The final day of racing at the opening round of the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Portugal saw Honda Racing RedMoto Enduro Team’s Steve Holcombe take victory. In what proved to be an incredible day of action at the ACERBIS GP of Portugal, Holcombe shone through to claim a hard-fought win over day one winner Josep Garcia (KTM), with Nathan Watson (Beta) close behind in third.

In the GALFER FIM Junior Enduro World Championship, Fantic Racing Team’s Axel Semb collected his second victory of the weekend, with TM Racing’s Alberto Elgari winning Enduro Youth. RIEJU Factory Team’s Mireia Badia topped the Enduro Women’s class.

  • Steve Holcombe claims the EnduroGP day two win
  • Axel Semb secures his second victory of the weekend in Enduro Junior
  • Mireia Badia best in Enduro Women

The final day of racing at round one of the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship produced one of the most memorable races in recent times. Exceptionally close battles saw the world’s best enduro riders fight it out with just 10 seconds separating the top three on the EnduroGP podium.

As riders left the start ramp in Fafe, the rain soon cleared to produce bright, sunny skies. The drying weather ensured grip levels in the Portuguese dirt were at their best, allowing competitors to push the level even higher than the previous day.

Holcombe takes debut EnduroGP win in Honda colours

Honda Racing RedMoto Enduro Team’s Steve Holcombe fired the first warning shot to his rivals on the opening ACERBIS Cross Test by clocking in the fastest time. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Josep Garcia was right behind him in second, with Beta Factory Racing’s Nathan Watson shadowing them in third. A solid start from current Junior World Champion Jed Etchells (Fantic) slotted him into fifth, behind GASGAS Factory Racing’s Andrea Verona in fourth.

On to the opening MAXXIS Enduro Test and Garcia immediately responded. Setting the quickest time saw him take over the lead from Holcombe. But it would prove short-lived. Holcombe answered right back on the POLISPORT Extreme Test. Taking the test win and capitalising on a mistake from the Spaniard put the Honda rider nine seconds ahead of his rival as they began lap two of three.

For the entire second lap, the pace was frantic at the front. Garcia, Watson, and Holcombe split the special test wins between them, with Verona, Samuele Bernardini (Honda), and the Fast Eddy Racing duo of Mikael Persson and Jamie McCanney right behind them.

Heading into the final lap, and Holcombe still controlled the race lead by a crucial eight seconds over Garcia. With Watson only four seconds behind the Spaniard in third, it was all to play for with only three tests remaining.

Watson powered his way to the final ACERBIS Cross Test win. Closing in on the duo, he looked the danger man. Persson took the final MAXXIS Enduro Test, while Garcia, Watson, and Holcombe were separated by two seconds.

With it all boiling down to the final POLISPORT Extreme Test, nine-time world champion Holcombe utilised every ounce of experience he had to stay cool under pressure. Taking the test win saw him secure his debut EnduroGP victory in Honda colours by just four seconds. Despite his best efforts, Garcia was made to settle for second on day two in Fafe. Putting in an incredible ride, Watson could be pleased with his day’s work of third.

Sitting on the fringes of the top three, Verona wasn’t quite able to join Holcombe, Garcia, and Watson in the battle for the victory and had to be content with fourth. Closing out the top five overall was Bernardini, with Persson just one second behind the Italian in sixth.

Badia claims top step of Enduro Women’s podium

The FIM Women’s Enduro World Championship produced a great battle between RIEJU Factory Team’s Mireia Badia and day one winner Team KBS Sherco’s Rachel Gutish. Badia had the measure of Gutish today and with four special test wins to her name out of a possible six, she took the win.

Gutish rode well but wasn’t able to show the same intensity as she had done on day one and placed second. Honda Racing RedMoto Enduro Team’s Francesca Nocera finished seven seconds behind in third. Elodie Chaplot (Beta) and Marie Holt (KTM) were fourth and fifth, respectively.

With Holcombe and Garcia fighting it out for the overall EnduroGP victory, it was Holcombe who also snatched the Enduro1 class win. The Brit has now secured race wins in all three senior classes during his professional career. Fast Eddy Racing’s Jamie McCanney got the better of CH Racing Sherco’s Zach Pichon on day two to take third.

Putting the finishing touches to an incredible debut with Beta Factory Racing, Nathan Watson put his name on top of the Enduro2 results sheet on day two in Fafe. Verona and Bernardini joined the Beta rider on the podium in second and third respectively. Just missing a place in the top three by one second, Persson will look for more at round two next weekend in Valpacos. Etchells completed the top five.

In Enduro3, day one winner Brad Freeman (Beta) caused a surprise when he exited the race after the first special test due to illness. CH Racing Sherco’s Hamish MacDonald came through to take a memorable first victory in Enduro3. Matteo Cavallo (TM Racing) was second, with Julien Roussaly (Sherco) third.

Semb does the double in Enduro Junior

The GALFER FIM Junior Enduro World Championship saw Fantic Racing Team’s Axel Semb make it two wins from two starts in Fafe. However, unlike his day one victory, his advantage was only 18 seconds this time around. Team Beta Oxmoto’s Antoine Alix kept him honest all day for second, while Thibault Giraudon (Sherco) was third. Leo Joyon (Beta) and Max Ahlin (KTM) rounded out the top five.

The Enduro Youth class saw a shake up in the results with a new winner emerging on day two in Fafe. TM Racing’s Alberto Elgari was on top form in the Portuguese special tests and powered through to take the first win of his young career. Manuel Verzeroli (KTM) rose his game as well to finish second. Third on day one, Clement Clauzier (Beta) returned to the podium on day two with another well-deserved top-three result.

After what proved to be an exceptionally exciting opening round of the Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship in Fafe, Portugal, the paddock now heads to nearby Valpacos in Portugal for round two next week on April 12-14.

Steve Holcombe (Honda) – 1st EnduroGP: “I’m really pumped to take the EnduroGP win today. It was a heck of a battle all day between Josep (Garcia), Nathan (Watson), and myself. I felt good in my riding and could really put the bike where I wanted to on track. It feels awesome to win so soon with Honda, and also to get my first Enduro1 victory. I’m excited for the rest of the season!”

Axel Semb (Fantic) – 1st Enduro Junior: “It’s been the perfect start to the season, winning both days. I’m so happy with how things went and how I felt on the bike in these conditions. Thank you to the team for all their support.”

Mireia Badia (RIEJU) – 1st Enduro Women: “I’m super happy with my riding. It’s been a great result today in tough conditions. The fight was good between Rachel (Gutish) and myself and it’s so nice to take the win here in Fafe.”

Alberto Elgari (TM Racing) – 1st Enduro Youth: “It’s been an incredible day for me. It’s just my second ever world championship race and now I have my first victory. I have no words to explain how happy I am.”

Results: Paulo Duarte FIM EnduroGP World Championship, Round 1 – Day 2
EnduroGP
1. Steve Holcombe (Honda) 53:32.40; 2. Josep Garcia (KTM) 53:36.79; 3. Nathan Watson (Beta) 53:41.95; 4. Andrea Verona (GASGAS) 53:54.45; 5. Samuele Bernardini (Honda) 54:17.18; 6. Mikael Persson (Husqvarna) 54:18.69; 7. Hamish MacDonald (Sherco) 54:48.13; 8. Jamie McCanney (Husqvarna) 54:52.68; 9. Matteo Cavallo (TM Racing) 54:56.41; 10. Zach Pichon (Sherco) 55:17.56…

Championship Standings (After Round 1)
EnduroGP

1. Josep Garcia (KTM) 37pts; 2. Steve Holcombe (Honda) 35pts; 3. Andrea Verona (GASGAS) 30pts; 4. Nathan Watons (Beta) 28pts; 5. Samuele Bernardini (Honda) 20pts; 6. Hamish MacDonald (Sherco) 19pts; 7. Mikael Persson (Husqvarna) 18pts; 8. Jamie McCanney (Husqvarna) 14pts; 9. Zach Pichon (Sherco) 13pts; 10. Matteo Cavallo (TM Racing) 12pts…