Koos de Ronde was the star of the last FEI World Cup Driving qualifier held in Leipzig in Germany at the weekend.
Sunday’s victory was De Ronde’s only chance to secure a ticket for the final in Bordeaux, and the suspense was on until the very last moment in the fully packed Leipziger Messe arena. De Ronde came out the winner, József Dobrovitz finished second in this thrilling competition, ahead of Tomas Eriksson in third.
FEI Official course designer Dr Wolfgang Asendorf had laid out a very horse-friendly course, which was well appreciated by all eight drivers. The organising committee had invited FEI World Cup drivers Christoph Sandmann (GER), Georg von Stein (GER) and IJsbrand Chardon (NED) to compete with wild cards, so eight out of the season’s 10 FEI World Cup drivers were present in Leipzig. The only absentees were Boyd Exell (AUS), who is enjoying some time off in his home country, and Theo Timmerman (NED).
The battle for the sixth starting place in the final took place between Mechelen winner Koos de Ronde and József Dobrovitz. Dobrovitz drove the same four-in-hand team as in 2011 at this venue when he had also finished second. De Ronde had to perform better than Dobrovitz in order to make it to the final which put him under significant pressure.
Dobrovitz’s team looked very strong indeed. His son and very successful international pony and horse team competitor József Dobrovitz jr, and the 2012 FEI European Junior Driving Champion Martin Hölle, were part of Dobrovitz’ team in Leipzig. ‘Dobro’ drove a safe but very fast clear first round, thus making the pressure on De Ronde even greater. The Dutch driver was well on his way to beat Dobrovitz’ time, but had a knock down in the second to last gate and thought it was all over, knowing Chardon and Eriksson were still to start. But wild-card driver Chardon had two knockdowns in the last two gates and finished fourth. Last starter Tomas Eriksson went clear and was the third driver to qualify for the Winning Round.
The Winning Round took place over the same course and the enthusiastic spectators cheered the drivers to even better performances. Eriksson had two balls down, but this did not disappoint him since he was already certain of his third place. Koos de Ronde entered the arena, knowing he had to improve his time by three seconds in order to do better than Dobrovitz. The tension grew while De Ronde drove fast but in a very safe way. He gained two seconds and had no faults.
When Dobrovitz entered the arena, his son advised him to go for the second place which is exactly what the driver from Vecsés in Hungary did. The multiple national champion had two balls down and came second behind De Ronde, securing his own ticket for the final and allowing the Dutch to qualify as well.
Wild-card driver IJsbrand Chardon was well on his way to putting on the best performance of the day, when he had two balls down in the two last gates. Chardon still set the fastest time, but the mistakes dropped him down to fourth place. Regular Leipzig guest Chardon left immediately after the end of the event to perform in an indoor driving competition with a borrowed horse team on home ground at Jumping Amsterdam.
Werner Ulrich (SUI) was unable to drive his team fast enough through the marathon obstacles and had one knock down. The 1998 FEI World four-in-hand Champion finished in fifth place dropping down to seventh place in the overall standings and failing to qualify for the Final.
Wild-card drivers Georg von Stein and Christoph Sandmann finished ahead of Fredrik Persson (SWE) who used one of Boyd Exell’s horses in the lead of his team. Persson did not have the best indoor season placing ninth in the final standings, behind Von Stein and ahead of Sandmann.
The final takes place in Bordeaux, France, on February 8 and 9.
Results CAI-W Leipzig 2013:
- Koos de Ronde (NED) 232,66
- Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) 240,69
- Tomas Eriksson (SWE) 242,19
- IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 121,43
- Werner Ulrich (SUI) 126,68
- Georg von Stein (GER) 128,54
- Christoph Sandmann (GER) 128,93
- Fredrik Persson (SWE) 129,24
Standings after 8 of 8 events (Top 6 Drivers are Qualified for the Final):
1 Boyd EXELL AUS 30
2 IJsbrand CHARDON NED 27
3 Koos de Ronde NED 20
Eq.4 Tomas ERIKSSON SWE 19
Eq.4 Theo TIMMERMAN NED 19
Eq.4 Jozsef DOBROVITZ HUN 19
7 Werner ULRICH SUI 18
8 Georg VON STEIN GER 13
9 Fredrik PERSSON SWE 10
10 Christoph SANDMANN GER 8