Boyd Exell (AUS) has claimed the FEI World Cup™ Driving champion title for the fifth time in his career in a thrilling finale held in the sold-out Expo centre in Bordeaux (FRA). It was not an easy victory for the Australian who won the neck-to-neck race only 0.69 seconds ahead of rookie Daniel Schneiders (GER). Title defender Koos de Ronde (NED) finished third.
The Final in Bordeaux was very exciting but also saw some unexpected developments today. Just two hours before the start of the second competition on Sunday afternoon, overnight leader IJsbrand Chardon (NED) took the difficult decision to withdraw on the advice of his vet.
“It was a tough decision,” Chardon explained. “This afternoon we received a letter in the stables informing us that several jumping horses had developed fever and we were advised to regularly take the temperature of our horses. Two of my Lipizzaners had temperature and the veterinarian advised me not to start in today’s competition. I am of course following his advice for the welfare of my horses.”
After European and Dutch national champion Theo Timmerman made a mistake in the first obstacle and had several knockdowns and Tomas Eriksson (SWE) was eliminated for driving the course in the wrong direction, Koos de Ronde, Boyd Exell and Daniel Schneiders battled it out on the fast course created by world championship course designer Gábor Fintha (HUN).
Exell had to make up 4.17 seconds and was steadily on his way to success driving his mixed team of bay horses. In the last phase of the competition he had a hairy moment when his leaders turned in front of obstacle 11. The double world champion pulled so hard to get them in the right direction that he lost balance. Luckily the Australian managed to stay in the carriage and moved on without losing any speed. Daniel Schneiders drove a very fast yet safe first round after which the difference between him and Exell had decreased to 1.46 seconds in Schneiders’ favour going into the winning round.
Boyd Exell was the first to go and set the fastest time of the evening without taking any unnecessary risks. This increased the pressure on Schneiders whose dream to finish in the top three had already come true. The 32-year-old farrier knew that he could not afford any mistakes and made a last-minute decision to cut a corner on the course after he realised he was three seconds behind Exell. Heading to the finishing line, it looked as if the newcomer was going to make it, but he missed the title by just 0.69 seconds.
Koos de Ronde had already had a knockdown in the first round and when he had a ball down in the winning round, he knew the third place in this year’s Final was the best he could hope for with his team in which three horses were different compared to last year when he had won the FEI World Cup™ Driving Final.
Wildcard driver Thibault Coudry (FRA) was eliminated during the first competition on Saturday evening and competed as a guinea pig in today’s Final.
- Boyd Exell (AUS): “I have just returned from a six-week holiday with good friends in Australia and I knew it was is a disadvantage for me to come back at this level. Last year I paid the price, this year my horses saved me. I am really delighted for my sister and my mother, who follow me from Australia. This win is really for them. I must say that it would have been nice to win with a fair fight; it is a shame IJsbrand could not compete.” Daniel
- Schneiders (GER): “It has really been a dream come true to be able to make it to the Final after my first FEI World Cup Driving season. My goal was to finish in the top three and to be so close to Boyd in second place is just amazing. I really enjoyed Bordeaux with its great atmosphere for the horses and the drivers. I owe many thanks to my team, including my brother Dennis who is a competition driver himself. They are behind me and I appreciate that they take holidays to help me all the time. My goal for the outdoor season is to qualify again for the FEI World Cup Driving. I hope my new team will be ready in time to achieve this goal.”
- Koos de Ronde (NED): “It is of course a pity to loose the title, but my performance today was the best I could achieve. I have had some problems with my horses this season and I used a new horse in the wheel in Bordeaux, who got a bit excited. Today we were just not good enough and didn’t manage to put on a better performance. But next season will be a new season with new chances which I am already looking forward to.”
Results CAI-W Final Bordeaux (FRA), 9 February 2014:
- Boyd Exell (AUS) 254,09
- Daniel Schneiders (GER) 254,78
- Koos de Ronde (NED) 273,56
- Theo Timmerman (NED) 194,18
- Tomas Eriksson (SWE) EL (IJsbrand Chardon DNS)
Official results and for more information on FEI World Cup™ Driving, please check the FEI website.