Päijänne, the great Finnish adventure, ended on a high this afternoon in the capital city of Helsinki after a shorter second day of racing (7 hours and 20 minutes!). Sunday was not only less taxing in terms of tests, but also in terms of temperature! Indeed, the temperatures finally began to rise into the ‘plus range’ as Helsinki approached, and the snow was less abundant over the twelve special stages of the second day of the Grand Prix of Finland.
The legendary Päijänne nevertheless remains a race for the specialists and in this game the local riders still appear to be unbeatable, despite the enormous amount of progress shown by the regulars of the Maxxis FIM Enduro World Championship, who today really managed to worry the fast Finns.
Finnish double World Enduro Champion, Eero REMES (TM) was the one to follow on the road to Helsinki, along with his compatriot Eemil POHJOLA (Gas Gas), who tried to get his revenge after a mechanical failure on Day 1. But no-one could get near the speed and precision of the diminutive Finn – REMES brilliantly won the EnduroGP (scratch) category, while Aleksi JUKOLA (KTM) took third place and inscribes his name in the list of successful Päijänne 2018 riders.
Eero REMES was unstoppable not only in EnduroGP but also in E2. For his debut in this medium-sized capacity class, the protégé of Luca CHERUBINI, was more than comfortable on this snowy terrain and took the advantage over his most serious rivals. But he had to keep an eye on the very quick and determined Alex SALVINI (Husqvarna Zanardo) who again upped his game on the final day to take a splendid second place. SALVINI is sure to be one of the favorites for the 2018 title and his return to Team Jolly Zanardo looks to have been very beneficial. Matthew PHILLIPS (AUS – Sherco) was desperate to improve after a dismal Day 1… and his smile of relief today contrasted with his unhappy face the day before. The Australian admitted to having suffered a lot in the conditions but The Sherco factory rider snatched his first podium of the year after finding the determination to push on and put his troubles behind him. Suffering over both days, Loïc LARRIEU (F – Yamaha) tried hard on the run to Helsinki and limited the damage by finishing 4th in front of a very solid Thomas OLDRATI (I – Red Moto) and a consistent Deny PHILIPPAERTS (I – Beta Boano) – who was again in the spotlight with an excellent 6th place, in front of a brave Christophe CHARLIER (F – Beta).
It was full gas in E1 where Jamie MCCANNEY (GB – Yamaha) couldn’t replicate his Day 1 victory, the Manxman finishing 5th. He nevertheless takes charge of the small capacity class with his Yamaha WR250, holding a small margin over an amazingly strong Brad FREEMAN (Beta Boano). The Brit impressed, not only with his speed but with his good humour as he took on the challenge of the Senior class. Third today, the 2017 Junior World Champion was unable to hold back the two Finns; Eemil POHJOLA and Henry OLENIUS, who were on fire in the snowy conditions. A great consolation for these two riders after their disappointments on Saturday and a great victory for the Gas Gas rider Eemil POHJOLA, who we will happily find for the entirety of the season in the factory Gas Gas team managed by Giovanni SALA.
Although less impressive than the first day, Aleksi JUKOLA (SF – KTM) shone again in front of his home crowd and won the E3 class ahead of Tony ERIKSSON (SF – KTM). But Steve HOLCOMBE (GB – Beta) still appeared to be very comfortable in these race conditions, taking 6th in EnduroGP, and earning his first podium of the year in E3. The Brit’s smooth and precise riding style worked wonders in the Scandinavian snow and he therefore gained valuable points for the rest of the season. He has proven that he is still the man to beat whether in Enduro3 or Enduro GP. There was a nice end to the weekend in E3 for the factory Gas Gas rider Danny MCCANNEY (GB) who held on tight for 4th place in a battle with Marko TARKKALA (SF – TM), who still has a lot of pace despite retiring from World Enduro several years ago. Christophe NAMBOTIN (F – Gas Gas) limited the damage by finishing 7th in the ‘big class’.
“Päitsi” and its 1000 volunteers…
Having suffered the tricky tests and the freezing cold, the stars of World Enduro will now be able to “heal their wounds” and recover from this grueling 83rd edition of Päijänne. They will have 6 weeks of rest before heading to Spain for the second Grand Prix of the season in Santiago de Compostela (28 and 29 April). There will able be the opportunity for them to tweak the settings of their motorcycles while refining their athletic preparation.
Nevertheless, this opening round of the 2018 Championship here in Finland, and the legendary and revered “Päitsi” will remain in the history books thanks to its extreme difficulty. An almost unique competition which is probably the most important and impressive off-road organisation in Europe, and which required more than 1000 volunteers including 60 timekeepers and 50 rescuers. We would like to give thanks and appreciation to these amazing volunteers and the Helsinki Motor Klub led by Mauri PENTTINEN and Kenneth LAAAKSONEN, it has been a very special 2018 season opener! KIITOS!
What they said…
Eero REMES: “I am very satisfied with this Grand Prix. It’s a very special race and my goal was to take advantage of my knowledge and experience and get to Spain with a good lead… Mission accomplished! Leader of E2 and second in EnduroGP, I had hoped for this and it augurs well for the future!”
Steve HOLCOMBE: “I came here after a lot of hard work and preparation…so I’m quite satisfied with my result! I’m looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix and being back on special tests that are more suited to me…”
Matthew PHILLIPS: “I had one of the hardest days of my career yesterday … I got really cold in the morning and it drained all my energy. Today, I am a lot happyier even if I didn’t have the best settings for this race but as and when, we found terrain where I felt more comfortable. I’m already looking forward to Spain!”
Jamie MCCANNEY: “I gave a lot yesterday and suddenly, I felt more tired today… Coupled with settings which weren’t necessarily right for this race, I had difficulties.”