Australian driver Boyd Exell has won the FEI World Cup Driving final for the fifth time in his career in a thrilling finale held in the sold-out Expo centre in Bordeaux, France.
It was not an easy victory for the Exell, who won the neck-to-neck race only 0.69 seconds ahead of rookie Daniel Schneiders (GER). Title defender Koos de Ronde (NED) finished third.
The competition was marred by the withdrawal of overnight leader IJsbrand Chardon (NED) just two hours before the start of the second competition on Sunday. The move was made following advice from the driver’s veterinarian.
“It was a tough decision,” Chardon explained. “This afternoon we received a letter in the stables informing us that several jumping horses had developed fever and we were advised to regularly take the temperature of our horses. Two of my Lipizzaners had a temperature and the veterinarian advised me not to start in today’s competition. I am of course following his advice for the welfare of my horses.”
After European and Dutch national champion Theo Timmerman made a mistake in the first obstacle and had several knockdowns, and Tomas Eriksson (SWE) was eliminated for driving the course in the wrong direction, de Ronde, Exell and Schneiders battled it out on the fast course created by world championship course designer Gábor Fintha, of Hungary.
Exell had to make up 4.17 seconds and was steadily on his way to success driving his mixed team of bay horses. In the last phase of the competition he had a hairy moment when his leaders turned in front of obstacle 11. The double world champion pulled so hard to get them in the right direction that he lost balance. Luckily the Australian managed to stay in the carriage and moved on without losing any speed. Daniel Schneiders drove a very fast yet safe first round after which the difference between him and Exell had decreased to 1.46 seconds in Schneiders’ favour going into the winning round.
Exell was the first to go and set the fastest time of the evening without taking any unnecessary risks. This increased the pressure on Schneiders whose dream to finish in the top three had already come true. The 32-year-old farrier knew that he could not afford any mistakes and made a last-minute decision to cut a corner on the course after he realised he was three seconds behind Exell. Heading to the finishing line, it looked as if the newcomer was going to make it, but he missed the title by just 0.69 seconds, giving Exell the title.
“I have just returned from a six-week holiday with good friends in Australia and I knew it was is a disadvantage for me to come back at this level,” Exell said. “Last year I paid the price, this year my horses saved me. I am really delighted for my sister and my mother, who followed me from Australia. This win is really for them. I must say that it would have been nice to win with a fair fight; it is a shame IJsbrand could not compete.”
Koos de Ronde had already had a knockdown in the first round and when he had a ball down in the winning round, he knew the third place in this year’s Final was the best he could hope for with his team in which three horses were different compared to last year when he had won the final.
Wildcard driver Thibault Coudry (FRA) was eliminated during the first competition on Saturday evening and competed as a guinea pig in Sunday’s Final.
Results CAI-W Final Bordeaux (FRA), 9 February 2014:
- Boyd Exell (AUS) 254,09
- Daniel Schneiders (GER) 254,78
- Koos de Ronde (NED) 273,56
- Theo Timmerman (NED) 194,18
- Tomas Eriksson (SWE) EL
IJsbrand Chardon DNS