French rider Antoine Meo emerged as the top KTM factory rider in the opening two rounds of the 2013 World Enduro Championship in Talca Chile this weekend, opening his account to retain his E1 title with wins on Saturday and Sunday.
KTM’s other reigning world champion Frenchman Christophe Nambotinlifted his game on Sunday to move up from second place on Saturday to a win on Sunday in the E3 class. E2 duo Johnny Aubert and Ivan Cervantesshared the minor podium places on Sunday.
The weekend started well for the team with Johnny Aubert taking the KTM Super Test on Friday night in front of a big crowd but Saturday was something of a disappointment for the team with high expectations for titles this season.
Meo, however did not disappoint. He won five tests and maintained the overall lead in all nine tests on the opening day’s ride. He went out hard and fast but early pressure from Husqvarna rider Juha Salminen made him redouble his efforts as the day progressed. After Saturday’s ride Meo indicated he was satisfied with his first round attack on the 2013 title.
“This was the start to the championship that I was looking. I knew Juha would attack fast early on. I managed to win the first test but then he won the next two. After that I stepped it up and won the next four special tests. I felt comfortable all day and in the end it all worked out for me to win.” Meo was on his game on Sunday. He won three tests but maintained the overall lead for most of the day. His KTM factory teammate Cristobal Guerrero, still recovering from corrective shoulder surgery following a crash in the 2012 International Six Days Enduro, put in a good effort for overall eighth but on Sunday retired after the second Extreme text on Sunday. Guerrero crashed and broke a fuel line and was not able to continue.
Saturday’s E2 saw a battle between title-holder Pala Renet of France on the Husaberg and KTM’s Johnny Aubert, who comes into the 2013 season after tough preparation and determined to be back among the contenders. He was very strong during the first six tests and it was only after the seventh of nine that Renet assumed the overall lead. Aubert was untouchable in the cross tests, winning all three and went into Sunday’s tests saying he knew where he had to improve to beat Renet. Third place on day one was decided in favor of Spanish rider Ivan Cervantes and Alex Salvini. Cervantes, who returns to the factory team after two seasons with a Spanish-based team crossed the line only three seconds behind Salvini in fourth place.
On Sunday it was Cervantes who emerged as the best of the factory team’s two E2 riders. He finished second to Italian Alex Salvini while Aubert finished third on Sunday.
Saturday was a disappointing day in E3 for KTM’s Christophe Nambotin, who was unbeatable in 2013. He won five tests and reluctantly settled for second place after Joakim Ljunggren of Sweden powered his Husaberg into the top spot. Nambotin admitted he had made mistakes and committed to pushing hard on Sunday. He delivered on the promise on Sunday and assumed his usual place on top of the podium.
Italy’s Giacomo Redondi was the best rider in the European Juniors on Day One and repeated his win to leave Chile with a perfect score card.
KTM Enduro Factory team boss Fabio Farioli said he was generally satisfied with the weekend’s results from his riders and how they mastered the dry, dusty conditions. He said it had been a good World Championship outing to launch the season that was also very well supported by the enthusiastic Chilean spectators.
The factory team now heads east into Argentina for rounds three and four next weekend in San Juan.
Image courtesy KTM