Jaime Busto - Gas Gas made it two qualification victories in a row when he defeated his compatriot Albert Cabestany - Beta by over two-and-a-half seconds in Q2 at TrialGP Japan, round two of the 2018 FIM Trial World Championship, at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit today. The new format for 2018 sees two qualification sessions with Q1 determining starting order for Q2 which in turn decides starting order for the weekend's two points-paying main events with the best performances ensuring an advantageous place at the back of the field. As always, staying feet-up is the number one objective with riders' times then used to separate ties on observation. Busto lay second behind reigning champion Toni Bou - Repsol Honda after Q1 in the premier TrialGP class, but the twenty-year-old put in a blistering time at his second attempt at the technically very challenging section.
Starting on the flat with a series of imposing square-edged boulders and logs, the route then wound up, down and around a steep bank with yet more rocks and logs ready to catch out the careless. Loose soil and tight, off-cambered turns made the fast climbs and rapid descents even harder to judge before an ultra-technical exit over rocks that claimed plenty of marks. Sunny, dry conditions made the section easier than it would have been in the wet and the riders responded to the extra grip by hanging it out and Busto really dropped the hammer in Q2 to set an incredible time.
Britain's James Dabill - Beta is never afraid to twist the throttle and his aggressive second run put him third from Miquel Gelabert - Sherco from Spain and Frenchman Benoit Bincaz - Scorpa. Spain's Jorge Casales - Vertigo was sixth ahead of German rider Franz Kadlec - Gas Gas with Spaniard Adam Raga - TRRS, rising British star Jack Price - Gas Gas andhome hero Takahisa Fujinami - Repsol Honda rounding out the top ten.
The biggest shock of the day was a stray dab from Spanish superstar Bou on the log at the top of the section that put him thirteenth. The eleven-time World Champion almost wiped out a section marker and was lucky to not pick up a maximum which is the fate that befell his fellow countryman Jeroni Fajardo - Gas Gas who finished third at the opening round, but will now have to lead the TrialGP class away on both days.
Competing over an eased section, British heroine Emma Bristow - Sherco took a narrow victory in Q1 from Germany's Theresa Bauml - Montesa and Berta Abellan - Vertigo from Spain, but not even the reigning champion had an answer to Sandra Gomez - Gas Gas in Q2. The twenty-four-year-old Spanish rider, who scored a maximum in Q1, made no mistakes second time around to win by almost a second and she will start tomorrow at the back of the field behind Bristow and Spain's Neus Murcia - Beta, last year's Trial2 Women Champion. An expensive single mistake in Q2 from Bauml, the only rider to beat Bristow in TrialGP Women competition since May 2015 - dropped her to seventh
Championship leader in Trial2 after the opening round, experienced Italian Matteo Grattarola - Honda was over a second clear in Q1 on a route that was easier than TrialGP but harder than TrialGP Women, but a disastrous maximum in Q2 pushed him all the way down to a lowly twenty-third and he will be sixth man away tomorrow. Instead, the advantage of starting last will go to Spain's Marc Riba - TRRS whose clean ride was less than 0.4 of a second faster than Norwegian Hakon Pedersen - Gas Gas with another Spaniard, Gabriel Marcelli - Montesa, third fastest.
Trial2 Women Qualification was topped by America's Maddie Hoover - Gas Gas. The nineteen-year-old was fourth in Q1, but came out firing on all cylinders in Q2 with her clean ride just under half-a-second faster than her nearest rival Alex Brancati - Beta from Italy with France's Caroline Moreon - Sherco, who topped Q1, in third. German prospect Sophia Ter Jung - Beta, who is the highest ranked of the riders in action this weekend, paid the price of an expensive single penalty to end Q2 in ninth.
Just over half-a-second separated the top three in Trial125 with Spain's Pablo Suarez - Gas Gas coming home narrowly ahead of his compatriot Eric Miquel - TRRS with Britain's highly-fancied championship contender Billy Green - Beta, who was fastest in Q1, taking third.
Tomorrow will see day one of TrialGP Japan get underway based on today's qualification results.
Images: P. Segales