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Chardon wins World Cup
16 April 2006

IJsbrand Chardon has won the Final of the 2006 FEI Driving World Cup after a super exciting competition in Gothenburg.

After a fantastically driven Final, in which Dutchman IJsbrand Chardon managed to keep the tension in the competition until the last obstacle, the triple World Champion won the Final of the FEI World Cup Driving in Gothenburg. Michael Freund, with whom Chardon had to share the title last year, came second. Switzerland?s Werner Ulrich ended in third place.

The final competition in the Scandinavium arena, which was filled with over 10,000 spectators this afternoon, ended in a close competition between the two title defenders.

Chardon drove a fast and clear first round and equalled Freund?s fastest time in the warm up competition: "I knew that if I wanted to put pressure on Freund, I had to come close to his time, and I did", explained a very happy Chardon, who was cheered during the competition by his whole family.

Freund knocked a ball down in the first round, which gave Chardon an advantage of 11 seconds. Dr. Wolfgang Asendorf, who was also responsible for the courses in Hannover and Leipzig, had designed a rather technical course with many turns. The course was slightly changed after the first day and the second round of the Final took place over a shortened course. Chardon continued: "I drove safely, but with this kind of opponent, I knew I had to drive fast in order not to lose too much time. But I felt good and my horses went well." There was a heart-stopping moment when Chardon's leader horses nearly went wrong in an obstacle. They knocked a ball down and the jury unintentionally rang the bell, but Chardon luckily ignored the sign and continued his course at high speed. When a ball in the last gate was touched by his carriage, it caused another moment of excitement. But the ball stayed on and Chardon passed the finish line with some five seconds advantage to Freund.

Michael Freund not only came to Gothenburg to compete in the Final, but also to make a statement. Until two weeks ago, the four-time World Cup winner did not want to compete in Gothenburg. The Hungarian and Belgian Federation, the organisation of the World Championships at Kecskem? 2004 and his colleague-drivers Zoltan Lazar and Felix Brasseur all made a protest several weeks ago against the FEI decision to absolve Freund from the 2004 Championship doping matter. Freund felt stabbed in the back by his fellow competitors and he and his family also received several threats. Luckily, Freund was convinced by his family and friends to compete in his last World Cup competition abroad and was pleased with his result. "After Leipzig, I knew Chardon had a good chance to win the Final. I had a good day yesterday and today I made two mistakes. But I am very happy that IJsbrand won it." Freund is planning to stop competing internationally after the coming outdoor season.

Switzerland's Werner Ulrich was the third driver qualified for the drive-off round. The 1998 World Champion however was unable to keep up with the times of the title defenders but was nevertheless happy with his third position.

Chardon's compatriot Koos de Ronde, who competed in the Final for the first time, just missed a place in the top three by less than 2 seconds when he dropped two cones in one obstacle.

Hungary?s Zoltan Lazar broke his right hand last week and managed to drive his team of Lipizzaners to finish in fifth place. The 2004 silver medallist hopes that his hand will heal soon before the outdoor driving season starts in Hungary.

Home drivers Fredrik Persson and Tomas Eriksson were not so lucky today. Persson, who amazingly qualified for the Final by winning the World Cup competition in Stockholm with a wild card and doing well in Geneva, had to drive an extra loop because he had forgotten the course: "The course designer told me I have to learn the difference between left and right !" Persson was nevertheless very happy to compete in Gothenburg and enjoyed watching the exciting Final.

Tomas Eriksson was eliminated when he drove a wrong gate: "It is the second time here in Gothenburg that I took the wrong course, maybe I was just under too much pressure," explained a disappointed Eriksson.

It was the first time in the five-year history of the FEI World Cup Driving that the competitors started the Final from scratch. Both the FEI and the drivers were very pleased with this formula, which will be continued next year. The FEI organized a productive meeting on Saturday with the organisers and the competitors to discuss the future of the World Cup. Several agreements for the future were made and there is a potential increase in the number of World Cup events next season.

Final standings FEI World Cup Driving 2005/2006:

1. IJsbrand Chardon (Ned)
2. Michael Freund (Ger)
3. Werner Ulrich (Sui)
4. Koos de Ronde (Ned)
5. Zoltan Lazar (Hun)
6. Fredrik Persson (Swe)
7. Tomas Eriksson (Swe)

Winners FEI World Cup Driving:

2001/2002: Michael Freund (Ger)
2002/2003: Michael Freund (Ger)
2003/2004: Michael Freund (Ger)
2004/2005: Michael Freund (Ger) and IJsbrand Chardon (Ned)
2005/2006: IJsbrand Chardon (Ned)

CLICK HERE for the full results and points standings for this season's World Cup competition.

Created in 2001, the Driving World Cup has provided an innovative new style of competition for indoor events, with courses combining marathon and cone driving obstacles. The 2005/2006 season of the World Cup includes seven competitions: Hannover (GER), Stuttgart (GER), Stockholm (SWE), Geneva (SUI), Mechelen (BEL) in 2005; Leipzig (GER) and G?eborg (SWE) in 2006. The top 6 after 6 events qualify for the 7th event in G?eborg.

For more information consult the FEI website www.feiworldcup.org