TM Racing’s Wil Ruprecht has won the opening day of competition at round five of the WPTGlobal FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Gelnica, Slovakia. A wet and muddy day of racing at the GP of Slovakia saw the Australian come good in the final test of the day to edge out GASGAS Factory Racing’s Andrea Verona by 11 seconds for the win. Beta Factory Racing’s Steve Holcombe was having fun in the tricky conditions and finished third overall.
A new winner emerged in Enduro Junior with Max Ahlin (Beta) securing his first win of the season, while Samuli Puhakainen carded another win for TM Racing with victory in Enduro Youth.
- Wil Ruprecht takes opening victory at GP of Slovakia
- Andrea Verona and Steve Holcombe joined him on the EnduroGP podium
- Wet and muddy conditions make for an exciting and closely fought race
After the hot, dry, and dusty conditions of round four in Portugal last month, competitors were greeted with cooler, wetter, and muddier conditions at round five of the WPTGlobal FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Gelnica, Slovakia. Lingering clouds ensured conditions stayed at that optimum level of tricky and challenging. Mastering the mud and adapting to changing race lines was key to success today.
Ruprecht and Verona battle for EnduroGP win
On Friday evening it was Beta Factory Racing’s Brad Freeman who topped the AKRAPOVIC Super Test to start this morning with a slender one-second lead over championship leader Andrea Verona. And Freeman didn’t miss a beat as he charged through the opening POLISPORT Extreme Test to extend his lead to almost six seconds.
However, Ruprecht was beginning to find his rhythm and on the ACERBIS Cross Test he set the fastest time to reduce that margin to two seconds. At over 14 minutes long the JUST1 Enduro Test was set to play a big factor in the results. With Verona and Ruprecht going 1-2 respectively, the pair moved to the head of the standings as Freeman slipped from first to fifth.
On lap two, Freeman was again fastest on the POLISPORT Extreme Test to move up to fourth. Ruprecht led, but it was only just, with an incredible one hundredth of a second splitting Ruprecht and Verona. Holcombe was six seconds back and keeping the pressure on.
At the end of lap two, the positions had changed once more, with Verona now leading by three seconds. Holcombe was still third, but losing ground. Entering the final test of the day, the ACERBIS Cross Test, Verona held a three-second lead over Ruprecht. However, luck was not on his side and with two crashes coming the Italian’s way, it was just what Ruprecht needed to claim victory.
Behind Ruprecht and Verona, Holcombe – spurred on by winning the final POLISPORT Extreme Test – ended his day third overall. Returning to racing having missed round four due to injury, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Josep Garcia finished fourth. Freeman completed the top five.
Class wins for Verona, Ruprecht, and Freeman
In Enduro1 there was no change of race winner, with Verona riding clear to a commanding one minute and 36 second margin of victory. Honda Redmoto World Enduro’s Thomas Oldrati put in a solid ride for second. TM Racing’s Matteo Cavallo completed the top three.
With his EnduroGP victory in one back pocket, Ruprecht added the Enduro2 win to his other pocket. Holcombe finished as runner-up, with Garcia rounding out the podium. Taking advantage of his strong start this morning, Freeman controlled Enduro3 to take the win. Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Mikael Persson enjoyed a close battle with Matteo Pavoni (TM) to finish second.
The Enduro Junior class saw Max Ahlin (Beta) land his first win of the season. Point’s leader Zach Pichon had started out strong, but lost a lot of time on the first JUST1 Enduro Test to slip down the running order. Ahlin won that test to move into the race lead and hung on to claim victory. Germany’s Luca Fischeder (Sherco) finished second, with Pichon regrouping for third.
The Enduro Youth class belonged to Samuli Puhakainen (TM) on day one in Gelnica. Clearly enjoying the conditions, he rode clear to a 47-second margin of victory over Fantic’s Harry Edmondson. Sherco’s Thibault Giraudon rounded out the podium.
“I was fortunate to get the win today, but I wasn’t completely happy with how I rode. After my crash at the GP of Portugal my bike time was a bit limited coming into this race but, hey, I’ll definitely take a win if I can! It’s also my first win in the wet and mud, so that was cool. Hopefully I can do it again tomorrow.”
“It’s been a good day. There were some mistakes today, but that was always going to happen in these muddy conditions. Overall I was consistent, and I think I was actually leading entering the final test until I crashed twice. Hopefully tomorrow I can stay on two wheels!”
“It’s been a good day, it was great to have such a good enduro test too. Of course there were a few places I could improve on, but I’ll try to do that tomorrow. Finishing on the podium today with third has been a great start to the weekend for sure.”