World Cup Final victory for Sandmann
21 January 2007

From: F??ation Equestre Internationale, Lausanne

In a thrilling competition, starring home driver Sandmann, Frenchman Benjamin Aillaud and Ijsbrand Chardon from the Netherlands, Sandmann wrote true history by winning the Final of the FEI World Cup?Driving 2007/2008 in Leipzig on a wild card. It was the first time in the seven-year history that the Final took place in Leipzig. The Organising Committee, the many spectators and the wonderful atmosphere contributed to the success of the Leipzig Final.

Christoph Sandmann drove sensationally and truly deserved his win. The owner of a transport company and organiser of the international combined driving competition in L?den did not qualify for the FEI World Cup Driving season, but received wild cards in Hannover, Stuttgart and Leipzig. Sandmann already put down good performances in the previous German World Cup competitions and demonstrated his skills again in the Final in Leipzig: ?If you had told me that I would leave Leipzig as a winner, I would not have believed you. The technical course, designed by Dr. Wolfgang Asendorf, fitted me well and I have the advantage of driving my outdoor marathon team. They are used to tight turns,? explained Sandmann, who is a true marathon specialist in the outdoor season as well. Sandmann used his 20-year old experienced gelding Gerlof ?Alf? in the lead and was very proud of him to have contributed to winning the World Cup title.

Germany now has a worthy successor for five times World Cup Champion Michael Freund, who was present in Leipzig as navigator for his son Marco who was the pathfinder for the event with his team of Shetlands.

Benjamin Aillaud was finally able to perform the way he wanted to. After his second place in Geneva and his disappointing fifth place in Mechelen, Aillaud took his team of Lipizzaner horses to the second place in the Final. Aillaud was the last starter in the winning round and had to be really fast in order to beat Sandmann?s result, who had gone clear. Aillaud however was not able to beat Sandmann?s fast time and knocked one cone down. ?I am still very happy with my second place, especially because it is my first World Cup season. I feel that my performance here has made up for my result in Mechelen.? Aillaud only competed in two FEI World Cup Driving competitions before the Final and only just made it to Leipzig because of his second place in Geneva. Aillaud, who ?plays with horses? at the Lippizaner Stud Les Elfes Blancs in France, will try to persuade the FEI World Cup Jumping show in Bordeaux to host an FEI World Cup Driving competition again.

IJsbrand Chardon and Boyd Exell were considered the favourite drivers to win the World Cup title 2007/2008, but were unable to confirm this. Chardon had three knockdowns in the first round and barely qualified for the winning round, in which he had two cones down as well.

Chardon was very disappointed: ?I came to Leipzig to win, of course. I was very concentrated and the first ball that fell was just bad luck. I honestly do not know how and why the other balls dropped, but this is the sport. Sandmann drove excellent today and he deserved to win. I have a lot of respect for him.? Chardon added quickly that he suggested to Sandmann that it was ok for him to win in Leipzig, but that Chardon will win the World four-in-hand Driving Championship in his home country this summer!

Boyd Exell also came to Leipzig to win but admitted that he simply went too fast. ?I lost my concentration for a second and made mistakes. I am pleased however with my horses, they were fantastic and went exactly where I wanted them to go.? Unfortunately the three knockdowns kept Exell from a starting place in the winning round and thus from a possible victory.

Mark Weusthof from the Netherlands started off very fast in the sold out Leipziger Messe, where the spectators enthusiastically encouraged the competitors in every round. The horses of the tall driver wanted to pass the ninth gate and Weusthof had to correct them. Two balls fell and although his time was very fast, Weusthof had to be satisfied with the fifth place.

Sweden?s Tomas Eriksson qualified last minute for the FEI World Cup Driving Final in Leipzig by winning the previous competition in Mechelen, but it was not his day today. He left the arena with five knockdowns: ?The course was a bit too technical for me. I am better when I can make more speed. The best man won today and it was good sport. That is also important!?

Third Dutch driver in the Final Koos de Ronde was unlucky as it went unnoticed at first that one of his leader horses had jumped over a trace in the beginning of the course thereby reducing his usual fast speed and increasing his overall time.

Final standings FEI World Cup?Driving season 2007/2008

1. Christoph Sandmann (Ger) 232.88
2. Benjamin Aillaud (Fra) 238.63
3. Ijsbrand Chardon (Ned) 241.65
4. Boyd Exell (Aus) 126.26
5. Mark Weusthof (Ned) 127.73
6. Tomas Eriksson (Swe) 136.29
7. Koos de Ronde (Ned) 142.89

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