|| || |
Preview: '06 World Enduro Championship - round 1 Ostersund, Sweden (01.03.2006)
Reigning Enduro 1 world champion Ivan Cervantes (Spain) is joined by Alessandro Belometti (Italy) in the smallest of the WEC’s capacity classes where both riders will compete aboard KTM’s 250EXC-F. In the Enduro 2 class Samuli Aro (Finland) will defend his world championship title aboard a KTM 450EXC and is joined by Fabien Planet (France), who will also compete on a 450cc four-stroke machine after racing aboard KTM’s 250EXC in ‘05. In the Enduro 3 class David Knight (Isle of Man) will defend his world championship title on KTM’s 525EXC with Marko Tarkkala (Finland) as his team-mate, also aboard a 525EXC. With the opening round of the ’06 World Enduro Championship taking place in Sweden, KTM Enduro Factory Team Farioli rider Samuli Aro (Finland) gives his thoughts on the WEC’s first ever winter enduro
KTM: Since winning the ’05 Enduro 2 world championship title what have you been up to during the off season?
Samuli: “Well, soon after the world championship finished I raced in the Barcelona Indoor Enduro. That was pretty much my last race of ’05. After that I took little time off from riding. I stayed with my family in Finland and used the time to relax and get away from the pressure of racing. There’s not too much time to relax because there is always another season not too far away. After a few weeks off I started to prepare for the ‘06 season by spending time on my mountain bike, swimming and doing some cross-country skiing. In the beginning of January I raced in a car rally with a friend, which was fun, and then Marko Tarkkala and I went to the States to start our on-bike training.”
KTM: So you decided to split your training between the States and Finland this year, why was that?
Samuli: “Because the first round of the ’06 WEC series is in Sweden on snow and ice I knew that it would be best to do the majority of my training at home Finland, which is also covered in snow during the winter. But because I took one month off from riding at the end of last year I felt that it would be good to do some ‘wake up’ training with the bike in sunny conditions before I started seriously training in the snow. Marko and I wanted to have something new in our training routines so we decided to go to the States. We both rode 525SX bikes and we had a really great time riding with many of KTM’s factory motocross riders on tracks that we had never been to before.”
KTM: This year’s WEC series starts with the first ever ’winter enduro’ in Sweden. As a riders used to racing on snow and ice during the winter what’s it like?
Samuli: “Slippery, cold and very different to racing on the dirt. This race gives me lots of new motivation because it’s something totally new for WEC. I really think that it is great for the championship to have such a different style of race. I believe that the organisers have put a lot of effort into preparing the race and I hope that it will become a permanent fixture in the WEC calendar.”
KTM: How much of an advantage do you think you will have over southern European riders in Ostersund, having grown up racing on snow and ice?
Samuli: “I think that I, like all Scandinavian riders, will have an advantage. But I also think that the WEC’s top riders are able to ride fast in any conditions. Of course I will have more experience when it comes to preparing myself for the race but still I think it’s going to be hard to get good result. I am really looking forward to the race though, it should be a great start to the championship.”
KTM: Have you been doing a lot of testing with the new KTM factory EXC450?
Samuli: “No, it’s not that much different to my ’05 bike. Last year’s bike was awesome so there really wasn’t any great need to change too much. The new engine has some small modifications to make it even easier to ride. There’s certainly enough horsepower – that’s for sure. We have spent some time testing suspension, just to make it better suited to different race conditions.”
KTM: ’06 is certainly going to be another great WEC season. Which riders do you think will be your closest rivals in the Enduro 2 class this year?
Samuli: “Without a doubt Stefan Merriman will be really strong. He’s always fast and has lots of experience. My KTM team-mate Fabien Planet was really fast last year and now has more experience so he will also be really competitive. Finnish rider Mika Ahola will be really motivated now that he is riding for a new team and so will Valtteri Salonen. I am sure there will also be one or two surprises as well, like Planet was last year.”