The world’s best battle it out in Bordeaux as Boyd edges ahead of Bram in opening competition

Media updates
05 February 2023 Author: Sarah Dance

Rolling into the early hours of Sunday morning at Jumping International de Bordeaux (FRA), the top ranked drivers in the 2022-23 Series assembled to launch their bid to join the FEI Driving World Cup™ hall of fame.  

After eight qualifying competitions at city venues across Europe, the build up to the finale has been a mesmerizing one.  After a storming season of six wins from six events, on paper Boyd Exell (AUS) seemed the likeliest to clinch the top spot in Bordeaux (FRA), a venue where he has taken the title on five of his record nine occasions, including in 2020.  But even a faultless set of results doesn’t guarantee anything a final, especially when you have high calibre challengers which includes the likes of father and son icons, Ijsbrand and Bram Chardon (NED).  

The competition running order is decided by the qualification rankings, with the host nation’s Wild Card driving first, so it was Benjamin Aillaud (FRA) who set the pace.  Rounding off what has been a positive first season with a new team of horses, he totalled 161.62.  Next in was Dries Degrieck (BEL) who put down a fast time of 139.76 but with eight to add, ended on 147.76.  His time was bettered by Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) (135.88) but with a clutch of penalties, Jérôme slipped behind Dries by the slimmest of margins and ensured a fourth placing for the Belgian.

As the fourth ranked driver, Dutch supremo Koos de Ronde came in next, with the expectation after a cracking season of a slot in the top half of finishers.  Despite a fast and flowing early part of the course, he had a sticky moment in number 6, the first of the two marathon style obstacles, and although he recovered well, had left too much to do and ended the night in sixth on 151.94.

As the competition progressed, things were hotting up at the Parc des Expositions and Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) set the place alight as he produced a blistering round.  Nudging just the one ball to add to his time, he went ahead of Dries by just over 10 points on 137.75.  

Because Bram and Boyd came to the final on equal points, a draw was held to decide who of the two would drive first and it was Boyd who entered ahead of the defending champion.  Trotting into the arena, his lythe horses looked particularly impressive and soon pinged into their full gallop.  At the split they were over 5 seconds ahead of Ijsbrand and with the only clear round of the night, Boyd ended on time only – 127.38.

But with Bram to follow, there can be no complacency.  Although he knocked an early ball, he gained enough momentum as his round progressed to post an even faster time of 126.65, ending on 130.65. It was enough to put him into second and to keep the pressure on his great rival and guarantee that there is a nail-biting climax.

As it’s a final, there was no drive off.  The results will set Sunday’s starting order and 50% of the difference between Boyd’s score and those placed behind him will be carried over.  The finale will have a drive off for the top three after first round. 

Gabor Fintha’s (HUN) course was hailed as an open, horse-friendly one which walked well and superficially seemed to pose few problems.  However, it was a clever design that commanded respect and included a bridge which was negotiated twice, a speed box at number 5 and two obstacles with enough options to ask the right sort of questions.

Coming back into the arena for the prizegiving and some crowd-pleasing showboating, Boyd, Bram and Ijsbrand seemed relaxed and happy.  All had done as good a job as could be asked of them.  All have put themselves in contention to win.  All gave us a magical display which has whetted the appetites for a vintage final on Sunday afternoon – not to be missed!


For further information - FEI Driving World Cup™ - Season 2022-2023 | FEI