World Cup Driving Final
From: F??ation Equestre Internationale, Lausanne
14 January 2008
The Final of the seventh season of the FEI World Cup? Driving in Leipzig, Germany, from 18 to 20 January, is set to be filled with excitement. After five thrilling events, the six best indoor four-in-hand drivers of the world were selected.
Unlike the previous six seasons, where the Final battle was dominated by Germany?s Michael Freund in the first years and by Freund and Dutchman IJsbrand Chardon in the last three years, this season?s Finalists all have a fair chance to win the most prestigious title in Driving, apart from the World Championship title.
British-based Australian driver Boyd Exell (Photo by Karl-Heinz Frieler) is back in the FEI World Cup? Driving circuit after three years of absence. Exell suffered from several injuries but is stronger than ever at the moment. The professional horseman is certainly one of the favourites for this season?s World Cup title. He was the strongest in the FEI World Cup? Driving Qualifiers in Hannover and Stockholm and came second in Stuttgart behind IJsbrand Chardon.
Chardon, who won the World Cup title in 2005 (with Freund) and in 2006, came second in Hannover and Mechelen. As both Chardon and Exell have a true winner?s mentality, both drivers will look into every detail, analyze and make any possible changes to their horses, the course or in their tactics to win. Excitement guaranteed!
Although Chardon and Exell are considered the favourites for winning the title, they will face very strong opposition in Leipzig. When it comes to the moment of truth, Sweden?s Tomas Eriksson is at his best ? a skill he put to good use of at the last Qualifier in Mechelen, which he had to win in order to get a starting ticket for the Final. With two disappointing results in Stockholm and Geneva, Eriksson went for it in Mechelen and won. In fact, Eriksson partly owes his starting place in the Final to his Swiss colleague Werner Ulrich. At the end of the green season, Ulrich was allowed to pick three events because he finished in the Top Five after Deauville, while Eriksson came sixth and was entitled to compete in two FEI World Cup? Driving events. But because Ulrich was already committed on one of the event dates, his third starting place went to Eriksson, which gave the Swedish double World Champion one more chance to qualify for the Final!
Another winner is Chardon?s compatriot Mark Weusthof. Weusthof only just qualified for the FEI World Cup? Driving season by coming second in Deauville but clearly demonstrated his indoor qualities by winning his first competition in Geneva at the start of December. And if it had not been for one knock down in Mechelen, Weusthof would have won this competition as well. Weusthof?s team of grey Dutch warm blood geldings does not appear to go fast until he passes the finish line and you realize that he went faster than all the others. Weusthof is certainly a candidate for a top ranking in the Final when he drives a clear round.
It is amazing that the three Dutch competitors who qualified for the FEI World Cup? Driving season 2007/2008 have all three qualified for the Final. Koos de Ronde came second in Stockholm and third in Geneva and is determined to make it to the Top Three in Leipzig. With his experienced indoor team, De Ronde has all the potential to achieve his goal and thus leave his two fourth places in the previous Finals behind him.
Benjamin Aillaud is the sixth finalist. Aillaud impresses friend and enemy with his team of fast Lipizzaner horses, with which he came second in Geneva behind Weusthof. In Mechelen the Frenchman came fifth but because of his strong performance in Geneva, he was granted a starting place for the Final. Aillaud is also a horse professional at heart and is ready to show Leipzig what he is capable of.
The Organising Committee of Leipzig has given the wild card to none other than Christoph Sandmann. Sandmann competed with a wild card in Hannover and Stuttgart, where he ended in third place, behind Exell and Chardon. These three four-in-hand drivers know exactly what to expect from each other, which will make the competition even more exciting. As a wild card competitor, Sandmann did not receive World Cup points for the Final. But as the seven finalists all start from scratch, the competition will remain open until the very last second!
The warm up competition of the FEI World Cup? Driving in Leipzig is scheduled for Friday, 18th January at midnight. The decisive World Cup competition will take place on Sunday, 20th January at 13.20 hrs. The course designer is Dr. Wolfgang Asendorf from Germany, who was also responsible for the course in Hannover.
Qualified for the Final in Leipzig (18-20 January 2008)
Photo by Karl-Heinz Frieler
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