When competitors roll off the starting ramp for the ninety-third edition of the FIM International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in Chile on 12 November, it will mark eleven years since Italy last won the FIM World Trophy team competition. As an Enduro rookie, Alex Salvini (Husqvarna) was part of that winning team in La Serena, Chile and now, over a decade later, he aims to end that winless-streak in Vińa del Mar together with compatriots Davide Guarneri (Honda), Thomas Oldrati (Honda) and Giacomo Redondi (Honda).
“It’s now eleven years since I won my first and only FIM ISDE title with Italy,” tells Alex. “But it’s a race which still stays vivid in my memory. The 2007 ISDE in Chile was my first ever Enduro."
As a professional Motocross rider, Alex accepted a last-minute invitation to replace an injured Simone Albergoni. Despite never racing an Enduro, he signed himself up for one of motorcycling’s most challenging off-road events.
“I’d never raced an Enduro before. I didn’t really know the sport and had never tried to change a tyre in less than 15 minutes,” recalls Alex. “I was worried, scared and had absolutely no idea what to expect. It really was a huge learning experience for me, but one that ultimately ignited my passion for Enduro.”
“I borrowed Simone’s Yamaha 250 four-stroke, but used my Supercross suspension - that’s how new I was,” he laughs. “The bike felt good in the sand, but on the rocks it would barely go in a straight line - I was struggling so much. I had a huge crash on day one and broke so many things. I managed to get it straightened out and improve with each day. In the end I won the Enduro 1 class Motocross race and finished third overall in category, along with helping Italy to victory in the FIM World Trophy competition.”
Since that memorable Enduro introduction, Salvini has gone on to become one of the sport’s leading riders. Crowned FIM Enduro 2 World Champion in 2013, along with winning multiple Italian titles, he now stands a much more relaxed, confident and controlled rider than he was in 2007.
“Of course a lot has happened since that memorable week,” he says. “I’ve won a World title and grown mentally as a rider. I’m relaxed and not as stressed as I was in 2007. Naturally, I feel pressure because I want to do well, but it’s a different feeling and one where I’m more in control.”
Now eleven winless years since that emphatic victory in La Serena, Salvini feels that 2018 is Italy’s best chance of returning to the top step of the FIM World Trophy podium.
“I think on paper Italy has a very good chance this year,” he says with an air of modest confidence. “Davide will be strong on this terrain and the special tests will suit him. So too will Thomas, who has been very fast during the second half of this year. Giacomo just won an off-road title in America and is motivated. Personally, I feel that I’m riding as good as I have ever done. Yes, I had mechanical problems which cost me in the FIM Enduro World Championship, but that’s part of motorsport. I know my speed is there and as a team we are hungry to fight."
“However, I don’t feel you can go to the FIM ISDE expecting to win,” concludes Alex. “It’s a long race and there are so many elements to get right. Last year in France, Giacomo had problems on day one and we were in trouble from the beginning. Like I said, I am also proof that nothing is certain. Motorsport is unpredictable and always testing - the FIM ISDE is a perfect example of that.”
The ninety-third edition of the FIM International Six Days Enduro takes place in Vińa del Mar, Chile from 12-17 November 2018.