By Cindy Timmer
After an amazing battle between the best drivers, IJsbrand Chardon (NED) beat top favourite Boyd Exell (AUS) in the FEI World Cup™ Driving Final 2016 in Bordeaux (FRA) today and re-claimed the title for the first time again since 2006. Winner of the first competition, Koos de Ronde (NED) finished third. The Final of the 15th season of the FEI World Cup™ Driving turned into a true thriller where the battle went on until the very last moment.
Chardon made the competition very exciting when his back stepper, his son Bram, lost his balance for a fraction of a second at the last gate and almost fell off, which would have cost the Dutchman his victory. But Bram found his balance in time and stayed onboard in the end.
Last starter Exell had to risk everything to beat the very fast and clear round of Chardon. The six-time World Cup winner had an unfortunate knockdown at obstacle 3, after which Exell put the throttle on even more to make up for that. It did look as if he was going to do it, but a second knockdown in the last half of the course prevented him from winning his seventh FEI World Cup title.
Dedicated his win
IJsbrand Chardon dedicated his win to his former sponsor Kees van Opstal, who passed away last week age 85. “Kees was my sponsor for ten years in the 80’s and I owe many successes to him”, the Dutch driver said.
After two years of bad luck in Bordeaux, it finally came together for Chardon in the Final. Two years ago his horses were ill after the first day so he had to withdraw, and last year his leader horse jumped the start/finish line after which he drove a wrong gate. “I have won in Stockholm (SWE) and London Olympia (GBR) this year, so I knew that it was possible to beat Boyd. The team of horses that I have are very good and after I tried different set-ups I decided after my win in London that this would be my team for the Final”, he explained.
Boyd Exell was last to go in for the Winning Round, which took place over an altered course. After Chardon’s clear round, Exell was less than 2 seconds ahead of him, but the three-times World Champion didn’t feel any pressure. “I knew I had to go for it but then I had this unlucky ball at obstacle 3, caused by the hind leg of my left leader. I then had to push even more, but then a second ball fell. You just can’t have two balls in the Winning Round. I tried and I went as fast as I could, but it was IJsbrand’s turn this time to win”, said the sporting Exell.
Koos de Ronde was last in for the first round and had to go in first for the Winning Round which left his horses not enough time to recuperate: “It is a pity that my wheeler horses didn’t have enough power in the Winning Round to help me put the pressure on IJsbrand and Boyd, but it is still nice to be on the podium.”
Change of direction
Like during the first competition, the several thousands of enthusiastic spectators witnessed spectacular driving competitions today in Bordeaux.
International Course Designer Dan Henriksson (SWE) laid out a technical course, which suited most of the top drivers. In the Winning Round, Henriksson had taken out two gates in the marathon type obstacles and he changed the direction of gate A in obstacle 4. “I wanted to design a more complicated course for the Final than at a regular competition, but I still wanted to have the speed. The course must be challenging for the drivers and I believe it worked out well. I showed the course plan to the President of the Ground Jury, Bert Jambon (BEL), and he suggested changing the direction of one gate. This contributed to a fluent Winning Round although we could see some horses thinking ‘what’s going on here’ as they were already used to the course!”, he explained.
Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) concluded his first World Cup season with a respectable fourth place behind the Top Three by driving a very fast round with only one knock down. European Champion Michael Brauchle (GER) finished fifth in his first Final, followed by wild card driver Sébastien Mourier (FRA) and Georg von Stein (GER).
In 2017, the FEI World Cup™ Driving Final will take place in Gothenburg (SWE). Bordeaux however, will continue to host a leg, much to the appreciation of the drivers who enjoyed competing at the French fixture.
Results FEI World Cup™ Driving Final Bordeaux 2016:
FEI Photo Catalogue: Free images for editorial purposes available at www.feiphotos.org
IJsbrand Chardon (NED) was extremely happy with his FEI World Cup™ Driving title. Photo: FEI/Eric Knoll.