After a very close battle, it was Dutchman Ijsbrand Chardon who took the top honours by winning the FEI World Cup™ Driving leg in Mechelen for the first time in his career. Chardon stayed ahead of his rival, Australia’s Boyd Exell, for the second time this season. Exell finished in second place, ahead of Swiss driver Jerome Voutaz.
Five-time Mechelen-winner Koos de Ronde (NED) was a fraction of a second too slow to qualify for the winning round, in which the top three drivers started from scratch again. Glenn Geerts (BEL), who competed with a wild card, as well as Exell and De Ronde took the fifth place.
Dutch Level 4 Course Designer Jeroen Houterman had designed a challenging course with three marathon type obstacles and a bridge. Boyd Exell made a mistake twice in the third marathon obstacle, which cost him precious seconds in the first round and a knock down in the winning round: “In the first round I came in too fast and the loop in my reins was too long,” explained Exell. “This was a driver mistake. In the winning round my rein got caught at the bottom of my whip. But I am very pleased with my horses and have to be a good sportsman, so I am happy with my second place.”
He did however put the pressure on Chardon, who was the last man in: “The footing was quite heavy, which made my horses a bit stronger. I did not have the great feeling I had when I won in Stuttgart, but I will keep on working on this team. My left leader horse is new in my team this season and he needs competition rhythm. I want to show that he can do it and he is on 80% compared to where he was in Stuttgart and I need him to be 100% in order to have the best feeling for the Final in Göteborg. My win here was not a gift, I like to win on my own strength” he said. Chardon competed on 12 previous occasions in Mechelen, which has been part of the series since 2001.
Jérôme Voutaz qualified for the Winning Round by driving a very fast round in which he was three seconds faster than Chardon, but one knock down kept him from taking the lead. In the second round, which took place over a shortened course, the mechanic by profession picked up one ball again but he was nevertheless very pleased with his performance: “My horses went extremely well. I used two other horses compared to the previous events and I am very pleased with them. I also very much enjoyed driving this course. In the winning round I was determined not to make any mistakes and it was great to compete against the two best drivers in the world!”
Since Exell, De Ronde and Geerts competed with wild cards, the World Cup points went to Theo Timmerman (NED, 6th place), Georg von Stein (GER, 7th place) and Rainer Duen (GER, 8th place). Duen has completed his four World Cup events and has collected 7 points, with which he will not be qualified for the Final.
Results FEI World Cup™ Driving, Mechelen (BEL), 30 December 2016:
1. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 128.71
2. Boyd Exell (AUS) 134.55
3. Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) 140.97
4. Koos de Ronde (NED) 144.05
5. Glenn Geerts (BEL) 147.04
6. Theo Timmerman (NED) 152.19
7. Georg von Stein (GER) 158.13
8. Rainer Duen (GER) 168.33