Austrian Championships,Ubersaxen, May 4, 2002

Reported by Pete Eliot

The morning of Saturday 4th May, Uebersaxen, Austria. 13 International riders meet to compete in the Austrian Championships.

Well, actually 10. The British contingent are still on their way out because Jeremy Gilder and Pete Eliot had an important business meeting on Friday night (of the 4 wheeled, twin engine variety) and had special permission to turn up late. They had hoped to make a bit of the practice session but were disappointed when they only just turned up in time to take the only qualifying run. Not only was it to be their first run down a fast, technical course with 14 turns, but to make matters worse, the fog was so thick that you couldn't see ten metres in front and had to guess which way the turns went. And it was pouring with rain, making the course trecherously slippery.

Pete found he had to lift his visor up all the way down the hill in order to be able to see. Jeremy would have done the same but remembered just after the start of his run that he had taped his visor down. Joanne Ashall had the ultimate introduction to buttboarding on this hill which was only about her second time ever on a buttboard. Heiko Labitzke took the honours in qualifying and earned pole position for the race the next day.


For the actual race, an unconventional format was tested. Everybody raced together in one heat in the first round, the slowest 3 were dropped and the rest went on to the second round. Then the first 6 from the second round make it through to the final. Fortunately the rain held off on race day which meant that the track was far faster, albeit still unfamiliar.

In the first round, Jeremy made the rash decision to change his set up from qualifying and try some new wheels. They had a very strange characteristic in that they caused his board to get speed wobbles at much lower speeds than usual and he had to back off meaning that he was one of the early casualties. Joanne also made an early exit but had assured herself of the women's title just by pushing off at the start. Werner Buecherl, Tom Mason and Dominik Dobler were way out in front with the rest of the field fighting for the lower places.

So when we lined up for round 2, it was these three at the front of the formula 1 style grid and yet again they stormed off in front. The same happened in the final round which was made up of the remaining top 6 riders and 2 corners from the finish it was the same three out front. Pete Eliot was in 4th place with Josef Bercher challenging strongly in 5th. The penultimate corner is a 90 degree right-hander and one has to slow from about 50mph to 15mph to make it round. Very similar to the final corner at Ansted, WV, for those who are familiar with that course.

In every round so far, Yours truly had made up at least one place by taking this cautiously whilst others over-cooked it. So when he was playing chicken with Josef in the final, he had the choice between risking everything for 4th place, or playing it safe in the hope of 3rd. He went for the latter option, and sure enough, when Bercher and Eliot came round the corner, one faster than the other, they were greeted by the site of Tom Mason sprawled on the outside of the track.

Bercher had no option but to run into him, whilst Eliot had taken off just enough speed to be able to cut inside and take an undeserved 3rd place. The tortoise beat the hare on this occasion too. Meanwhile up front, with Mason out of the running, Werner Buecherl and Dominik Dobler were deciding the race between them.

The win went to Werner along with the title of Austrian Champion. Benjamin Meier had an uneventful run in 4th place.


1. Werner Buecherl
2. Dominic Dobler
3. Peter Eliot
4. Benjamin Meier
5. Tom Mason
6. Josef Bercher

7. Jochen Baumann
8. Michael Mayer
9. Heiko Labitzke
10. Daniel Ladurner

11. Robert Laemmlein
12. Jeremy Gilder
13. Joanne Ashall

Darren Lott ©2002