NEWS > Driving
Posted by Kirsty Pasto on 18/12/2022.
Boyd Exell at London International Horse Show
Photo credit: Jon Stroud

Exell Triumphs at ExCel

Boyd Exell, current World Champion, won Leg 6 of 8 in FEI Driving World Cup™ action on Saturday at the London ExCel show.

Even though he was driving as a wildcard, meaning he didn’t win any qualifying points for the Finals at Bordeaux in February, Exell and his team of Emma Olsson and Hugh Scott-Barrett seem to be edging closer to taking a 10th FEI Driving World Cup™ title in 2023. 

The defending champion and member of the gold medal-winning team at the European Championships, Bram Chardon, finished second this weekend. Chardon’s compatriot Koos de Ronde, a former champion, went home with the bronze medal. 

The stands were packed at the festively decorated London ExCel as enthusiastic Driving fans filled the London International Horse Show on Saturday night to get a glimpse of the world’s best four-in-hand athletes.

Seven Driving teams were on the start list representing six nations. Five teams hoped to pick up coveted qualifying points for Bordeaux, with Daniel Naprous of France and Exell participating as wildcards. For Exell, London is even more than a holiday tradition; it’s a homecoming, having competed there so many times when his athletic career was beginning.

Each team had a turn in the arena, the order based on their finish on Day 1 on Friday. Dutch course designer Jeroen Houterman set a tight track that meant even the slightest deviation from the path would send the balls perched atop the orange marking cones tumbling for 4 penalty points each.

Whilst four didn’t make it to the drive off, the crowd was treated to some spectacular performances from Belgium’s Dries Degrieck, France’s Benjamin Aillaud, American champion Chester Weber, and Naprous, who finished fourth through seventh respectively. 

The excitement in the stadium was palpable as the lights dimmed and the music soared for the start of the drive off with the three fastest teams.

Up first, Bram Chardon had his sister Lianne Chardon in the navigator’s role, with Quint van Rijswijk as the backstepper. Knowing his horse team prefers right-handed turns, he approached the two sets of marathon boxes accordingly, and finished in 142.05 seconds. But with 8 penalties, for a total time of 150.05 seconds, would it be enough to beat Boyd? 

The team of Koos de Ronde, Marie de Ronde, and Martin Beenhakker, driving second, would love nothing more than to add a championship title to their trophy cases. Their drive off time of 147.12 seconds was a good 3 seconds faster than their first round, but with the 12 penalties, the final tally of 159.90 seconds looked like a lock for third.

The audience went wild for Exell’s team but fell silent as the Australian champion, ranked number 1 in the world, had his turn around the course. His time of 143.89 seconds was a hair slower than Chardon’s, but he only picked up 4 uncharacteristic points in going all out for the finish line, giving him a total time of 147.89 seconds to pip the Dutchman.

“What an electric crowd!” said Exell of the fans at the London ExCel prize giving, his horse team decked out in ear bonnets resembling reindeer antlers.

When asked what keeps him coming back to try each year for another win at the holiday show, he replied, “The younger generation,” gesturing to the two Dutch athletes flanking him.

Exell leads the overall standings on the road to Bordeaux with 30 total qualifying points. Bram Chardon’s father, Driving legend and former World Cup champion Ijsbrand Chardon, is in second place with 24 points, with the younger Chardon chasing him on 20 points.

De Ronde, Degrieck, Germany’s Michael Brauchle, Belgium’s Glenn Geerts, Switzerland’s Jérome Voutaz, Aillaud, and Weber round out the top 10.

Driving thrills return in just two weeks, with the leg at Mechelen before New Year’s. Then, there’s only one more leg at Leipzig to see who will head to Bordeaux for the final showdown.




*Supplied by FEI

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