Reigning FEI World Cup™ champion, Boyd Exell from Australia, won the FEI World Cup™ Driving Leg in Geneva for the eighth time in his career this morning. He finished over 11 seconds faster than runner up Sébastien Mourier from France who competed with a wild card while Dutch driver, Koos de Ronde, claimed the third place.
Dutch Level 4 Course Designer Johan Jacobs laid out a long course in the largest indoor arena in the world. The track consisted of a spectacular water splash, a bridge, three marathon obstacles and several cones, and despite the early morning start, the tribunes were filled with enthusiastic spectators who enjoyed the skills of the eight drivers performing at the 55th edition of the CHI Geneva.
Boyd Exell proved to be in top form once again at the Swiss venue, where the drivers felt very much at home. Exell has a tremendous record at the Palexpo Exhibition Hall in Geneva where he won his second FEI World Cup™ title in 2010, and where he has been victorious at every leg of the FEI World Cup™ Driving in which he has competed.
He put down a very fast round and was six seconds faster than during the First Competition on Saturday afternoon, despite one knock down. Before going into the Winning Round, which took place over a shortened course, he had an advantage of 16 seconds over Mourier. But the six-time FEI World Cup Champion just let his horses go and drove them smooth and fast through the course, securing his third win in a row for this season.
“I had two knock downs today and that was me interfering with my horses, I was trying to be too careful,” Exell explained afterwards. “I never underestimate the other competitors and I always feel pressure before the drive-off because I know how quickly you can go from hero to zero”, he wisely added.
With 30 points, Boyd is in the lead on the series rankings and has already secured his ticket for the Final in Bordeaux (FRA) on 6 and 7 February.
Geneva was only the second-ever World Cup experience for French driver Sébastien Mourier, who had received one of the three wild cards for Geneva. Mourier competed with a wild card earlier this year in the FEI World Cup™ Driving Final in Bordeaux, where he finished sixth.
The Frenchman drove his beautifully turned out team of grey mixed warm-blood horses fast through the course, staying ahead of the more experienced drivers. Mourier qualified for the Winning Round where he had two knock downs, but by setting the fastest time he secured his second place. “I had never driven a Winning Round before, so I did not know how my horses would respond, especially in this long course. But it went very well, they were a bit tired in the end but they did a fantastic job, I am very grateful to them” he said.
Mourier prepared for this World Cup competition in the same way as for the outdoor marathons. “After my disappointing results at the European Championships in Aachen where I had a problem with one horse, I was luckily able to use that same horse again here, as it has fully recovered. I have not done any special training and it was amazing to be here. I now hope to receive a wild card again for the Final in Bordeaux,” he said with a laugh.
Since Mourier competed with a wild card, third-placed driver Koos de Ronde will receive seven points, putting the bronze medallist at the European Championships 2015 into the third spot in the current rankings.
De Ronde had changed two horses compared to his last start in Madrid (ESP). “I have six horses at my disposal for my indoor team and because of the long course in this large arena I choose to use two other horses,” said the Dutchman who put down the only clear round of the competition in the first round today.
“In the Winning Round I drove a little too safe,” he explained. “And I had a knock down as well so I punished myself twice. I should have taken more risk, but that’s the game. I found the course very long, especially in the Winning Round. I think it would have been more exciting if one of the obstacles had been taken out” he added.
Both Exell and De Ronde will compete in the fifth leg of the FEI World Cup™ Driving series at London Olympia (GBR) next week, but they both feel this will not affect their horses. “We all know that December is a busy month with many World Cup competitions,” said De Ronde today. “Everybody is well prepared and the horses are all fit”, he added.
Father and son, József and József Jr. Dobrovitz, finished in fourth and fifth place today. Their leader horses lacked the necessary speed in order to keep up with the fast times of their fellow competitors. Dobrovitz Senior will also compete at London Olympia next week, where he will use one of Boyd Exell’s horses to spare one of his own. Wild cards Jerome Voutaz received the wild card in Geneva in 2013 and 2014 and is this season part of the series. Voutaz selected Geneva to compete for points instead of asking for a wild card in order to allow his Swiss compatriots, Werner Ulrich and Cyril Maret, to compete in the Palexpo as well, with wild cards. Voutaz felt less pressure than during his first competition abroad in Madrid last month, but felt the disadvantage of the long course in Geneva. “My horses turn very fast in the obstacles, but they lose speed in the length of the course. But I gave everything and I am very pleased with my horses” he said today.
The most experienced wild card driver, Werner Ulrich, finished seventh, assisted by his daughter Laura and son Stefan on the carriage. Ulrich competed for the eleventh time in Geneva this year and put a new outdoor leader horse to the test.
Local hero, Cyril Maret, received the wild card in Geneva 2014 as well and finished in eighth place today. Maret’s first performance in Geneva was in 2000 when he performed in a show with an Hungarian post - standing on the backs of two horses while driving three more horses in front.
Results FEI World Cup™ Driving, Geneva (SUI), 13 December 2015:
Boyd Exell (AUS) 328,86
Sébastien Mourier (FRA) 340,22
Koos de Ronde (NED) 343,00
József Dobrovitz (HUN) 181,91
József Dobrovitz jr. (HUN) 190,19
Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) 191,36
Werner Ulrich (SUI) 204,06
Cyril Maret (SUI) 214,59
Results in detail can be viewed here
FEI World Cup™ Driving, standings after 4 of 7 events:
1 Boyd EXELL AUS 30
2 IJsbrand CHARDON NED 17
3 Koos DE RONDE NED 14
4 Jozsef DOBROVITZ HUN 9
5 Rainer DUEN GER 8
Jozsef DOBROVITZ jr. HUN 8
7 Michael BRAUCHLE GER 7
Jérôme VOUTAZ SUI 7
9 Georg VON STEIN GER 6
10 Glenn GEERTS BEL 2
The 2015/2016 FEI World Cup™ Driving series now moves on to London Olympia (GBR) on Saturday, 19 December.