After the closest fought final for some years, Bram Chardon (NED) took his third FEI Driving World Cup™ title in Bordeaux (FRA) by beating Boyd Exell (AUS) into second place – by only 0.83! Making the victory even more special, his father – the great Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) – took third place and during the prize ceremony they proudly stood together on the podium.
Going into Sunday’s final competition, the question as to who would win remained more open than ever after the small margins between the drivers on Saturday night’s opening competition. Bram started his second day on zero points due to the special scoring system used in a final, which gave him an advantage, but the 50% differences carried over for those behind him ultimately made little impact on the positions.
As the penultimate Driver in the arena in the first round, he produced a quick clear, to put the pressure on Boyd. In a nip and tuck race, Boyd upped the ante and drove one of the best rounds of his season to go a mere 0.33 ahead. Joining them in the top three, Ijsbrand improved on his position and rose two places with 142.35 to guarantee himself a place on the podium alongside his son.
Running in reverse order for the drive-off, Ijsbrand was first back in and completed his last, clear round of the event over a slightly reduced course in 121.30, to give him a combined score of 263.65.
“For me, it is a bonus that my father is on the podium too, like last year. And my sisters are a crucial part of the team too, so it all stays in the family, which makes victories like this more special and the journey home even better,” said Chardon.
Bram said afterwards he was concerned that he had the least time of the three remaining Drivers to rest his horses between the rounds. But his Lipizzaners drew on their stamina and agility to produce another display of precise lines with powerful runs, and a clear in 116.41, giving him a total of 251.86.
Boyd had the advantage of resting his horses for a little longer before his drive-off, but as he entered the arena, a bungee on one of the leader’s harness needed a quick repair, which delayed his start. He said it didn’t impact his round – but knocking a cone did – and he admitted that he didn’t realise that there had been a penalty until informed by his navigator Emma Olsson. Although he was 2.84 seconds faster than Bram, it wasn’t enough to claw back the four seconds and he slid into second on 252.69.
“I only came here for one goal which was to win. Yesterday was a good start, although I had an unlucky knockdown, but today, the horses went double clear. The pressure between me and Boyd has been going on all season and we are pushing each other to the next level every time, and I think we saw one of the best finals in many years. This is what our sport is about!”
Ijsbrand praised the quality of Johan Jacob’s (NED) course which combined technical lines, several route options, and smooth, faster sections. He also saluted the venue and organisers, the atmosphere, and the high level of Driving, then added, “But the most important thing is that Bram has won!”
Boyd was gracious in defeat and credited his horses for their consistency during the series, which began with his victory in Lyon (FRA), saying, “We put the pedal to the metal, and we nearly got the ball back! My team were super, and I am really pleased with my horses today.”
In another close contest, Koos de Ronde (NED) just missed out on a drive-off place by 0.28 to finish his final in fourth place (142.63). Dries Degrieck (BEL) couldn’t match his Leipzig (GER) form, but was only 1.35 behind Koos to end fifth (143.98). Germany’s Michael Brauchle was further away on 163.89 for sixth and Benjamin Aillaud ended on 168.54.
It was the 10th time that the FEI Driving World Cup™ final has been held in Bordeaux since the series began in 2001. Bram won his first indoor championship here in 2019 and his next in Leipzig in 2022. The cat and mouse trading of titles between Boyd and Bram swung in the Dutchman’s favour this year, but they both had to raise their game to ensure that they stayed ahead of their compatriots, who are closer than ever to victory. But for now, it is Bram who was crowned the new FEI Driving World Cup™ winner.
by Sarah Dance