The 2018 FIM Trial des Nations kicked off at Sokolov in the Czech Republic today with a hard-fought qualification session designed to determine starting order for tomorrow's main event. A hugely-impressive twenty-three nations have converged on the historic town in the west of the country near the border with Germany for the Olympics of Trial. Each country fielded two riders for qualification with the fastest, lowest-scoring run of the pair counting.
In the World Championship category Japan triumphed with veterans Takahisa Fujinami - Repsol Honda and Kenichi Kuroyama - Yamaha just edging out defending champions Spain in a nail-biting showdown over the fast, man-made section that ended with a huge leap requiring courage and commitment in equal measure. In the end it was Fujigas' full-on assault that swung the balance away from Toni Bou - Repsol Honda and Jaime Busto - Gas Gas with his time of 0:33.54 less than half-a-second ahead of Busto who beat his twelve-time World Champion team-mate. "I'm very happy because there are some very good riders," said Fujinami. "It is always good to start at the back which will give us an advantage tomorrow." Amazingly, Italy's Matteo Grattarola - Honda recorded the same time as Busto, but his team-mate Luca Pettrela - TRRS finished behind Bou which dropped them to third ahead of France and Norway with Great Britain and Germany rounding out the top seven.
Victory in the Women's World Championship class went to Great Britain led by Emma Bristow - Sherco with Donna Fox - Montesa riding shotgun. Demonstrating complete mastery of the huge rock slabs, Bristow - who sewed-up her fifth consecutive TrialGP Women World title at the start of the month - recorded a feet-up time of 0:28.80 to push defending champions Spain into second as Sandra Gomez - Gas Gas and Berta Abellan - Vertigo struggled to live with her pace. "We planned that Donna would go first and get the clean," said Bristow, "and then I could just go for it and it worked out quite well. We've been training a lot together as a team so hopefully we'll have a good day tomorrow." Germany's Theresa Bauml - Montesa and Vivian Wachs - Gas Gas were third ahead of the Italian and Norwegian teams with the United States finishing sixth.
In the Men's International Trophy it was the Swiss pairing of Noe Pretalli - Gas Gas and Steve Erzer - Montesa who came out on top with Pretalli's clean ride in a time of 0:28.93 giving them the nod by over a second ahead of the United States' Patrick Smage - Sherco and Daniel Blanc Gonnet - Gas Gas. Defending champions Australia represented by Chris Bayles - Gas Gas and Kyle Middleton - Gas Gas came in third almost a full second further back.
The scene is now perfectly set for tomorrow's main event when the best riders in the World will scrap it out to determine the ruling nations of Trial.