After an amazing competition in which all odds were open, Swiss driver Jérôme Voutaz caused a huge sensation by finishing second behind Boyd Exell (AUS) in the seventh and last Leg of the FEI World Cup™ Driving in Leipzig. The result saw Voutaz claim a last-minute qualifying spot for the Final in Bordeaux, France on 6 and 7 February.
Exell was in top form again in Leipzig where the crowd were simply amazing. Germany’s Dr. Wolfgang Asendorf had laid out a technical and fast course in which he ensured that the slippery bridge of the first competition on Friday evening was amended to secure the safety of the horses and the drivers. “I have watched the events that I didn’t attend on television, and I knew that the teams were all very fit. Eight out of the ten World Cup drivers competed here and I wanted to bring a bit more technicality into the course as well as speed to please the spectators,” said Asendorf.
Exell flew through the course and put down two excellent clear rounds, securing his fifth win of this season. He has competed in six of the seven legs and has won five of them, which puts him in the box seat for Bordeaux. Exell is sometimes called the ‘Christian Ahlmann of the Driving’ as he wins very often, just like the Germany showjumping rider. He won a Longines watch for the first time in his career today. “This is the first watch I have ever won in the 15 years that I am competing, I really happy with it!,” said the Australian who actually did not want to go so fast, but who said his horses forced him to.
“My horses accelerated so much, their speed was too high. I know from experience that I then better not interfere with them. Michael Freund always told me to let them run, but it does take years to get the confidence to do so from the start of the course”, Exell explained. He gave his horses two weeks holiday after the last leg in Mechelen, Belgium and could feel that they were very fit again, both physically and mentally.
Jérôme Voutaz had a clear goal today. “I knew that I had a chance to enter the Top Six for the Final, but I never dreamt it would go like this. My goal in the first round was to drive fast and clear and I was very happy that it worked out, especially because it did not go so well for me in the first competition”, he said. He drove his Swiss Freiberg horses very carefully in the first round, and qualified for the Winning Round with Exell and Germany’s Rainer Duen. So even before the winning round, Voutaz already knew he was qualified for the final, as Exell and Duen had wild cards and could not claim any points.
The difference between Voutaz and Duen was only 0,41 penalty points and Voutaz went for it, trying to put the pressure on the German. “Even though I knew I was in the Final already, I wanted to drive clear”, Voutaz said afterwards. The Swiss man, who is an amateur driver, left the arena with one knockdown, creating some more space for Duen.
Rainer Duen had already finished his World Cup season for points and competed in Leipzig with a wild card. The driver from Minden in Germany wanted to proove himself and went for it from the start. He nearly missed the Winning Round when he touched a ball on the last cones gate, but luckily the ball stayed on, much to the amusement and delight of the 7,500 spectators who witnessed the exciting competition.
In the Winning Round, Duen was unable to stay ahead of Voutaz when he knocked two balls down, but he was nevertheless pleased with his performance. “I am very happy, especially because this is a young team. One of my leader horses has not competed in World Cup competitions before this season, and I borrowed the wheeler horses. The first round went really well for me but I did feel the pressure in the Winning Round”, he admitted.
Germany’s Michael Brauchle finished fourth today in the sold out arena at Partner Pferd. The reigning European Champion only had to finish in the first round to secure his starting ticket for the Final. Dutch driver Koos de Ronde came fifth, but as Leipzig was his fourth competition for points, this was his drop score and this did not affect his starting spot for the Final. Hungary’s József Dobrovitz jr. had a fair chance to enter the Top Six but had one knockdown and was not fast enough so he dropped to the sixth place, which wasn’t sufficient to make the cut for the Final. Unfortunately both father and son József Dobrovitz will therefore not start in Bordeaux this year.
Third wild card driver, Germany’s Georg von Stein, finished seventh to clinch the sixth and last place for the Final. However young Belgian driver Glenn Geerts finished eighth in Leipzig, and has not gathered enough points. In the end, it was all about speed in Leipzig and this will be the case until 2023 as the Organizer signed an agreement with the Leipziger Messe to keep hosting the spectacular and immensely popular Driving competitions.
Results FEI World Cup™ Driving, Leipzig (GER), 17 January 2016:
1. Boyd Exell (AUS) 211,08
2. Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) 231,73 (5)
3. Rainer Duen (GER) 244,70 (10)
4. Michael Brauchle (GER) 122,80 (10)
5. Koos de Ronde (NED) 123,49 (5)
6. József Dobrovitz jr. (HUN) 126,47 (5)
7. Georg von Stein (GER) 128,63 (10)
8. Glenn Geerts (BEL) 132,58 (10)
Results in detail can be viewed here
FEI World Cup™ Driving, standings after 7 of 7 events:
1 Boyd EXELL AUS 30
2 IJsbrand CHARDON NED 27
3 Koos DE RONDE NED 21
4 Michael BRAUCHLE GER 19
5 Jérôme VOUTAZ SUI 17
6 Georg VON STEIN GER 13
7 Jozsef DOBROVITZ HUN 12
8 Jozsef DOBROVITZ jr. HUN 11
8 Rainer DUEN GER 11
10 Glenn GEERTS BEL 6