Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Manuel Lettenbichler has finished as runner-up at Extreme XL Lagares – round one of the 2021 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship. Despite the race format being extensively revised and officials taking the decision not to award championship points, Lettenbichler raced on, earning a commendable second place overall in tough and muddy conditions in Portugal.
Originally scheduled to include three different races – an Endurocross, Prologue, and Main Race – this year’s running of Extreme XL Lagares had to be dramatically cut down to just an Endurocross qualifying session on Saturday, followed by three pro class Endurocross finals on Sunday. With heavy rain having a hugely negative impact on proceedings for Sunday, the decision was made not to award FIM Hard Enduro World Championship points, but that the day’s schedule would continue.
Despite the Endurocross format not falling into Manuel Lettenbichler’s regular comfort zone, the KTM 300 EXC TPI rider gave it his all over the two days of racing in Portugal. Qualifying in an impressive fifth place, despite being up against a number of SuperEnduro regulars, Mani went into Sunday’s three-race program both confident and eager to show what he could do. Heavy rain overnight and into Sunday turned much of the already technical course into a mud bath, the tougher conditions suiting Lettenbichler however as his hard enduro skills come to the fore.
Claiming eighth in the first heat, Mani fought hard in the second, leading the first two thirds of the 20-minute-plus-one-lap race before dropping down to second. Riding consistently the young German was able to hold off the chasing pack to finish as runner-up. In the third and final heat, Mani got off to a great start, taking an early lead around the now extremely wet and cut up track. Despite being pressured heavily from the riders behind, the 2019 WESS Champion was able to hold his nerve and carry his advantage to the checkered flag, taking the win by 15 seconds and securing his runner-up overall result.
Manuel Lettenbichler will now continue his training in preparation for the remaining rounds of the 2021 FIM Hard Enduro World Championship.
Manuel Lettenbichler: “I’m super-stoked to take second place, especially in these conditions. It was still really tough out there, but I’m pleased we were able to get some racing out of the weekend. I think the organizers and the promotor made a good decision to scrap the points because this kind of racing is not what the championship is about – hard enduro is a different sport. Everyone did a good job to keep the ball rolling with all the restrictions and changes that had to take place and it was still a nice event, but super muddy. I’m pleased to have come away as runner-up. It was quite good fun, all-in-all it has been a good day.”
Results – FIM Hard Enduro World Championship Round One – Extreme XL Lagares
1. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 57 points
2. Manuel Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 45 pts
3. Graham Jarvis (GBR), Husqvarna, 39 pts
4. Wade Young (RSA), Sherco, 37 pts
5. Alfredo Gomez (ESP), Husqvarna, 35 pts
6. Dominik Olszowy (POL), KTM, 31 pts