Dutch driver Koos de Ronde drove four clear rounds to win the second leg of the FEI World Cup Driving in Stuttgart, the first time he has won the event.
Koos de Ronde in Stuttgart.
Wild card driver Boyd Exell finished in second place only 0.68 seconds behind De Ronde. De Ronde's compatriot and Hannover winner IJsbrand Chardon came third.
"I know that this team is not perfect. I put in a new horse and even though this is not an experienced indoor horse, he did a fabulous job," De Ronde said.
"It is one of the horses from my father's four-in-hand. It is a great feeling to win in Stuttgart, I am very proud that I will be added to the Wall of Fame here, next to big names like Michael Freund, Boyd Exell and Ijsbrand Chardon. I have come second here twice, so it finally came together for me this year. My next step is to win Aachen now!"
The seven drivers put down an excellent performance in the Stuttgart Schleyer Halle, which was filled with enthusiastic spectators. The sensational course, designed by German course designer Falk Böhnisch, the excellent footing, the well-chosen music and the light show all contributed to a World Class Driving competition.
Zoltan Lázar, Boyd Exell, IJsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde all drove clear rounds. Lázar was 5 seconds short to make it to the winning round and finished fourth in his first FEI World Cup Driving competition this season.
Koos de Ronde was first to go in the winning round and although his horses were a little tired from the first round, the bronze medalist at the Open European Championships in Breda 2011 again drove a fast round without any knock downs.
Boyd Exell, who changed his leader horse after the first day, was well on his way to beat De Ronde's time. The difference between the two drivers after the first round was only a fraction of a second, but the ambitious Exell drove too fast and knocked a ball at the 12th gate, which dropped him to second place.
All eyes were on Chardon, who had an advantage of 4 seconds on De Ronde. Chardon drove his team of Lipizzaner horses fast through the course, but held on to the reins for too long in the marathon and took gate D twice. This cost him precious seconds and took him off guard. When he then knocked a ball down, it was clear that he had lost the chance to secure first place.
"I was aiming for Koos' time in the winning round. I knew I had 4 seconds advantage on him," Chardon said. "The course was very good, but not easy. My horses went well, but I made a mistake. You cannot make mistakes like this at this level, we know that very well. But I enjoyed the competition and the sport was very good."
German Champion Georg von Stein competed with a wild card in the FEI World Cup Driving Final in Leipzig in April this year and qualified for the World Cup 2011/2012 season. It was the first time the 39-year old riding instructor competed in Stuttgart. Despite his lack of indoor driving experience, the newcomer had a very good performance with his team of mixed warmblood horses and finished fifth.
The third Dutch driver in the competition, Theo Timmerman, missed a gate that cost him precious seconds and he came sixth. The second wild card driver Michael Brauchle from the Stuttgart region finished seventh.
Excell said he changed a lead horse after the warm-up competition and was pleased with the outcome. "My current horses are getting older and I have to plan for the future. I am saving my best indoor horse Bill for the Final in Bordeaux," he said.
Koos de Ronde and his team speed to victory in Stuttgart.