The Husqvarna CH Racing Monster Energy Team saw plenty of success in the opening round of the 2011 Enduro World Championship. The team saw no fewer than five team riders on the podium including Juha Salminen and Antoine Meo taking early leads in the Enduro 1 and Enduro 2 classes respectively.
With Juha and team-mate Matti Seistola claiming a double one-two finish at the top of the E1 class, things couldn’t have gone better for the team. And with Antoine Meo securing a double win in the Enduro 2 class, the squad had much to be pleased about.
Making his WEC debut for the team aboard a 250cc four-stoke machine, Juha Salminen immediately showed that he’s ready to do all that he can to secure world title number eight this season. Putting his many years of experience to good use Salminen trailed team-mate Seistola for much of the day before a mistake by Matti saw Juha move into the class lead. Simply making fewer mistakes than his rivals, Salminen made the best possible start to his E1 championship campaign, finishing 10 seconds ahead of his team-mate and claiming a deserved victory.
For Seistola, the disappointment of letting the win slip through his fingers was soon overcome as he claimed a strong runner-up finish, ensuring a memorable one-two result for Husqvarna. Day two saw Salminen and Seistola back on the top two steps of the E1 class podium. With Salminen taking control at the front, Seistola had to overcome an early mistake on the extreme test to fight his way back into contention. Eventually claiming the runner-up spot, Matti finished just nine seconds behind his team-mate.
“It’s been a great weekend with good results, and I’m pleased that we can put the first race behind us now and focus on the rest of the championship,” said Salminen. “I felt really comfortable on my bike and generally didn’t have any problems on either day. I was able to push as hard at the end as I did at the start, which was great. I’m happy with everything — it’s a great start to the championship.”
This was a view shared by his Enduro 1 team-mate Matti Seistola, who said, “I’m really pleased all the work during the winter paid off as I felt strong during both days and with good speed, too. The first day was really good. I did make one mistake, on the enduro test, which cost me the win. But to see that my speed was good and to start the championship on the podium was great. I didn’t feel great at the start of the second day and then made a big mistake on the first extreme test, which cost me 15 seconds. Before the last lap I was in fifth place and about 16 seconds behind the other riders, so to finish second again is great.”
All eyes were on 2010 E1 World Champion Antoine Meo and the start of his expected Enduro 2 title fight, but after making a costly mistake during the Friday night Super Test and then another early on day one, Meo was forced to be at his best in order to claim victory. However, the Frenchman showed the kind of form that saw him win his first EWC title last year, eventually placing 20 seconds ahead of Spaniard Ivan Cervantes. Day two saw a second victory for Meo as he again proved to be too fast for his E2 class rivals. Antoine pushed himself and his bike hard throughout the day to again finish ahead of Cervantes. In doing so he took an important lead in the Enduro 2 championship standings. Competing alongside Antoine in the E2 class was Simone Albergoni who made a strong start to the series, placing fifth on day one and fourth on day two.
“I never imagined the first race of the year would end up like it has. The race itself was very physical and really took a lot out of me, but winning on both days was great,” said Meo. “Being in a new class and on a new bike it means that the first race is really important to see where you are, and how fast you are. And my speed was good. I was nervous before the start and made a mistake on the Friday night Super Test and lost eight seconds. Then at the start of the first day I crashed on the enduro test and had to work hard to come back. On the second day I didn’t make any mistakes and so I’m really happy to be leading the E2 world championship.”
Playing a part in ensuring Husqvarna placed on the podium in all three senior classes was Seb Guillaume, who claimed a hard-fought third place on day one in the competitive Enduro 3 class. On day two Seb narrowly missed the podium, placing just seven seconds adrift of the final rostrum spot.
“Third on the first day was good for me,” said Guillaume. “I crashed in the last enduro test, but before that I was riding well and fighting with the other riders, so I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to finish higher than third. I lost a lot of time on the first extreme test on the second day because of problems with my rear brake and I knew that I wasn’t able to fight back onto the podium so I was happy with fourth. It’s been a good start to the year.”
The 2011 Enduro Championship now moves on to Portugal for the second round of the series, which takes place in Vale de Cambra on April 8-10.