Mika Ahola and Johnny Aubert were again the riders to beat in the Enduro 1 and Enduro 2 classes respectively at the fifth round of the '09 World Enduro Championship in Slovakia, June 20-21, but a new name featured at the top of the Enduro 3 class at the GP of Slovakia, that of Frenchman Christophe Nambotin who won on both days. Thanks to heavy rain during the opening day's competition the event proved to be one of the toughest this year.
Despite Husqvarna factory rider Bartosz Oblucki coming closer on day one to beating defending Enduro 2 World Champion Aubert than any other rider this season, KTM star Aubert maintained his unbeaten ways and notched up yet another perfect weekend.
Although 10 seconds separated the two riders at the end of the first day's competition, everything came down to the final extreme test, with Aubert putting in a winning performance, while Oblucki made several critical mistakes.
Comfortably ahead of eventual third-placed rider Joakim Ljunggren on his Husaberg, Oblucki and Aubert battled one another at the top of the E2 class throughout the day, as they, like all riders, tried desperately not to make too many mistakes on the slippery Slovakian special test.
With heavy overnight rain turning what would have been a relatively straight forward event into an extremely challenging one, casualties were high on day one as the thick, slippery Slovakian mud made even the simplest of corners tremendously difficult.
Thankfully the rain stopped for day two and with numerous alterations made to each of the event's special tests, the second day was considerable easier than the first.
Again it was Aubert and Oblucki at the top of the E2 class, but on day two, Oblucki wasn't quite able to pile the pressure on the championship leader like he was on day one.
"I was a little disappointed I didn't win the first day," Oblucki said. "I really felt it was my day and that I should have won. I made too many small mistakes, especially on the final extreme test. Day two was also good for me, but second is where I feel I deserved to finish."
But for Aubert, victory on the second day ensured that his 100 percent win record remains.
"It has been a really hard weekend, but winning on both days made it a good weekend for me," Aubert said. "Day one was hard. I made a lot of small mistakes, which kept things close between myself and Oblucki. Winning the final extreme test and the day was great. It's the best victory this season. Day two was better for me. I didn't have a good opening lap on day one, but I rode well on the second lap. That really helped me win. Two more wins are great."
Just missing the podium on day one due to too many mistakes was BMW rider Juha Salminen, but on day two, the Finn pushed Ljunggren into fourth to claim the final podium position.
Once again, the closest racing was reserved for the Enduro 1 class and the on-going fight between championship leader Mika Ahola and Frenchman Antoine Meo. Although Ahola claimed victory on both days things certainly weren't easy for the Honda-mounted Finn.
At the end of the demanding opening day, Ahola claimed victory by 25 seconds, but it was Meo who had been the fastest E1-class rider on most of the special test. Moving into an early class lead, Meo's day went from good to bad when he got stuck on the penultimate extreme test, losing close to two minutes. Charging hard during the final lap and topping the last three special tests, Meo wasn't quite able to win.
"I lost almost two minutes on one of the extreme tests on day one," explained Antoine. "At the end of the day, Mika finished 25 seconds ahead of me. That was really disappointing. I pushed really hard after I made the mistake and rode really well, but it wasn't quite enough. I was pleased with the way I rode but not pleased that I didn't win."
Third went to KTM rider Simone Albergoni who placed less than one-second behind Meo.
Determined to win on day two, Meo's hopes of victory failed to materialize. Making many small mistakes, Ahola was able to edge ahead of the Frenchman early in the day despite a few mistakes of his own. With little to separate the two riders, it was eventually Ahola who again claimed the win and yet another double E1-class win.
"Things were really close between myself and Antoine on day two," admitted Ahola. "I'd make a mistake and he'd win a test. Then he'd make a mistake and I'd win a test. There was nothing between us all day. It came down to the final extreme test - I just went for it and managed to win."
With Meo a disappointed runner-up, third went to Italian Thomas Oldrati who narrowly edged ahead of countryman Simone Albergoni. Albergoni led the class through both of the opening two laps, only to see his chances of victory pass him by when he made mistakes on the final two tests.
With the horrendously wet conditions handing a sizeable advantage to the two-stroke riders in the E3 class, four-stroke-mounted E3 Championship leader Ivan Cervantes struggled in Slovakia. Eventually placing fifth on both days, he was bitterly disappointed with his results but maintained a healthy championship advantage.
Gas Gas rider Christophe Nambotin was the man to beat as the wet-weather specialist dominated the class on day one to finish over one minute ahead of his nearest class rival. Winning four of the day's tests, the Frenchman simply made fewer mistakes than his classmates.
The gap between the second- and third-placed riders was equally as big as that between first and second. Samuli Aro nabbed the second podium position on his KTM, while Slovakian privateer Stefan Svitko gave the locals much to celebrate, as he finished a career best third.
On day two, there was again no stopping Nambotin who made few mistakes throughout the day. Topping the class by close to 40 seconds, Christophe's results lifted him to second in the E3 Championship standings, just 17 points behind Cervantes.
Aro was the runner-up on day two, as he was on day one, while Husqvarna-mounted Frenchman Seb Guillaume filled the final podium position after placing a disappointing sixth on day one.
2009 World Enduro Championship
Grand Prix of Slovakia
Results: June 21-22, 2009
ENDURO 1: 1. Mika Ahola (Honda) 42:50.83; 2. Antoine Meo (Husqvarna) 43:16.41; 3. Simone Albergoni (KTM) 43:16.49; 4. Fabien Planet (KTM) 43:36.82; 5. Jeremy Joly (Honda) 44:02.82; 6. Thomas Oldrati (KTM) 47:30.27; 7. Felipe Zanol (Yamaha) 54:33.05; 8. Eero Remes (KTM) 55:43.12; 9. Maurizio Gerini (KTM) 1.02:26.95; 10. Jakub Horak (KTM) 1.18:01.03
ENDURO 2: 1. Johnny Aubert (KTM) 41:33.14; 2. Bartosz Oblucki (Husqvarna) 41:43.15; 3. Joakim Ljunggren (Husaberg) 42:39.26; 4. Juha Salminen (BMW) 43:07.41; 5. Simo Kirssi (BMW) 43:22.36; 6. Cristobal Guerrero (Yamaha) 43:24.79; 7. Rodrig Thain (TM) 44:18.85; 8. Alessandro Belometti (KTM) 45:44.81; 9. Luca Cherubini (TM) 47:26.63; 10. Hans Vogels (Yamaha) 48:19.69; 11. Antoine Lettelier (Aprilia) 48:36.68; 12. Anders Eriksson (BMW) 48:51.56; 13. Fabrizio Dini (Beta) 49:00.81; 14. Nicolas Deparrois (Gas Gas) 49:02.15; 15. Mike Hartmann (Husaberg) 52:09.25; 16. Simon Wakely (Husqvarna) 57:34.20; 17. Valtteri Salonen (Husaberg) 1.02:47.43
ENDURO 3: 1. Christophe Nambotin (Gas Gas) 42:00.11; 2. Samuli Aro (KTM) 43:07.22; 3. Stefan Svitko (KTM) 44:10.40; 4. Marcus Kehr (KTM) 44:12.63; 5. Ivan Cervantes (KTM) 44:45.35; 6. Sebastien Guillaume (Husqvarna) 47:36.63; 7. Zlatko Novosad (Gas Gas) 48:30.04; 8. Marko Tarkkala (BMW) 51:47.64; 9. Rudy Cotton (Beta) 56:15.74; 10. Michal Kadlecek (TM) 1.04:30.72
ENDURO 1: 1. Mika Ahola (Honda) 28:28.57; 2. Antoine Meo (Husqvarna) 28:31.66; 3. Thomas Oldrati (KTM) 28:49.72; 4. Simone Albergoni (KTM) 28:49.86; 5. Julien Gauthier (Honda) 30:42.66; 6. Eero Remes (KTM) 31:07.15; 7. Felipe Zanol (Yamaha) 31:27.88; 8. Jordan Curvalle (Sherco) 32:29.06; 9. Maurizio Gerini (KTM) 33:04.09; 10. Jakub Horak (KTM) 34:55.84
ENDURO 2: 1. Johnny Aubert (KTM) 28:16.35; 2. Bartosz Oblucki (Husqvarna) 28:38.83; 3. Juha Salminen (BMW) 29:21.21; 4. Joakim Ljunggren (Husaberg) 29:23.10; 5. Rodrig Thain (TM) 30:10.59; 6. Cristobal Guerrero (Yamaha) 30:15.77; 7. Simo Kirssi (BMW) 30:18.28; 8. Mike Hartmann (Husaberg) 30:31.82; 9. Valtteri Salonen (Husaberg) 30:39.79; 10. Fabrizio Dini (Beta) 30:59.23; 11. Anders Eriksson (BMW) 30:59.94; 12. Luca Cherubini (TM) 31:28.31; 13. Alessandro Belometti (KTM) 31:46.66; 14. Hans Vogels (Yamaha) 31:58.05; 15. Nicolas Deparrois (Gas Gas) 32:24.85; 16. Kevin Gauniaux (Gas Gas) 17. Antoine Lettelier (Aprilia) 36:01.96; 18. Aaron Bernardez (BMW) 36:03.27; 19. Matti Seistola (Husqvarna) 36:34.30
ENDURO 3: 1. Christophe Nambotin (Gas Gas) 28:38.88; 2. Samuli Aro (KTM) 29:18.63; 3. Sebastien Guillaume (Husqvarna) 29:25.08; 4. Marcus Kehr (KTM) 29.25.85; 5. Ivan Cervantes (KTM) 29:57.19; 6. Alessandro Botturi (KTM) 31:08.92; 7. Zlatko Novosad (Gas Gas) 31:28.31; 8. Marko Tarkkala (BMW) 32:20.77; 9. Michal Kadlecek (TM) 33:46.86; 10. Rudy Cotton (Beta) 38:43.48