HOLCOMBE ready to defend his crown! ENDURO GP opener – Preview
Finally! Nearly five months after a historic season finale at the popular “Rund Um Zschopau” in Germany, EnduroGP is back! And with an equally well-known event; ‘Päitsi’ (Päijänne Enduro)! The stars of the discipline will tackle this tough race for the second time in as many years, and this legendary race in northern Europe will be ready to provide an intense season opener.
After the success of the first edition last year, Alain and Bastien BLANCHARD (ABC Communication) quickly got back in touch with the HMK, the organiser of this very famous event. Kenneth LAAKSONEN, president of the HMK, and Mauri PENTILA quickly responded in favour of running another winter Enduro in the World Championship calendar!
The HMK, supported by the Finnish Federation (SML), made a point of showing that the sport of Enduro can be enjoyed even in very cold weather, and on snow and ice! This club has organised ‘Päitsi’ since 1927, and the event has been run every year except for a break during the Second World War (between 1940 and 1948). Previously known as “Päijänteen ympäriajo”, the event takes place around Lake Päijänne. The format is similar to that of a car rally and has seen a number of Finnish World Champions such as Kari TIAINEN, Petteri SILVAN, Juha SALMINEN and Mika AHOLA crowned. In 2017 another local rider won the Finnish GP at Päijänne in his very first participation: Eero REMES (TM)! The Finns even have a saying that you can’t be a real Champion unless you have won (or at least, finished) Päitsi!
Known as “the great Finnish adventure”, this two-day race attracts all types of riders, from experienced veterans to young novices. This year, the 250 entries (made up of EnduroGP + national riders) will start from Vierumäki and battle their way through 11 hours 30mins of racing with 16 different special tests on Saturday, including two night tests! A further 7 hours 30mins and 12 special tests will follow on Sunday, before the riders arrive at the finish in Helsinki. The riders will also have to face long and difficult transfers in the freezing cold, this will culminate in the crossing of Lake Päijänne, which is frozen at this time of the year on its northern shore. This year the race is expected to be harder than ever since the weather is likely to be very different from last year, with much more snow and lower temperatures! So, it goes without saying; extreme conditions await the competitors at Päitsi 2018!
It is in this legendary setting that the riders will, on Saturday March 17, start the GP of Finland on frozen and largely snow-covered tracks. And who knows if this time, with a year of experience under their belts, the stars of EnduroGP will be able to challenge the local riders for the overall victory!