.09:02.02; 9. Filipe Zanol (Yamaha) 1.09:33.31; 10. Jari Pulkkinen (Honda) 1.09:34.40; 11. Marc Bourgeois (Husqvarna) 1.10:15.49; 12. Aston Bird (Husqvarna) 1.11:57.78; 13. Jordan Curvalle (Sherco) 1.12:05.51; 14. Maurizio Micheluz (TM) 1.12:44.95; 15. Fredrick Georgsson (KTM) 1.12:59.70; 16. Mika Karma (Yamaha) 1.16:22.22; 17. Jakub Horak (KTM) 1.22:14.74;
Enduro 2 class
1. Johnny Aubert (KTM) 1.05:01.59; 2. Juha Salminen (BMW) 1.06:21.58; 3. Bartosz Oblucki (Husqvarna) 1.06:42.50; 4. Valtteri Salonen (Husaberg) 1.06:53.84; 5. Joakim Ljunggren (Husaberg) 1.07:10.90; 6. Simo Kirssi (BMW) 1.07:50.18; 7. Rodrig Thain (TM) 1.09:05.70; 8. Mike Hartmann (Husaberg) 1.09:15.05; 9. Fabrizio Dini (Beta) 1.09:40.58; 10. Nicolas Deparrois (Gas Gas) 1.09:47.92; 11. Oskari Kantonen (KTM) 1.10:04.21; 12. Hans Vogels (Yamaha) 1.10:07.31; 13. Erwin Plekkenpol (Honda) 1.10:39.12; 14. Si Wakely (Husqvarna) 1.10:47.97; 15. Partick Wicksell (KTM) 1.10:58.07; 16. Aaron Bernardez (BMW) 1.12:25.50; 17. Kevin Gauniaux (Gas Gas) 1.14:33.64
Enduro 3 Class
1. Ivan Cervantes (KTM) 1.05:44.30; 2. Christophe Nambotin (Gas Gas) 1:05.53.40; 3. Samuli Aro (KTM) 1.06:32.48; 4. Fabio Mossini (Honda) 1.07:54.55; 5. Marcus Kehr (HTM) 1.08.08.10; 6. Marko Tarkkala (BMW) 1.08:08.94; 7. Sebastien Guillaume (Husqvarna) 1.08:50.98; 8. Gordon Clarke (TM) 1.16:42.77; 9. Antti Lehtonon (KTM) 1.18:24.08