Ahola victorious again in sodden Slovakia
The Honda- HM-Zanardo Team had more cause for celebration last weekend as Mika Ahola picked up his seventh E2 victory of the 2010 Enduro World Championship at a wet, slippery and very technical Puchov for the Grand Prix of Slovakia. The fifth round of eight in the series witnessed the powerful Finn use the full agility and delicacy of his modified CRF450R to win the first day and then place second on Sunday. Through finishing ahead of main E2 title rival Ivan Cervantes’ KTM the former triple world champion has now opened a breathable 21 point gap in the standings (with 25 being awarded for a first place.)
Ahola’s results this year since returning to the E2 category that he clinched in 2007 have been mightily impressive. From the scorched terrain of Spain, the sand of Poland and the perilous rocks and terrain in Puchov – due to rain on both days of the Slovakian GP – the 35 year old has taken seven wins from ten (five in a row) and has not dropped out of the top two in all days of competition.
In Slovakia the team negotiated their second Grand Prix in a week and Ahola carefully guided his machine to the top of the classification by eight seconds over Rodrig Thain with Cervantes struggling and back in fourth on the first day. It seemed that Honda’s star would be pushing for a repeat of the 2009 Slovakian double that he posted on the CRF250R in E1 but two costly errors in two different specials slapped around thirty extra seconds to his race time and allowed the surprising figure of Tomas Oldrati to reach first place on day two. Ahola played a percentage game after his mistakes and rode cautiously to ensure second spot and yet more ground over Cervantes (3rd at the second time of asking) in the points table.
“I pushed early to make an advantage over Ivan on Saturday and the tactics worked but it was so slippery and tricky out there,” he said. “I made two big mistakes on Sunday and it lost me around 30 seconds in total. The two-strokes had the advantage today. I knew Ivan was behind me so I played it safe and did not want to mess it up any more. One day was good the other OK but the lead in the championship is good at this stage of the season.”
“A very difficult and different grand prix from what we found in Poland,” assessed Team Manager Franco Mayr. “It rained on both days so the ground was always slippery and not easy. The two-strokes probably had an easier time but we are pleased with how Mika rode, especially when he assessed the situation after the errors in the specials. To have 21 points over a rider like Cervantes into the second half of the championship is very good.”
Also in E2 Oscar Balletti was 11th and 10th. “This perhaps was not Balletti’s strongest terrain but it is strange that he can ride so well and fight with Mika in the national championship but cannot do that in the grand prix,” commented Mayr. “Still, it was a hard race and it was important to finish.”
The sixth round of eight will take place at Serres for the Grand Prix of Greece on August 28-29.
WEC Round 5, Day 1 – E2
Mika Ahola (Hon) 54:21.30 Rodrig Thain (TM) +8.04
Tomas Oldrati (KTM) +34.45
Ivan Cervantes (KTM) +1:02.31
Fabien Planet (Sherco) +1:29.40
WEC Round 5 Day 2 – E2
Tomas Oldrati (KTM) 56:22.56
Mika Ahola (Hon) +17.80 Ivan Cervantes (KTM) +32.39
Pierre Alexander Renet (KTM) +57.58 Joakim Ljunggren (Husaberg) +2:02.91