Stuttgart opens World Cup season
23 November 2003

The Stuttgart German Masters hosted the first event of the FEI World Cup Driving 2003/2004 season from 19 to 23 November 2003.

Seven drivers competed in the arena of the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle, five qualified drivers and two Wild Cards. The organisation has allocated one Wild Card to Max Dangel, the reigning champion of Baden-W?ttemberg, and one to USA?s Chester Weber.

Weber was, as winner of the North American Driving Challenge, entitled to compete in the 2003/2004 World Cup season as the 11th driver. Although he decided not to compete in the World Cup series, after he received an invitation from the Stuttgart organizers, he felt he did not want to let this opportunity pass. Weber drove a borrowed team of horses.

Weber?s Global Team partner and double World Cup Champion Michael Freund will also started in Stuttgart, as well as his fellow countryman Christoph Sandmann and Switzerland?s Werner Ulrich.

For the first time in the short history of the World Cup Driving, two Hungarian drivers have qualified to compete. One of the most successful Hungarian drivers Jozsef Bozsik (50), and the upcoming talent Jozsef Dobrovitz (35) made the long journey to Stuttgart.

Germany?s Christoph Sandmann won the warm-up part of the competition in Stuttgart on Friday 21 November. As the first starter, Sandmann drove a clear round and finished in a time of 138.35. The crowd?s favourite in Stuttgart, Michael Freund, took seven seconds off Sandmann?s time, but he dropped the last two cones and he ended up in second place. The Hungarian driver Jozsef Dobrovitz started off really well, driving his team of Lipizzaner and Hungarian geldings to third place. Jozsef Boszik?s horses needed some more time to adjust to the big arena and his team ended in seventh place. Chester Weber, driving a team of German warmbloods and trotters borrowed from Michael Freund and Walter Pl?ker, came fourth.

The World Cup competition proper took place on Saturday 22 November at 14.00 hrs. Germany's Michael Freund was the winner, but the 49-year old had to fight for it. In the warm up competition he let his fellow countryman Christoph Sandmann have the honours, but in the main competition Freund fought back and, supported by thousands of enthusiastic fans, scored his third consecutive win at the World Cup event in Stuttgart.

Freund explained: "Yesterday I had some bad luck when the brake of the right rear wheel of my carriage seized, but that was solved this morning. I have not very often driven the horses I used in Stuttgart in this composition. The two wheelers are from my outdoor team. I had to look for a solution to compete with the best possible team, because I know that my colleague-drivers are getting closer and closer! "

Christoph Sandmann, eager to beat his friend Freund in a World Cup competition, put everything at stake in the first round. He and Wild Card driver Chester Weber from the USA qualified for the drive off, with Freund as their major opponent. Weber, driving a team of borrowed German horses from Michael Freund and Global Team manager Walter Pl?ker, knocked down five cones but was pleased with his third place. "I was invited by the organization to compete with a Wild Card and I believe that I have made this a true World Cup and not only a European Cup". Sandmann had to be pleased with the second place, despite his clear round.

Switzerland?s Werner Ulrich came fourth, followed by the second wild Card driver Max Dangel from the Baden-W?ttemberg area.

The Hungarian drivers Jozsef Dobrovitz and Jozsef Boszik made their indoor debut in Stuttgart. Dobrovitz started off well in yesterday?s warm up competition, but knocked four cones down in the final course and came sixth: "We don?t have this kind of indoor driving in Hungary, so we have not been able to really prepare ourselves. We drove one indoor competition, but it was in a small hall without spectators. In Stuttgart I have tried not to listen to the music and the crowd and I am pleased with my result, my horses listened well and I can only get better! " explained Dobrovitz. Jozsef Bozsik, driving a team of Lipizzaner horses, came seventh in both competitions.

The course was designed by German course designer Falk B?nisch from Donaueschingen, who made use of new obstacles, constructed by the Dutch course designer Johan Jacobs.

The next World Cup competition takes place in Stockholm, Sweden, on 29 November 2003.

CLICK HERE for the full results and points standing in the 2003-4 World Cup series.