Preview – WEC Round 5, Puchov Slovakia

Slovakian GP next as Ahola continues E2 title push

The second half of the 2010 FIM Enduro World Championship begins this weekend with the fifth round of eight in the series taking place at Puchov for the Grand Prix of Slovakia. The Honda-HM-Zanardo Team goes into their second consecutive weekend of racing with Mika Ahola chasing his third event victory on the spin. The fierce Finn currently holds a 12 point advantage over main E2 title threat Ivan Cervantes as he chases his fourth crown in a row.

Puchov, near the Polish border has been a regular stop on the calendar for several years now. The riders will have to complete three laps of 65km course with Xtreme (obstacles), Cross (like motocross) and Enduro (longer with mixed elements) specials that are likely to involve rocky, grassy and woodland areas, which take on added difficulty if the weather proves to be unreliable - as forecast.

It was in a wet setting in 2009 that Ahola was able to excel in very tricky riding conditions and clinched a double win in the E1 category. The 35 year old will be hoping for a repeat performance of last weekend in Poland on his CRF450R in E2. "What a weekend!! I can't believe how different my race in Kwidzyn was compared to 2008," he blogged this week. "Back then Ivan Cervantes beat me both days and now it was me who did the winning! I was totally on fire! But like I said I had a feeling that the 450 suits me better in those sandy conditions."

With trips to Greece, Turkey and France yet to come, Ahola knows he cannot afford any major mistakes and aims to preserve the superb run of the results that has seen the Honda rider drop no lower than the top two in the eight days of competition so far this campaign.

Oscar Balletti travels to Slovakia with the aim of completing two full days of action after bad luck with a technical problem on the first stint in Poland. The Italian is currently 7th in the standings and will be working on the 33 point deficit he faces to reach the top five.

"It has been raining here for a few days and now it is actually sunny but for sure we will have a slippery enduro," said Team Manager Franco Mayr. "We have some good settings for the bike from Poland and today Mika will test the final part of the set-up for Puchov where will we look at a different type of engine map to best handle the damp forest and rocks."

"Mika is riding well and he is fast on this type of ground, as we saw in Slovakia last year, even if he did have the lighter bike then!" he continued. "Of course when it is slippery then the race is that much more unpredictable; you can have a crash or a bike problem that can affect the result but we are happy to compete in the wet and we feel confident."

Fabio Mossini will again miss the Grand Prix due to his back injury. "Fabio will not be racing but we are hoping that he will be able to ride the CRF250R on Monday which means he has a long time to get fit and sharp for round six of the world championship," said Mayr.

It promises to a battle between the two main protagonists, Cervantes and Ahola, once again in E2. Recent form suggests that the Honda rider has gained the upper hand over his KTM counterpart and Ahola will be looking to enforce this and increase his point's advantage further in Puchov.

2010 fim enduro world championship, grand prix of slovakia, oscar balletti,