IN an incredible display of dominance, Boyd Exell (AUS) showed the world why he is the most decorated four-in-hand carriage driver in history.
The pressure was on in Leipzig as for the first time in the FEI Driving World CupTM 2022-23 Series with Boyd lined up against his three closest rivals at once – the Dutch powerhouse drivers Ijsbrand and Bram Chardon, and an on-form Koos de Ronde. Boyd held his nerve in spectacular style to win Sunday’s Competition 2 with two rounds of sheer brilliance.
Despite a rocky Friday night opener where he finished in an uncharacteristic third behind reigning champion Bram and Glenn Geerts (BEL), Boyd is a seasoned enough campaigner to know what it takes to ramp up his performance, especially under pressure. Tackling a slightly different course on Sunday from the tricky one set in Competition 1 by Jeroen Houterman (NED), the rounds carried extra weight as they counted towards the rankings and places for the final in Bordeaux (FRA) in two weeks’ time.
Asking his fabulous horses to raise their game for him, which they did, Boyd’s times, coupled with accuracy and no penalties to add, meant that he was not only the leader going into the drive-off, but the winner by 5.69 in a time of 135.44.
Recovering in spectacular style from an unusually wobbly first round on Friday, Ijsbrand channelled all his wisdom and match practice to seal another second place, his fourth in the Series. Although his drive-off time was just over two seconds behind Boyd, after an unlucky knock at number one, he ended 141.13.
As Boyd has been consistently first and Ijsbrand consistently second this season, Koos once again finished in third position. But it was touch and go between him and Ijsbrand, with only the slimmest of margins between them. As one of the three top drivers who turned in a clear round to finish on time only and ensure a drive-off place, Koos was 0.26 seconds behind Ijsbrand; then in the final round, he was tantalisingly only 0.08 behind.
These three giants of the sport will be in Bordeaux, together with Bram, Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) – who ended in seventh last weekend – and Dries Degrieck (BEL). Glenn, who after his polished two drives on Friday looked like he was going to do enough to gain the necessary points to go to Bordeaux, didn’t maintain his form on Sunday and clocked up eight expensive penalties which added to his slower time meant he didn’t qualify for the drive-off.
With all the drivers who have qualified equally hungry for another world title to add to their impressive tallies, it promises to be an incredible final.