WINNING RIDE FOR BOLT AT EXTREME XL LAGARES. MANUEL LETTENBICHLER CLAIMS SECOND
The opening round of the 2021 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship was a memorable one for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing as Billy Bolt took the win at Extreme XL Lagares. In what proved to be a shortened version of the event following eleventh-hour Covid restrictions forced sweeping changes to the original event schedule, Bolt took a convincing Endurocross victory with teammates Graham Jarvis and Alfredo Gomez placing third and fifth respectively. Due to heavy overnight rain, officials took the decision not to award championship points.
Setting the pace around the Endurocross track, Bolt came out swinging during Saturday’s qualification to top the time sheets. Frustratingly, heavy overnight rain saw track conditions severely deteriorate come Sunday’s racing, but Bolt continued to shine. Winning the opening two races in style, the Brit overcame a crash on the first lap of the final race to recover to second. In doing so, his three combined results were more than good enough for him to claim the overall event win.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Manuel Lettenbichler has finished as runner-up at Extreme XL Lagares: Lettenbichler raced on, earning a commendable second place overall in tough and muddy conditions in Portugal. Originally scheduled to include three different races – an Endurocross, Prologue, and Main Race – this year’s running of Extreme XL Lagares had to be dramatically cut down to just an Endurocross qualifying session on Saturday, followed by three pro class Endurocross finals on Sunday. With heavy rain having a hugely negative impact on proceedings for Sunday, the decision was made not to award FIM Hard Enduro World Championship points, but that the day’s schedule would continue.
Despite the Endurocross format not falling into Manuel Lettenbichler’s regular comfort zone, the KTM 300 EXC TPI rider gave it his all over the two days of racing in Portugal. Qualifying in an impressive fifth place, despite being up against a number of SuperEnduro regulars, Mani went into Sunday’s three-race program both confident and eager to show what he could do. Heavy rain overnight and into Sunday turned much of the already technical course into a mud bath, the tougher conditions suiting Lettenbichler however as his hard enduro skills come to the fore.
Claiming eighth in the first heat, Mani fought hard in the second, leading the first two thirds of the 20-minute-plus-one-lap race before dropping down to second. Riding consistently the young German was able to hold off the chasing pack to finish as runner-up. In the third and final heat, Mani got off to a great start, taking an early lead around the now extremely wet and cut up track. Despite being pressured heavily from the riders behind, the 2019 WESS Champion was able to hold his nerve and carry his advantage to the checkered flag, taking the win by 15 seconds and securing his runner-up overall result. Fourth position for Wade Young (Sherco Factory).
Billy Bolt:“It’s been an eventful start to the season, but to get a win here in Portugal is still a good feeling. I felt ready for the original format of Extreme XL Lagares - I’d put in the ground work and wanted a good result. But after the news late on Thursday that the format was changing, I just wanted to make the best of the situation we were all in. Anytime you get on track you want to be the fastest and I managed that almost all weekend. I topped the Saturday qualification and got two wins from three starts today. Overall, I’m feeling good on the bike and looking forward to getting this championship started properly now.”
Manuel Lettenbichler: “I’m super-stoked to take second place, especially in these conditions. It was still really tough out there, but I’m pleased we were able to get some racing out of the weekend. I think the organizers and the promotor made a good decision to scrap the points because this kind of racing is not what the championship is about – hard enduro is a different sport. Everyone did a good job to keep the ball rolling with all the restrictions and changes that had to take place and it was still a nice event, but super muddy. I’m pleased to have come away as runner-up. It was quite good fun, all-in-all it has been a good day.”
Results – FIM Hard Enduro World Championship Round One – Extreme XL Lagares
1. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 57 points
2. Manuel Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 45 pts
3. Graham Jarvis (GBR), Husqvarna, 39 pts
4. Wade Young (RSA), Sherco, 37 pts
5. Alfredo Gomez (ESP), Husqvarna, 35 pts