Always warily anticipated by the riders... the infamously tough Scandinavian Tour lived up to its reputation and has undoubtedly marked a turning point in the 2016 season! Two intense back-to-back weekends of racing left the EnduroGP riders with no time to breathe or relax !
As we know, organising a round of the FIM Maxxis EnduroGP World Championship is a tricky task for Moto Clubs who, unlike riders, teams, the promoter or the FIM, are often just volunteers rather than paid professionals. But the superbly professional attitude and skills of the HEMK of Heinola and the Gota MS Enköping would beg to differ! The hard-working and calm approach of the Scandinavians has achieved two top events and it is difficult to choose between the clubs when deciding who provided the best race. Henri SAARI (Finland) and Roger AHLEN (Sweden) have shown tremendous professionalism and efficiency and were able to predict and prevent problems ahead of time. A task made more demanding with the difficult weather conditions. Clearly, these have been the two best organising clubs of the championship so far!
Supertest, At What Price?!?!
Imagine in Italy, Spain or France, a huge queue at the entrance of the Super Test on Friday night in order to pay an entry fee ...hard to believe perhaps! But in Scandinavia, despite the admission fee ; about €25 for three days in Finland and €10 for the Super Test in Sweden, Enduro fans showed up in their droves! Huge numbers of fans were present on Friday night in Finland and Sweden! A boon for organisers who benefitted from the additional funding, and something for the Southern European countries to think about.
The lure of a World class Enduro brought the legends out of the woodwork in Finland. Maurizio MICHELUZ (FIM Track Inspector) had the privilege of checking the course with eight times World Champion Juha SALMINEN (SF). Kari TIAINEN (SF), always friendly and approachable, was also seen around Heinola’s paddock. As was Petteri SILVAN (SF), now manager at Sherco Finland. Not to mention former top guns like Marko TARKKALA (SF) or Jari MATTILA (SF) and Mika SAARENKOSKI (SF). We also had a visit from rally legend Markku ALEN (SF) who told us he has "been a fan of Enduro for a very long time!"
GUSTAVSSON, A Welcome Return
We had not seen Thomas GUSTAVSSON (S) and his well-liked Husky team since last year’s Grand Prix AMV of France, after Husqvarna decided to entrust the Team Manager’s position to Austria's Andreas HÖLZL. But for his home Grand Prix, the former manager was present in the EnduroGP paddock. Albin ELOWSON (S - Husqvarna) and Jane DANIELS (GB - Husqvarna) were operating from his pitbox, and it was a rather positive weekend for the pair: 2nd/2nd in EJ for Albin, and 1st/3rd in EW for Jane! It was certainly a pleasure to see the kindly and well-respected Gustavsson back among us!
On Friday afternoon at the Maxxis Grand Prix of Sweden, Rabaconda in association with ABC Communication organised a tyre change competition on their trade stand! The three "competitors" were the quadruple World Champion Paul EDMONDSON (GB), the rider / manager Simone ALBERGONI (I) and the promising French youngster Jean-Baptiste NICOLOT (F)! All three were equipped with Rabaconda’s patented tyre change equipment, and the public and fans were provided with some good entertainment, accompanied by commentary from the witty referee, Fabrizio AZZALIN!
Ultimately, it was ALBERGONI who walked away with the Rabaconda equipment set, ahead of NICOLOT and EDMONDSON!
A great idea from one of EnduroGP’s sponsors, bringing a little more life into the paddock whilst promoting their brand !
What about Salvini?
You've probably wondered why Alex SALVINI (I - Beta) has disappeared from the provisional standings on Sunday evening, when just a few hours earlier he had finished 3rd in E2! The 2013 E2 World Champion was shuffled down the standings following a final decision from the FIM. It seems that the Italian changed his rear wheel during the day, and this is prohibited under the FIM regulations. The race direction has taken the logical decision to penalise Salvini, which brought joy to Cristobal GUERRERO (ESP - Yamaha) as he was able to take his first podium (3rd in E2) of the season.
Scandinavia’s Talent Pool
We were talking about the return of Finnish riders to the forefront of Enduro racing, when referencing Henric Stigell (TM) at the Maxxis Grand Prix of Greece. But this latest tour of Finland-Sweden allowed us to discover some more new talent from Northern Europe. Despite Stigell achieving impressive results in both Grand Prix, some of his countrymen were trying to steal the show. Eemil POHJOLA (SF - Husqvarna) who took to the Junior podium on Sunday in Heinola, and Antti HANNINEN (Husqvarna) who did the same during the two race days in Finland in the Youth Cup. We should keep an eye out for these two riders at the Spanish Grand Prix! On the Swedish side, we enjoyed more strong results from Albin ELOWSON (S - Husqvarna) who appears to be back to his best following an injury-ridden 2015. Elowson’s young countryman Joakim GRELSSON (KTM) took the Maxxis Grand Prix of Sweden in his stride, scoring 4th and 2nd in FIM Youth Cup 125cc! The future could therefore be bright for the Scandinavian countries after several years of drought.
In addition to Rabaconda, two other partners of the EnduroGP Championship visited the Maxxis Grand Prix of Sweden. Returning this year, Scott Sports, and the air filter manufacturers FunnelWeb Filter were both present in the paddock. They were able to show off their products and brands to the many keen spectators and Niels VAN KEMPEN (FunnelWeb Filter) even took the opportunity to catch up the teams and riders he sponsors.
Many riders and teams said they were surprised at the number of spectators encountered during these two race weekends. While Sweden and Finland are two of the strongest nations in Enduro, it is true that the turnout was much lower when the paddock visited Heinola and Enkoping two years ago. The strong presence of fans throughout the three days has also highlighted the excellent work of the organisers and showed that it is not only in Italy and France where Enduro is enjoyed to the maximum !
The New Face of Enduro
If you have not already noticed, since the beginning of the season ABC Communication, with the debut of EnduroGP, decided to have a little makeover ; a new awning and new structures around the start/finish of the tests and the podium and start ramp! The concept is designed to rejuvenate the World Enduro and to clearly mark the structures around the tests in the individual colours of sponsors for each test. Maxxis for the Cross Test, Technomousse for the Extreme Test and Mika Ahola "Brave One" Trophy for the Enduro Test. This brings extra visibility to spectators, especially with the addition of extra timing screens. And creates a better working environment for the timekeepers, while also helping the host clubs. World Enduro needed a facelift, and it seems that the new look is a success !