Germany’s Manuel Lettenbichler got his FIM Hard Enduro World Championship title defence off to the perfect start with victory at round one – the Xross Hard Enduro Rally in Serbia – at the weekend.
Delivering four solid days of racing in the Serbian hills, the KTM 300 EXC rider (pictured here) ultimately took the win with a 33-minute advantage.
Marking the first race of this year’s seven-round FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, the Xross Hard Enduro Rally got underway with a short Endurocross-style prologue on the streets of Zlatibor.
Three full days of challenging racing then followed, held in the region’s stunning mountains with each of the three legs covering 100 kilometres.
After claiming fourth in the prologue, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team rider Lettenbichler made his intentions for victory clear on Offroad Day One by mastering the wet and demanding conditions to bring his KTM 300 EXC home well over 12 minutes ahead of the rest of the field.
A close runner-up result on day two saw Mani finish just five seconds behind Britain’s Billy Bolt and in doing so the German extended his overall lead to 25 minutes.
Day three dawned with great weather, and once again Lettenbichler demonstrated the skill and speed that took him to the 2022 title with another day win.
Topping the timesheets by a further two minutes and 37 seconds, Mani secured the event victory and his place at the top of the FIM Hard Enduro standings.
“It’s been an amazing day for me today. I’m pretty stoked!” said Lettenbichler afterwards.
“I’m a little overwhelmed but it’s great to get my championship off to a strong start like this. I’m super happy with my riding all weekend – it’s been consistent, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. Obviously, it’s the best start I could make to this year’s series, but it’s only the first race.
“We’ve still got a long season ahead, and I’ll just take it all race by race as anything can happen in Hard Enduro, as we often see.”
Photo courtesy KTM Europe
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Provisional Results – 2023 Xross Hard Enduro Rally
- Manuel Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 9:49:28.60
- Mario Roman (ESP), Sherco, 10:22:38.10 +33:09.50
- Teodor Kabakchiev (BUL), KTM, 10:29:04.12 +39:35.52
- Trystan Hart (CAN), KTM, 10:33:04.42 +43:35.82
- Michael Walkner (AUT), GasGas, 10:36:49.98 +47:21.38
Provisional Standings 2023 Hard Enduro World Championship (after round 1)
- Manuel Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 20 points
- Mario Roman (ESP), Sherco, 17 pts
- Teodor Kabakchiev (BUL), KTM, 15 pts
- Trystan Hart (CAN), KTM, 14 pts
- Michael Walkner (AUT), GasGas, 11 pts