Based around 70 miles south west of Barcelona, the Tarragona venue hadn’t seen top-flight trial action since the 2015 FIM Trial des Nations.
Defending champion Toni Bou (Montesa) hasn’t lost an opening round since 2016 but the record-breaking champ – who’s looking for his 16th straight title this year – had to settle for second after a sensational performance by fellow Spaniard Jaime Busto (Vertigo).
In baking temperatures Busto recorded only his second career-win at the highest level – and the first-ever TrialGP victory for the Spanish manufacturer – to put himself on top of the world!
“Today has been incredible,” said Busto, “and I’m so happy to start the season like this. The bike and the team have been incredible and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
After an opening man-made section of logs and concrete pipes that took a shock maximum at the first attempt from Bou, the action was predominantly in and around a dry riverbed where super-steep bankings and huge rocks provided a serious challenge for the best riders in the world.
Following a high-scoring opening lap with plenty of time penalties that ultimately had no bearing on the podium positions, Miquel Gelabert (GASGAS) was leading on 22 followed by Busto and Gelabert’s younger brother Aniol (Beta) – who was riding out of his skin after graduating to the TrialGP class this season – on 24. Bou was next best on 25 with Adam Raga (TRRS) completing the all-Spanish top five on 27.
Ultimately, two sections decided the outcome of the trial – section four set under a viaduct with precipitous bankings and imposing boulders and section eight in the riverbed with its series of massive rock steps.
Bou couldn’t get to grips with either and picked up maximums at each attempt while Busto added just eight to his total as he ran out winner with 25 on observation and four time penalties giving him a six-mark advantage as Bou parted with 32 and picked up further three on time.
Gelabert was a career-best equalling third on a total of 45 which put him six clear of his brother as Raga came home in fifth on 51 with his four time penalties costing him a position.
With last year’s TrialGP Women champion Laia Sanz absent, the premier female class followed the form book with Britain’s Emma Bristow (Sherco) – who won seven straight crowns from 2014 to 2020 – quickly getting into her stride.
A single mark lost on section three on the opening lap put her at an initial disadvantage when Naomi Monnier (GASGAS) from France, Andrea Sofia Rabino (Beta) from Italy and Norway’s Huldeborg Barkved (GASGAS) all went clean to share the early lead in this truly international class.
Bristow, however, is a master at dealing with pressure and she quickly regrouped to lose just two further marks on the remainder of the 12-section lap to tie for the lead at the halfway point with her Spanish rival Berta Abellan (Scorpa) as Monnier and Rabino shared third position on nine marks apiece.
It was a high-pressure start to lap two with Bristow and Abellan going toe-to-toe until section six when the 31-year-old Brit pulled clear to complete the lap having added just a single mark to her score as Abellan racked up an addition six penalties to end the day with a total of nine.
“Obviously, I’m pleased to come away with first,” said Bristow. “It’s a great way to start the championship. Hopefully tomorrow the sections will be a little bit more difficult but I’m happy with the way I feel on the bike and the team is really good.”
Completing the podium after a second lap of 12, Monnier’s score of 21 put her two ahead of Rabino and five in front of Barkved.
With Toby Martyn (TRRS) and Aniol Gelabert – first and third last season – both moving up to TrialGP and Britain’s Jack Peace (Sherco) and Italy’s Lorenzo Gandola (Beta), who finished 2021 in second and fourth, both having a bad day the door in Trial2 was left open for some fresh talent to shine.
It was rising Spanish star Pablo Suarez (Montesa) who produced an almost faultless performance. After ending last year’s series in seventh, the 21-year-old has clearly been working hard over the off-season and he dropped just two marks, his second coming on the very last section of the trial!
His compatriot Arnau Farre (Sherco) was tied with him for the lead at the halfway mark but a maximum on section six on lap two ruined his chances and he ended the day on a total of seven which was still 10 clear of third-placed Sondre Haga (Beta) from Norway.
“Today has been great for me,” said Suarez. “There was some pressure because Arnau was also riding really well. I’m very happy with the result.”
With electric motorcycles competing against conventional petrol-engined machines for the first time in the series’ history, French rider Gael Chatagno (Electric Motion) showed just how competitive these bikes can be and was only three marks away from the podium.
For 2022 the old Trial125 class has been rebranded as Trial3 and Harry Hemingway (Beta) got his campaign off to the best possible start with a conclusive win – although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the young British rider who ended last year as runner-up.
A comfortable six marks clear of Adria Mercade (Scorpa) following his incredible clean opening lap, a maximum on section six second time around caused a few nervous moments but he held it together and his total of seven saw him finish five marks ahead of his talented Spanish rival to top the 28-strong field.
“It’s the ideal way to start the year,” said Hemingway. “I set off great with a perfect first lap but I got a bit tired in the heat on the second lap and made a mistake but I’m still very happy with a score of seven.”
The Czech Republic’s David Fabien (Beta) started the day as one of the pre-event favourites but a disastrous opening lap total of 18 dropped him out of contention. However, the 16-year-old – fourth overall in 2021 – showed his class and parted with just three marks on lap two to snatch the final podium position from class newcomer Jamie Galloway (TRRS) from Britain.
The action resumes tomorrow with the first rider away at 9am.