Turn ‘n’ Burn: FEI World Cup Driving Final to begin on Friday

British-based Australian driver Boyd Exell is setting out to claim his fourth consecutive World Cup Title in Bordeaux, France, this weekend.

Photo credit: FEI World Cup Driving

The full story from Horse Talk:

Driving fans will be treated to a thrilling finale of the FEI World Cup Driving 11th season in Bordeaux in France from Friday.

Six drivers – Boyd Exell (AUS), IJsbrand Chardon (NED), Koos De Ronde (NED), Tomas Eriksson (SWE), Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) and Zoltan Lázár (HUN) – qualified for the final at the end of an exciting season that ran over seven events held in five European countries. They will be joined by home driver Thibault Coudry, who has received the wild card.

In Bordeaux the seven drivers all start from scratch and it will not be until the very last second of the final on the evening of February 4 that the new FEI World Cup Driving champion will be crowned.

British-based Australian driver Boyd Exell – triple World Cup champion and gold medalist at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 – will be aiming for his fourth consecutive World Cup title.

Exell dominated the 2011/2012 season, winning the qualifiers in Stockholm (SWE), Budapest (HUN), Geneva (SUI) and Mechelen (BEL). He participated with a wild card at the series’ opening qualifiers in Hannover and Stuttgart (GER) using these events, for which he could not earn World Cup points, to try out new horses at different positions in his team.

In Budapest, Exell was forced to use a wheeler horse in the lead and this gamble paid off and contributed to his second victory of the season. One of Exell’s new team members is the eight-year-old trotter Bajnok, previously owned by fellow four-in-hand driver Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN).

After two competitions and some advice from the previous owner, Bajnok became a reliable member of Exell’s team. In Mechelen, Exell drove the 19-year-old gelding Bill for the first time this season. “Good old Bill” was part of the Australian’s winning team at the FEI World Cup Finals in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and will also be part of the set-up for Bordeaux.

IJsbrand Chardon (NED) won the opening competition in Hannover, while his compatriot Koos de Ronde had his name added to the prestigious list of winners of the German Masters Driving at Stuttgart where he won the second leg of the FEI World Cup Driving 2011/2012 series. Both Dutch drivers will do their utmost to put Exell under pressure.

Tomas Eriksson (SWE) got his season off to an unfortunate start at the opening leg in Hannover where his horses fell. Luckily, none of the horses were injured and Eriksson used the same team throughout the rest of the series. He put on excellent performances at Mechelen and Leipzig, to finish second at both venues. In Leipzig, he received the full 10 World Cup points since the winner of that competition, IJsbrand Chardon, was competing with a wild card and was not entitled to points.

Jozsef Dobrovitz was impressive at his home event in Budapest where he finished second behind Exell. His fourth place in Stockholm and fifth places in both Hannover and Mechelen allowed him to gain enough points to qualify for the Final.

His compatriot Zoltan Lázár placed fourth four times this season. The experienced pair and four-in-hand driver secured his place at the Final at the last competition in Leipzig.

• In the final, the starting order for Competition 1 (warm-up) on the evening of Friday, February 3 in Bordeaux will be in reverse order of the final standings and Boyd Exell will therefore be the last driver into the arena. Fifty percent of the score from Competition 1 (converted into seconds) will be carried forward by the drivers into the FEI World Cup Driving Final (Competition 2), which takes place on the evening of Saturday, February 4. Scores from the first round of Competition 2 will be carried forward into the winning round, for which only the three best drivers will qualify to battle it out for the overall honours.

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