Despite interrupted preparations ahead of the EnduroGP season opener following a car crash that left him with an injured left hand, Josep Garcia showed no ill effects of his enforced layoff and quickly accustomed himself with the frozen Scandinavian terrain. With a number of fast Finnish riders battling for the Enduro 2 podium on day one, Garcia placed a strong fifth.
On day two Garcia upped his pace and secured a well-deserved Enduro 2 class runner-up result on his KTM 250 EXC-F. “I’m really happy, considering that for one month before this race I wasn’t able to ride my bike it’s an awesome result,” enthused the Spaniard. “I was a little bit nervous because I knew that my hand and fitness wasn’t the best, but everything went well. Physically I found things tough but it has been an incredible experience. The first day was really hard, it was such a long day. But I think the second day was maybe harder. There was more mud and water and generally the special tests were really challenging.”
Making his debut in the EnduroGP World Championship for the KTM Enduro Factory Racing team, Australian Daniel Sanders completed a successful two days of racing on the KTM 250 EXC to finish sixth on in the Enduro 2 class on both days. “I always knew that this weekend was going to be a huge learning experience, and it was,” admitted Sanders. “I’ve really enjoyed the challenge, but the conditions have been really tough. With the team we did some great training but racing in the ice, mud, water and rocks is unlike anything I’ve done before. I rode as hard as I could on both days. I scored some good points so I’m pleased enough to come away from the event with two decent finishes.”
For Nathan Watson the GP of Finland ended with two positive point scoring results. Crashing heavily while practicing at home in the UK ahead of the GP, Nathan was unsure what to expect in Finland having been forced off a bike for a week. Not wanting to push too hard and risk crashing on day one, he rode to an eighth-place result. Feeling much more at home in the Finnish conditions on day two Nathan challenged for the EnduroGP podium before eventually placing fourth with his KTM 350 EXC-F.
“The race possibly wasn’t as difficult as it could have been, I’d say we were certainly lucky with the weather,” offered Watson at the finish. “I struggled on day one to be completely honest, but not so much because of the weather or the conditions. I had a huge crash training back at home and it really took the wind out of my sails. I just didn’t have any confidence in my riding during Saturday. I just didn’t want to crash again. It was tough, it was cold, it was certainly an experience. But things were better on day two. There was less snow on the ground but the tests were still really technical. I was fighting for the podium throughout the day, which was good. I’m just pleased that I got some good points from this race.”
Nathan’s EnduroGP team-mate Christophe Nambotin endured mixed fortunes in Finland, placing a solid sixth on day one on the KTM 300 EXC but frustratingly being forced to retire on day two with a technical issue.
“Obviously, the race hasn’t ended like any of us hoped it would, but the first day went well,” commented Nambotin. “The frozen conditions really take some getting used to, reading the terrain is so difficult at times. For me the hardest part was the liaison sections, it was so cold riding on the roads. It was a very different style of race, a difficult race to adjust to.”
The KTM Enduro Factory Racing team’s next outing in the EnduroGP World Championship is round two of the series in Puerto Lumbreras, Spain on April 21/22/23.
Next Race: April 21-23, 2017 – Puerto Lumbreras (ESP)
Results/Standings EnduroGP Lake Paijanne 2017
1. Antti Hellsten (FIN), Husqvarna, 50 points (1-1)
2. Marko Tarkkala (FIN), Husqvarna, 38 (2-5)
3. Steve Holcombe (GBR), Beta, 38 (5-2)
4. Matthew Phillips (AUS), Sherco, 38 (4-3)
5. Aleksi Jukola (FIN), KTM, 34 (3-7)
6. Nathan Watson (GBR), KTM, 31 (6-4)
13. Christophe Nambotin (FRA), KTM, 15 (8-DNF)