There is no doubt that the 2012 FIM X-Trial World Championship has begun at speed with the trip to Marseille this coming weekend marking the third stop on the current tour in as many weekends.
Directly from the winter break, the World’s elite Trial riders have been thrown immediately back into battle with the opening two bouts having been contested in Strasbourg, France and Geneva, Switzerland over the last two weeks.
Marseille will bring a new type of challenge to the competitors, with round three being held over two separate nights. Friday evening will see the action begin, as the eight fixed riders are joined by two wild card entrants for the qualification process. Only six successful candidates will progress to Saturday’s main Trial.
The new year may only still be relatively young, but already reigning FIM X-Trial World Champion Toni Bou - Repsol Montesa has resumed normal service and shown himself to be currently operating at another level compared to his rivals. His performances in Strasbourg and Geneva thus far have been pure class and can only serve to have demoralised the opposition so early in the campaign.
Behind Bou, the traditional battle to become the best of the rest has already begun to develop with compatriots Albert Cabestany - Sherco and Adam Raga - Gas Gas trading blows in the two rounds to date. Cabestany now holds the upper hand in the general standings as Raga’s inconsistency returned in Geneva and left him without a podium placing.
A pair of spirited rides by the tours oldest campaigner Takahisa Fujinami - Repsol Montesa sees him holding fourth spot in the series some ten points clear of Jeroni Fajardo - Beta and Loris Gubian – Gas Gas. Fajardo has yet to shine since switching back to the Italian factory, but has shown moments of promise. Whilst Gubian can count himself unlucky having missed out on a place in the final in Geneva after losing a three-way tie decider with Fujinami and Raga, as the more experienced duo transferred through to the sharp end of the event.
Michael Brown - Gas Gas and Alfredo Gomez - Montesa are the last of the permanent riders and must both up their game if they are to move beyond the qualification stage in Marseille. Their task will be made that bit tougher this weekend, as they have to contend with wild card entrants Alexandre Ferrer - Shero and Pol Tarres - Jotagas to book their place in the semi-final. Tarres will be making his debut on the new Spanish built machine, and hence will be looking to impress.
Although Bou will be ultra confident when he arrives in the southern French city, he will also be aware of Cabestany’s uninterrupted winning run in this atmospheric and noisy arena from 2008 to 2010 inclusive. With the series set to pause for a month after Marseille and ahead of a trip to Madrid in early March, all the riders will know the importance of a good holding performance this coming weekend.
NOTE: The Marseille X-Trial will NOT be televised live in the UK.