From Israel to Italy, with Serbia and Austria in between, Hard Enduro’s top riders have faced all manner of different terrains and event formats.
Kiwis will face these riders in France
It is worth noting too that leading contenders in this year’s FIM Hard Enduro World Championships will be some of these same riders who the New Zealanders will face when they tackle the International Six Days Enduro in France later this year.
Can you imagine Kiwi heroes Tom Buxton, Liam Draper, Dylan Yearbury, James Scott, Tommy Watts, Wil Yeoman, Seth Reardon, Ben Dando, Dan Watson, Callan May, Ben Cottrill and Josh Jack lining up to battle with the international stars listed below?
Lettenbichler on a roll
Absent at round one as he recovered from injury, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Manuel Lettenbichler made good his return to racing at round two of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championships by winning. And he hasn’t stopped topping the podium since.
In Serbia he surprised everyone, including himself, to earn victory and show that his extended time off a bike hadn’t slowed him down. A debut Red Bull Erzbergrodeo victory was then backed up with a win at Red Bull Abestone in Italy.
Now, all of a sudden, he’s a championship contender heading into the second half of the season.
Breaking new ground
Round one saw Hard Enduro break new ground with the Minus 400 in Israel.
Located in the Dead Sea region, it took place below sea level, hence the event name. Held in a vast barren and rocky desert, it also proved incredibly tough on body and machine. Intense heat pushed everyone to their limits.
Young guns blazing
We’re witnessing the rise of new Hard Enduro talent with each passing round.
In Serbia, Team Bulgaria powered by ECONT rider Teodor Kabakchiev raced his way to a debut podium. Next up, we saw GASGAS’ Michael Walkner put on an incredible show in his home race at round three in Austria.
Finally, Rigo Racing’s Matthew Green carded a career-best fifth last time out at Red Bull Abestone.
With all three inside the top-10 in the overall standings, it won’t be long until we see them regularly pushing for consistent podium results.
Mr Consistent Mario Roman
Sherco Factory Racing’s Mario Roman has shown himself as a serious title contender this year. Sitting third overall in points, he’s only missed the podium once in four races.
His highlight moment came with a victory at round one, but arguably round two was his most heroic performance despite it being his lowest score.
Breaking a toe on the opening day of four, Roman bravely raced on to collect six valuable points in 10th.
New for 2022 is the Junior category for riders under the age of 22. Providing an additional platform for emerging talent to showcase their speed, it’s already delivering results.
South Africa’s Matthew Green has emerged as title favourite with three wins from three starts. Behind him and it’s tight between Rieju’s Mitchell Brightmore and AG Racing Team 89’s Suff Sella. Britain’s Brightmore holds a two-point lead over Israel’s Sella.
Serbia’s Xross Hard Enduro Rally proved an instant hit with both riders and Hard Enduro fans thanks to its incredible terrain.
Amazing single track mountain trails greeted competitors throughout the four-day event. Offering a similar feel to the upcoming Red Bull Romaniacs, Serbia delivered true, raw mountainous Hard Enduro terrain with GPS style navigation.
Iron Giant awakened
We waited two years for Red Bull Erzbergrodeo to return, but it was worth it.
Seeing the Iron Giant in full Hard Enduro mode brought a smile to everyone’s face.
Up to 1800 competitors took to the track during the four days of racing, culminating in an epic battle for supremacy that was played out live on Red Bull TV.
Billy on the injury bench
At the halfway point in the season Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Billy Bolt (pictured above) holds the championship lead.
But it’s likely that this is where his title defence ends as he steps away from competition to get himself 100% healthy.
Since before the season began, he’s been battling ongoing wrist and ankle injuries, which makes his performances even more incredible. Heal up Billy, we can’t wait to see you back (hopefully before the end of the year!) all guns blazing.
Championship Standings (After round 4 of 8):
1. Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 62pts; 2. Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 60pts; 3. Mario Roman (Sherco) 58pts; 4. Alfredo Gomez (GASGAS) 47pts; 5. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 40pts; 6. Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 38pts; 7. Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM) 35pts; 8. Wade Young (Sherco) 33pts; 9. David Cyprian (KTM) 31pts; 10. Matthew Green (KTM) 27pts.
Junior Standings (After round 3 of 4):
1. Matthew Green (KTM) 60pts; 2. Mitchell Brightmore (Rieju) 49pts; 3. Suff Sella (KTM) 47pts; 4. Kasper Dudzic (GASGAS) 34pts; 5. Robert Crayston (KTM) 24pts
Photo courtesy Red Bull
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