After a hefty summer break that lasted all of July and most of August, the FIM Enduro World Championship comes alive again this weekend for the Grand Prix of Greece at Serres. The Honda- HM-Zanardo Team are preparing for the sixth round of eight with Mika Ahola leading the E2 category and firmly vying for his fourth consecutive crown.
With 150 points left to win through the six days remaining on the calendar (Greece is followed by trips to Turkey and France) Ahola defends an advantage of 21 points over arch-rival Ivan Cervantes. The 35 year old Finn has been in superlative form across a diverse range of conditions and terrain on the adapted CRF450R and has finished no lower than second in the ten outings so far, including seven victories.
Ahola has been enjoying some downtime involving fishing, music festivals and archery according to his hugely entertaining personal blog: http://mikaahola.blogspot.com/. The world champion has also kept busy in the saddle and at Tolmezzo for the fourth and penultimate round of the Italian Enduro Championship was able to wrap up the national title.
Happier news lay in store for E1 rider Fabio Mossini during the hiatus. Apart from finding time to get married the Italian also recovered from his back injury to finish on the podium twice, with one victory, in the final two rounds of the Italian series on the CRF250R. “I am really happy with this result,’ he explained after the last race four weeks ago in Lumezzane. “It is a great achievement for me and for my team which has been supporting me. On August 7th I will be marrying Valentina but there is no time for a honeymoon: I have to train hard for the Greek and Turkish GPs.”
Other CRF450R rider, Oscar Balletti, was also a protagonist on home soil and will be hoping to move up from ninth to seventh in the E2 standings, which will require bridging a gap of just three points.
“We are all here in Greece and at full strength,” commented Team Manager Franco Mayr. “It will be a hard enduro even if we know the course and the conditions from previous years. I think the heat will be the toughest thing to deal with from the two days. Mika is feeling good and was training in Finland over the summer and has spent two days riding on the Greek Island of Rhodes also to prepare for the Specials.”
“We will make a shake-down test tomorrow but we are unlikely to change anything because Mika has a good feeling with the bike and we have a decent set-up,” he added.
Serres will provide a typically ‘Greek’ test, in other words sweltering conditions and rocky and dusty terrain even if the course will be different compared to recent years after the club decided on an overhaul of the 55km 4 lap layout, placing two special tests near the town centre and the rest of the sections in the small valleys nearby. Ahola finished second twice to Antoine Meo at Serres last year in the E1 competition.