Bram Chardon ahead after opening competition in Bordeaux

Bram Chardon (NED) winner of the FEI Driving World Cup™ Final 202324 - Bordeaux (FRA) Copyright © FEI Łukasz Kowalski

The times were tight, and the margins were miniscule, as two-time FEI Driving World Cup™ champion Bram Chardon (NED) set out on his bid for another title to edge into first on an exciting opening night in Bordeaux (FRA).  The three Dutch Drivers in the lineup followed a similar tactic and were very quick over the course, completing it in under 140 seconds.  All had penalties to add, but Bram had done enough to topple defending champion Boyd Exell (AUS) from the top spot – by only 1.04!

The running order was set by the series rankings after the eight qualifying legs, which stared in Lyon (FRA) in early November.  Ranked second, Bram was the penultimate athlete to enter the buzzing arena in the vast Parc des Expositions complex, with a near capacity crowd of 8,000.  Tackling Johan Jacob’s (NED) technical course, which had numerous options for routes through the obstacles and cones, Bram’s agile grey horses pooled their power to produce the fastest round of the night in 137.71 seconds.  An early ball roll meant four was added to his time, but the total of 141.71 kept Bram in front and gives him the psychological advantage going into the all-important title-deciding competition on Sunday afternoon.

As the top ranked Driver, Boyd was the last to enter the arena and bore the weight of expectation after his emphatic five victories during the series.  Although he was clear, his time was slower than the Dutch.  It was enough to put him in front of a delighted Koos de Ronde (NED) – but only by 0.14.  Another previous champion, Koos was the second Driver to start, and he added an early ball.  But his long striding horses kept flowing forward, as they have done throughout the series, and they produced a time that was only 1.18 slower than Bram’s.

Keeping the competition tantalizingly close, Dries Degrieck (BEL), who won his first FEI Driving World Cup™ event at the last leg in Leipzig (GER), drove a consistent clear to end on his time of 143.77, a mere 0.88 behind Koos.  Buoyed by his recent form, Dries may well ask his willing horses for even more tomorrow as he proved he can beat the best when it really counts.

As the third ranked Driver, Dutch legend Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) drove just before his son and was also fast, his horses producing a time of 139.89.  But there was eight to add, so his total of 147.89 pushed him into fifth.

Michael Brauchle (GER), who qualified on equal points to Dries, set out with his customary speedy intent but had to check his horses before the first marathon style obstacle, which stalled the rhythm, and cost him valuable seconds.  Two late balls on the course added eight to his time and he was sixth on 151.62.  The host nation’s wild card, Benjamin Aillaud (FRA), was the opening Driver and added eight penalties to his time to end on 166.63. 

As there is only one round in the first competition at a Final, the Drivers did not compete again and the top three re-entered the arena for the prize giving.  The positions from tonight set the running order for Sunday and also influence the scores because 50% of the difference between the first place and those behind is carried over.  After the first round on Sunday there will be a drive-off for the fastest three competitors, then the new FEI Driving World Cup™ winner will be crowned.

With such a close opening competition, it’s all to play for and the finale promises to be an exciting climax to a hard-fought series between the top Drivers.  Tune into FEI TV for live coverage.

For further information – FEI Driving World Cup™ – Season 2022-2023

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