The Netherlands’ Ijsbrand Chardon won his third FEI World Cup driving final, 10 years after his last title, this afternoon (7 February) in Bordeaux, France.
He dedicated his win to his former sponsor, Kees van Opstal, who supported him for some 10 years in the 1980s and who passed away last week, aged 85.
The lead was constantly changing between the top three drivers as this exciting contest developed.
Yesterday, Ijsbrand’s fellow Dutchman Koos de Ronde was the only competitor to have a clean round and he headed into today’s showdown with the upper hand. But Ijsbrand and Australia’s Boyd Exell — six-times World Cup champion and the pre-event favourite — were hot on his heels.
Koos started today’s competition on a score of zero, while the other six drivers were all given a penalty score to carry forward, converted from their time yesterday.
In the first round today, Boyd gained the ascendancy with a clear round, sitting on a total time of 137.29.
Ijsbrand — the only driver who has beaten Boyd in this World Cup season as he also won at Olympia in December — and his team of Lipizzaners had a ball down at the second obstacle to add a five-second penalty to their time and stay in second on 139.27.
Koos was the last driver into the arena and while he stayed clear, he was unable to match the others’ speed and moved onto 141.93.
The other four drivers in the contest could not challenge these leading three and Boyd, Ijsbrand and Koos progressed to the drive-off.
Koos, driving first this time as he was now in third place, had his first penalties of the competition — a ball down at the cones at five and then another in obstacle four, particularly unfortunate as it was incurred while he was driving through the obstacle en route to another part of the arena, rather than while driving it as part of the competition. He finished on 267.67 for eventual third.
“Because I had to go directly back in, I ran out of power with my wheelers, which led to the two mistakes,” said Koos. “I knew halfway through the round I couldn’t win it as I didn’t have the power.”
Ijsbrand drove with total precision to record his first clear of the weekend and sit on 250.09, throwing down a serious challenge to Boyd.
The Australian tried his best, but he was stymied early on by the left-hand ball coming down on the cones at three and, although his final time meant he could have won with that penalty, another left-hand ball at 10 sealed his fate. A time of 254.73 put him second to Ijsbrand.
“Normally the first round is my best, so I wasn’t happy to have a ball in that,” said Ijsbrand. “Boyd’s horses are quicker than mine, but mine are better in the obstacles. I went full gas in the second round and it was a very good one for me.
“It was a good competition with the three drivers very close — any of us could have won, but it’s not luck that I did win. I also beat Boyd and Koos in London when I drove the same horses as here.”
Boyd said: “I gave it my best shot and went as fast as I could, but you can’t have two balls down in the drive-off, as you saw — I could have won with one. But I’m very happy with my horses.”