Photo caption: Exell Boyd,Driving qualifier of the 2014/15 season (Karl Heinz Frieler/FEI).
By Cindy Timmer
Koos de Ronde (NED) flew to victory in the super exciting winning round of the last FEI World Cup™ Driving qualifier of the 2014/15 season held in Leipzig (GER) over the weekend. His compatriot IJsbrand Chardon was the last in the arena and was well on his way to victory when his carriage tipped over in the last part of the course which resulted in immediate elimination. Wildcard driver Boyd Exell (AUS) had one knockdown and finished in second place.
FEI level 4 Course Designer Dr Wolfgang Asendorf (GER) had laid out a challenging course for the seven drivers taking part in today's event combining technical parts with fast lines. "I am well aware that Sweden's Dan Henriksson, who has been appointed as Course Designer for the Final in Bordeaux, is known for his fast courses and prepared a really technical course here at Leipzig," Asendorf explained.
Change of horse
Koos de Ronde's experienced leader horse Kasper was not fit to compete this morning and the Dutch driver decided to replace him by the equally skilful Palero. De Ronde kept the reins short and drove with power which resulted in a very fast and clear first round. The winner of the qualifiers in Budapest (HUN) and Mechelen (BEL) went for it in the Winning Round, which took place over a shortened course. He set a fast time again and crossed the finish line recording a single knockdown.
The outcome of the competition was in the hands of his fellow countryman, last starter IJsbrand Chardon.
IJsbrand Chardon knew before the start of the competition that he had nothing to loose and decided to use his new trump Aladin in the lead of his team. Chardon had already used the piebald gelding in the first competitions at previous FEI World Cup™ Driving events but never when competing for the precious World Cup points. The nine-year-old gelding set Chardon's team on fire and took three seconds off De Ronde's time in the first round, securing their leading position with a clear round. The four-time World Champion entered the arena for the Winning Round, knowing he had a comfortable eight-second advantage. Chardon flew through the course again and was on his way to victory when his carriage tipped over in the last phase of the course. The team was eliminated and no one was injured in the incident.
Boyd Exell had two unusual knockdowns in the first round and was first to start in the Winning Round. The five-time World Champion set a very fast time, but another knockdown gave De Ronde additional space and made the Australian finish in second place.
Switzerland's Werner Ulrich drove a clear round, taking his team of three Swiss-bred horses and one Lipizzaner to fourth place.
New left side
József Dobrovitz (HUN) used two new horses in his four-in-hand, the left leader and the left wheeler horses having never competed in an FEI World Cup™ Driving event before. The Hungarian felt that the left leader horse he had used on home ground in Budapest and in Geneva (SUI) was not of the necessary standard. The driver replaced this horse by the young and fast Lipizzaner Pandur. The left wheeler horse was also a new Lipizzaner named Platon. It was the first time for the 11-year old Pandur as a leader horse in a big competition, Dobrovitz only having started using him in his four-in-hand two weeks ago. Dobrovitz was very concentrated in the first half of the course but lost speed in the second half. One knockdown prevented him from qualifying for the Winning Round.
One of Georg von Stein's fast Lipizzaner horses, with which he finished third in Mechelen, was injured and the German driver replaced him by the experienced Fax, which he had lent to his compatriot Christoph Sandmann for the World Cup season. Second wildcard driver Von Stein finished in sixth place, ahead of the reigning European Champion Theo Timmerman (NED).
Carriage driving is a family sport, this was proven once again by IJsbrand Chardon and József Dobrovitz.
Chardon's eldest daughter Jeannette, an international Eventing rider herself, was navigating for her father, while his son Bram, double world pony four-in-hand champion, was his back stepper.
Dobrovitz's son József, a very successful international pony and horse four-in-hand driver, acted as his navigator. His nephew Krisztóf Osztertag, who is also very successful on the international circuit with his horse pair, was his back stepper.
Koos de Ronde (NED): "I won in 2013 in Leipzig. Back then it had been the last competition before the Final too which I won! I hope this victory brings me good luck for the Final this year as well. I won because IJsbrand tipped over and, of course this is not the best way to win but the feeling was very good today. This gives me a good feeling for the Final."
Boyd Exell (AUS): "I made two mistakes in the first round which was a little disappointing, but I am happy with my horses. I had a very good feeling. My team is good and I am not worried about the Final."
IJsbrand Chardon (NED): "I had a super feeling, I drove for a 10 and I did not make any mistakes. I knew that I was on my way to victory. It is a pity that I turned over, but it had nothing to do with the course. This could have happened anywhere. The most important thing for me was that I had a very good feeling, also towards the Final."
Results FEI World Cup™ Driving, Leipzig (GER), 18 January 2015:
1. Koos de Ronde (NED) 242,32
2. Boyd Exell (AUS) 251,99
3. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) – elim.
4. Werner Ulrich (SUI) 138,26
5. József Dobrovitz (HUN) 138,57
6. Georg von Stein (GER) 154,11
7. Theo Timmerman (NED) 163,20
FEI World Cup™ Driving, standings after 7 of 7 events:
1 Boyd EXELL AUS 30
2 Koos DE RONDE NED 25
3 Fredrik PERSSON SWE 24
IJsbrand CHARDON NED 24
5 Christoph SANDMANN GER 17
6 Georg VON STEIN GER 13
Jozsef DOBROVITZ HUN 13
8 Werner ULRICH SUI 10
Glenn GEERTS BEL 10
10 Theo TIMMERMAN NED 7
3rd was Chardon, IjsbrandNED.Pic Karl-Heinz Frieler
Koos de Ronde, of the Netherlands Winner of the World Cup driving in LeipzigPic Karl-Heinz Frieler