Leading the charge from the front took Manuel Lettenbichler to a commanding victory at the Hixpania Hard Enduro and his first Hard Enduro World Championship (HEWC) ahead of Mario Roman and the evergreen Graham Jarvis.

Mani could have played it safe by following Roman around the course at Round 8 of the HEWC, but having been deprived of first place on Day Two thanks to a penalty, he simply went full gas all the way to the final checkpoint and the world title.

It’s been an astonishing climb to the top for the German who missed the first race of the season due to injury, rode through the pain barrier to victory at Xross, the Red Bull Erzbergrodeo, Red Bull Abestone, Red Bull Romaniacs and Red Bull Outliers. But all the way, he was pushed by the persistent and consistent Spaniard Roman, who won the Minus 400 at the start of the year and celebrated with the German champion on the podium at six rounds.

On the final day, the Spaniard started strongly to carve his way through traffic and slip by Trystan Hart and Alfredo Gomez to second place. But he had to handle more than his share of technical gremlins, which forced him to pause for repairs. His team-mate Wade Young stopped to help him replace a faulty battery before Roman recovered to finish in second place.

Hart has been one of the breakout stars of the season. Having sat out the first half of the season, the Canadian rider still won an eventful Red Bull Tennessee Knock Out and claimed second at Red Bull Outliers in his homeland. In Spain, Hart won day one and day two to stake his claim as a front-runner in the championship.

Another lead rider, Alfredo Gomez – now competing with running his own race team – set the early pace at Hixpania to claim the Prologue. He and Hart pushed Lettenbichler for the race lead on the final morning. Gomez got the better of Hart to eventually finish third – to the delight of his home crowd – but up front, the German soon hit his rhythm to stretch out a lead.

Having been quickest in qualifying on days one and two, Lettenbichler started first and was relentless as he built a lead and managed his race while the clock ticked down in the two-and-a-half-hour race.

“WORLD CHAMPION! I’m so stoked with that,” said the KTM Factor rider. “The pressure was on this morning. I was pretty nervous before the start. Getting away first, I settled into the lead, but after the one-hour mark, I was feeling pretty tired. I knew Mario was in second and only about two minutes behind me, so I had to keep focused.

“Once I got to the final climbs, I started to get excited about the title, knowing it was so close. It’s amazing to be the 2022 Hard Enduro World Champion. It’s been a crazy, good year. It’s been awesome battling the guys, but I’m ready to celebrate now!”

Runner-up Roman said: “Starting in ninth, I knew it would be an uphill battle to catch Mani, but I gave it my best shot. I passed around five riders pretty quickly, but it took some time to pass Alfredo [Gomez] and Trystan [Hart].

“My pace was good, but Mani was matching it, and I couldn’t quite get close enough to him. It’s frustrating to lose the title. I gave it my best all year. Congratulations to Mani.”

Hart’s consolation was snatching fourth place from Graham Jarvis after the Brit had used his legendary skills to overhaul the young Canadian late on.

Championship Standings (After round 8)

Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 127pts
Mario Roman (Sherco) 120pts
Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 93pts
Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM) 72pts
Alfredo Gomez (GASGAS) 72pts
Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 66pts
Trystan Hart (KTM) 63pts
Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 62pts
David Cyprian (KTM) 61pts
Wade Young (Sherco) 56pts

Kurhula David Ngobeni

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Kurhula David Ngobeni

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