Spanish superstar Toni Bou - Repsol Honda is the man to beat this coming weekend at TrialGP Japan, round two of the 2018 FIM Trial World Championship, at the iconic Twin Ring Motegi circuit. The record-shattering thirty-one-year-old, who won the opening round of the championship in Spain earlier this month, is bidding for his twelfth consecutive World Championship title and with the points-paying competition split over two days in Japan he could also achieve a another magical milestone this weekend - one hundred TrialGP wins. The existing record of ninety-nine victories - set by the great Dougie Lampkin - has stood for twelve years, but it looks likely that the British hero's tally will be eclipsed by Bou at his Honda team's home circuit. Of course, you do not get to win eleven consecutive outdoor titles by being complacent and Bou is leaving nothing to chance. "My rivals will not make it easy," he says. "We will have to be very focused and the whole team work hard to try to achieve the goal. I like Motegi - I'm almost at home - and I'll try my best to continue this good run."
Heading the list of riders who will be looking to stop him is twenty-year-old Jaime Busto - Gas Gas. Bou's former team-mate, the rising Spanish star demonstrated without doubt that he has adapted brilliantly to his switch to a two-stroke power-plant with a strong second at round one in Camprodon. He is yet to win a TrialGP, but it surely can only be a matter of time before he stands on the top step of the podium. Spanish riders filled the top five places last time out with Jeroni Fajardo - Gas Gas and Jorge Casales - Vertigo getting their 2018 campaigns off to strong starts in third and fourth, but fifth-placed Adam Raga - TRRS will be bitterly disappointed with his performance. A two-time World Champion and runner-up to Bou for the last eleven years, the thirty-five-year-old Catalan needs two strong performances in Japan if he is to get his season back on track.
First non-Spaniard home in sixth at this year's opening round was Britain's James Dabill - Beta. Dabill posted a career-best equalling second on the first day in Japan in 2017, a performance he will be determined to at the very least match this coming weekend. The top eight in Camprodon was completed by veteran Spaniard Albert Cabestany - Beta and the man most of the fans will be rooting for in Japan, Takahisa Fujinami - Repsol Honda. Phenomenally popular, thirty-eight-year-old Fujigas will be looking to record a pair of solid finishes in front of his home fans.
Japan will also mark the beginning of the TrialGP Women campaign where Britain's Emma Bristow - Sherco will be going for her Fifth consecutive FIM Women's Trial World Championship title. The Queen of Trial closed the 2017 season with a shock defeat to Germany's Theresa Bauml - Montesa at TrialGP Italy last September which ended a winning-streak that began in May 2015, but she starts this year more determined than ever. Bauml has switched to a four-stroke for 2018 and if she can adapt she could challenge Bristow, as of course could last year's runner-up Sandra Gomez - Gas Gas from Spain. Berta Abellan - Vertigo began the 2017 season strongly before the eighteen-year-old Spaniard's results tailed off while Britain's Jess Brown - Scorpa went in the opposite direction with her results improving after a slow start.
After dropping down from the elite TrialGP class for this year, thirty-year-old Italian Matteo Grattarola - Honda ran out a comfortable winner in Trial2 at the series opener with his score of thirteen less than half the total of second-placed Jack Peace - Gas Gas from Britain. France's Loris Gubian - Gas Gas, another rider who has switched from TrialGP for 2018, was third in Camprodon , narrowly ahead of Toby Martyn - Montesa from Britain and Spain's Aniol Gelabert - Scorpa.
We will get our first glimpse of the Trial2 Women class in Japan and with Neus Mercia - Beta from Spain and Germany's Julie Steinert - TRRS, last year's top two, both moving into TrialGP Women in 2018 we will have a new champion at the end of the season. Seventeen-year-old Spaniard Carla Caballe - Montesa was third in 2017 but after suffering a knee injury will sit out most of the season leaving Germany's Sophia Ter Jung - Beta, Norwegian Erika Melchior - Sherco, Britain's Alicia Robinson - Beta and American's Maddie Hoover - Gas Gas and Kylee Sweeten - Sherco among the front runners.
The rising stars of Trial125 - now a full FIM World Championship - will also be in action in the land of the rising sun where Billy Green - Beta will be aiming to extend his series lead following a dominant performance in Camprodon. The sixteen-year-old, runner-up in 2017, dropped nineteen marks less than Spain's Martin Hermelo - Gas Gas to kick his title-challenge off in fine style. This class is packed with young talent including the French trio of Arthur Rovery - Sherco, Fabien Poirot - Gas Gas and Hugo Dufrese - Gas Gas and Spain's Pablo Jambrina - Gas Gas who all finished within seven marks of Hermelo so the young British rider will not be able to rest on his laurels at the famous Twin Ring venue.
Spanish superstar Toni Bou - Repsol Honda is the man to beat this coming weekend at TrialGP Japan, round two of the 2018 FIM Trial World Championship, at the iconic Twin Ring Motegi circuit.