MOTEGI, JAPAN, AUG 21 - Gas Gas rider Adam Raga overcame wet sloppy conditions to notch his third win of the season in the Japanese round of the 2011 SPEA FIM Trial World Championship on the hills surrounding the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
Raga and his closest rivals, Repsol Montesa teammates Toni Bou, and Takahisa Fujinami, all started slowly in a light, misting rain. Then Raga caught fire on the sixth of 15 hazards. The former world champion cleaned every section from six through twelve, while Bou struggled and Fujinami tried to keep pace.
The Japanese rider had a vicious crash in the tenth hazard, the most remote of the 15 at the top of the circuit, when his tires slipped while he was between two wet boulders. The bike pitched to his left sending him onto a low, flat boulder that was just out of bounds. The Japanese star landed on his left thigh with the bike on top of him. He was immediately treated by medical personnel and made a quick recovery.
The next sections, 11 and 12, are set high up on the hills, while crowds gather in a natural amphitheater below. Following a 15-minute delay, Fujinami cleaned both sections, taking inspiration from his fellow countrymen. Other than a three in the re-worked 14th, he was clean to the end. Fujinami finished with 22 marks, only two rose than Raga. Bou was third with 30.
The rain picked up when the second leg started and the scores would drop, though not by much. Raga backed up his 20 with a 21, despite a five in the tenth hazard. Other than that lone blemish, he again ran the table from six through 12, pulling away from Fujinami. When he cleared the last man-made hurdle, he'd beaten Fujinami by 10 points. Bou was a disappointed third another ten points on from his teammate.
"Yes, I'm very happy about how it begins and how it ends," Raga said. "I think yesterday I ride to win the trial, but in starting in the first position it was very difficult. Toni (Bou) also did a very, very good trial today. And today I keep on the same line and just a few mistakes at the beginning. But then very good riding, some incredible riding in sections very difficult and I have to be very happy because it's like that."
Fujinami thought of abandoning not only the race but the season finale in France in two weeks' time. Gradually his left leg loosened up and he was able to press on, even though he walked with a noticeable limp while checking out the course. The leg loosened up considerably in round two, which was seven points worse than lap one.
"The first moment, I think impossible for finish," Fujinami said. "I think for sure return, also for France. But I make section 11 and section 12 many Japanese people pushing for the riding and a big help for me and after every time better than before, so good for continue."
By winning on Saturday, Bou was first out on Sunday, which meant he was the pioneer who had to lay down the lines in the mud.
"Yeah, today I start first, it's very, very difficult in the sections," he said. "The line in the sections is very, very difficult."
Now the series heads back to Europe for a lone weekend off. Then it's on to France for the final double-header. Bou holds a 13 point lead, 167 to 154, on Raga and appears to be in control, though Raga thinks otherwise.
"Now it's two races, 13 points, it's quite a lot, a good advantage," Raga said. "Anyway, (Bou) has to do it until the end. He has to make sure to not have a crash, to not break the bike. And these things do not let you sleep very well. And so I've been also in his position, some years when I won the championship, ten points, 15 points advantage, and when I see from my side, I think it's already done. But from his side, for sure he's suffering to hope nothing happens. From my side try to win both races that it's finished, for end the championship in a good position and I think if nothing happens I will finish second."