KTM Factory Racing Team’s rookie Nathan Watson put in another strong weekend at the difficult seventh and eighth round of the 2016 Enduro GP World Championship in Heinola, Finland, this weekend. He wrapped up his two days with a 2-2 finished in the E1 class, and with a 3-3 finish in the new EnduroGP category, he was also on that podium in overall third.

Nathan Watson, who missed the win on Saturday by just eight seconds on his new KTM 250 EXC-F, did well to finish second to Finland’s Eero Remes, who had the experience and home ride advantage in the distinct forest character of the round. The British rider has made a very smooth transition to Enduro sport after switching from Motocross at the beginning of the season. He is clearly thriving in his new racing discipline.

Watson: “I’m made up with the way the GP of Finland’s gone. The event’s first test was the Enduro test and I was all over the place. My time was terrible and I thought it was going to be a long, long weekend. But after that things clicked and I started to feel good, thinking more about my lines, and my times got better and better. Third overall and second in E1 was great. Day two started well and I was fighting with Eero for the E1 win. I messed up the final two tests a little so I finished second. I was trying too hard because I really wanted to win.”

Watson is paired in the E1 class with team veteran, Spain’s Ivan Cervantes who finished 5-5.

Cervantes: “I’m more or less pleased with the way the Finnish GP has gone for me. On day one I pushed hard to make the top three but Pascal Rauchenecker made a really strong first lap. I had a small problem in the last cross test and hurt my shoulder a little, without crashing. Because of my shoulder I was a little cautious on the first lap on day two. For me two fifth place results in these difficult conditions are okay.”

After four of eight rounds in this year’s championship, Watson is currently in second place in the E1 standings and Cervantes has moved up to fifth.

It was a mixed weekend for KTM’s US factory rider Taylor Robert, who is competing in the world championship for the first time. He finished with a 5-5 on the KTM 350 EXC-F and admitted that his first competition in Finland had been frustrating, and that he had some close calls in conditions that are, for him, very different. He looked like picking up a second or third on day two, but in the final cross test his back wheel picked up some plastic tape and he crashed.

Robert: “It’s been a really frustrating GP for me, but more than anything it’s been a scary weekend. I had some many close moments, where I was so, so near to crashing. It might sound crazy but thing I’m happiest about is the fact that I’m able to head to Sweden healthy, with no injuries. It was the same for everyone but as my first time racing in Finland it was a real eye opener for me. It was so hard to go fast on any of the tests. Day one was tough. I struggled to get to grips with the terrain. Day two was better but nowhere near where I wanted to be. I was between second and third all day. I felt good going into the final cross test but got some plastic track tape caught in my rear wheel and crashed. I was mad going into the final extreme test and ended up finishing fifth in E2. Not what I had hoped for but I’m just glad to be in one piece.”

Christophe Nambotin rejoined the E2 competition after missing two rounds as a result of picking up a hand injury in the opening round in Morocco. But he had difficulty with the conditions in Finland and lacked a good feeling with the bike, team boss Fabio Farioli commented. Nambotin, a proven world champion, did manage a tenth place finish on Saturday and will rejoin the competition in Enkoping, Sweden, next weekend, where conditions will be very similar to Finland.

Finland also saw the opening round of the 2016 Endiro Woman world championship with KTM factory rider Laia Sanz returning to competition after picking up an injury in the opening world championship Rally in Qatar. And while Sanz was only two seconds off the pace on Saturdayand finished third on the second day, she was still disappointed and a little frustrated with her weekend’s ride.

Sanz: “I don’t remember having a weekend like this, not for a long time. I was too slow in the first Enduro test on day one, and I had to fight all day to come back. I was catching Jane, but she was riding well all day. I had some bad luck, crashed in the second Enduro test. I was only a few seconds behind Jane at the end of the day, but second was my place. On day two I just wasn’t fast enough. I made mistakes in the Enduro test on both laps and I crashed in the last cross test. It was difficult for me to feel comfortable with the Enduro bike. This year I took an Enduro bike later than usual, partly because of my injury in Qatar, so I wasn’t able to get myself fully prepared. But that’s not an excuse – I didn’t ride well. I hope to do better in Sweden.”

Summing up his team’s efforts in Heinola, Fabio Farioli said it was very positive regarding Nathan Watson. “He was impressive and fast and he did a good job. But Ivan (Cervantes) was never in the fight. Taylor (Robert) was good but not as good as he normally is, but this was a difficult race. There were a lot of stones and tree stumps and different lines. Christophe (Nambotin) doesn’t yet have a good feeling with the bike and this is probably because of the injury he has had. After his third crash today he decided not to take any unnecessary risks and to retire from the competition – but he will race again in Sweden next weekend.”

Next Rounds: June 18-19, 2016 – Enkoping (SWE)

Results EnduroGP Heinola 2016
1. Eero Remes (FIN), TM (1-2)
2. Matthew Phillips (AUS), Sherco (4-1)
3. Nathan Watson (GBR), KTM (3-3)
4. Mathias Bellino (FRA), Husqvarna (5-4)
5. Alex Salvini (ITA), Beta (7-5)
Other KTM
7. Taylor Robert (USA), KTM (8-7)
14. Jaume Betriu (ESP), KTM (17-10)
17. Ivan Cervantes (ESP), KTM (15-15)

Standings EnduroGP after 8 of 16 rounds
1. Phillips, 125 points
2. Remes, 125
3. Steve Holcombe (GBR), Beta, 98
4. Bellino, 92
5. Watson, 88
Other KTM
6. Robert, 79
10. Antoine Basset (FRA), KTM, 57
18. Cervantes, 9

Results E2 Heinola 2016
1. Phillips (1-1)
2. Bellino (2-2)
3. Salvini (4-3)
4. Loic Larrieu (FRA), Yamaha (3-4)
5. Robert (5-5)
Other KTM
12. Christophe Nambotin (FRA), KTM, (10-DNF)

Standings E2 after 8 of 16 rounds
1. Phillips, 149 points
2. Bellino, 118
3. Robert, 112
4. Larrieu, 112
5. Salvini, 112
Other KTM
11. Gerard Salavedra (ESP), KTM, 23
12. Nambotin, 13

Results E1 Heinola 2016
1. Remes (1-1)
2. Watson (2-2)
3. Daniel McCanney (GBR), Husqvarna (4-3)
4. Pascal Rauchenecker (AUT), Husqvarna (3-4)
5. Cervantes (5-5)
Other KTM
6. Victor Guerrero (ESP), KTM (7-6)
9. Rudi Moroni (ITA), KTM (9-12)

Standings E1 2016 after 8 of 16 rounds
1. Remes, 160 points
2. Watson, 130
3. D. McCanney, 89
4. Gianluca Martini (ITA), Kawasaki, 86
5. Cervantes, 82
Other KTM
7. Moroni, 65
8. V. Guerrero, 65
16. Taddy Blazusiak (POL), KTM, 13

Results EW Heinola 2016
1. Jane Daniels (GBR), Husqvarna (1-1)
2. Maria Franke (GER), KTM (3-2)
3. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM (2-3)
4. Sanna Karkkainen (FIN), KTM (4-4)
5. Jemma Wilson (AUS), Yamaha (5-5)

Standings EW 2016 after 2 of 8 rounds
1. Daniels, 40 points
2. Sanz, 32
3. Franke, 32
4. Karkkainen, 26
5. Wilson, 22