TrialGP of Japan kicks off 2024 FIM Trial World Championship

The pre-season preparations are done, the riders and their machines are good to go and the wait is almost over as the countdown continues to the opening round of the 2024 Hertz FIM Trial World Championship – the TrialGP of Japan – at the Mobility Resort Motegi on 17-19 May.

The feeling of anticipation for the first round of any championship is always heightened and there is a strong sense of excitement surrounding this year’s opening salvo in TrialGP. Who has put in the hard work in the off-season? Who has the strongest will to win? Who will draw first blood? Who – and this is the question on almost everyone’s lips – can step it up and take the fight to Toni Bou (Montesa)?
The premier TrialGP and TrialGP Women competitors will be in action alongside Trial2 at the iconic Mobility Resort Motegi that is situated less than one-hundred-and-fifty kilometres north of Tokyo. Apart from a three-year absence due to the pandemic, the impressive facility has staged a round of the series ever since the very first TrialGP of Japan in 2000 and it is always an eagerly-awaited fixture on the calendar with its steep wooded climbs and imposing granite rocks providing a suitably tough test for the best Trial riders in the world.
The bad news for competitors in the elite TrialGP class is that defending champion Bou, who has remained unbeaten over a full season ever since he claimed his first crown in 2007, has started the year in incredible form and is currently unbeaten following the first four rounds of the 2024 FIM X-Trial World Championship.

Stopping Bou from taking his eighteenth consecutive title is a seemingly impossible task, but the thirty-seven-year-old superstar Spaniard was pushed extremely hard in the early stages of the 2023 series by his compatriot Jaime Busto (GASGAS) who has finished runner-up in the championship for the last two years. Busto would dearly like to go one better this season, but as well as setting his sights on Bou the twenty-six-year-old must also make sure he stays ahead of the chasing pack led by Spain’s Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa).

A career-best third last season in just his fourth year in the class, Marcelli is currently leading Busto in the X-Trial indoor series and is hoping that his forceful style of riding will see him add to his total of eight podiums, carry him to a first victory at this level and allow him to consistently challenge the top two for the title.

Veteran Italian Matteo Grattarola (Beta) was fourth last year and is a contender for podiums and it would be foolish to dismiss two-time champion Adam Raga (Sherco). Having turned forty-two last month, Raga is very much the elder statesman of TrialGP, but with his high-profile off-season move to a new manufacturer could come fresh motivation to succeed.

Outside of last year’s top five finishers, Britain’s Toby Martyn (Honda) is possibly the most likely to spring a surprise. Only tenth in 2023 after missing four rounds through injury, the twenty-four-year-old already has already scored an X-Trial podium this year and is aiming to carry this form into TrialGP.

With nine TrialGP Women titles in the last ten years, Britain’s Emma Bristow (Sherco) must surely start favourite to retain her title. Last year she suffered just two defeats, but both of these came on the first weekend of the series and her long-time Spanish rival Berta Abellan (Scorpa) – who won both opening days in 2023 – knows another strong start is essential if she’s to claim her first crown.

Italy’s Andrea Sofia Rabino (Beta) was third last season and beat Bristow into third on the opening day of round one, but she knows consistency is key and that she cannot afford to ride at anything other than her best if she is to climb higher up the ladder.
Naomi Monnier (Montesa) has finished fourth for the last two seasons, but the French rider has proved herself to be a podium contender and she too will be aiming to advance up the rankings, as will Britain’s Alice Minta (Scorpa) who scored two third-placed finishes on her way to fifth in 2023.
Trial2 was extremely unpredictable in 2023 with six different winners before Britain’s Billy Green (Scorpa) took the title at the final round and the series’ biggest class – no fewer than thirty-four riders will be in action in Japan – is shaping up to be equally as exciting with Green returning to defend his title.
While Spain’s Pablo Suarez (Montesa) – who was second last year – and French rider Hugo Dufrese (GASGAS) who ended 2023 in sixth have both opted to move up to TrialGP, former champion Sondre Haga (GASGAS) from Norway and the British pairing of Jack Peace (Sherco) and Jack Dance (GASGAS) all know what it takes to win at this level and are genuine title contenders.

In total there will be a record five electric bikes in action in Trial2 with Haga debuting the new GASGAS, France’s Gael Chatagno riding for Electric Motion and home heroes Kenichi Kuroyama, Seiya Ujikawa and Fumitaka Nozaki mounted on Yamahas.