Will it be a 10th title for brilliant Boyd or will reigning champion Bram retain his crown?
FEI Driving World Cup 2022-2023 – Written by Sarah Dance
The world’s top ten four-in-hand drivers, eight legs plus a Final, and one new World Champion – that’s what the 2022-23 FEI Driving World Cup™ promises.
After two stilted seasons due to Covid-19, fans can look forward to a full programme of the heart-stopping, edge-of-the-seat entertainment which is the FEI Driving World Cup. Demanding speed, accuracy and bravery from both horses and drivers, lightning reactions and steadfast commitment from the back steppers, technical excellence from the equipment, this is equestrian sport at its most exhilarating.
In 2001 the ‘Driving World Cup’ format became part of the FEI repertoire. An ingenious formula -which brought four-in-hand Driving to a new audience during the autumn and winter season- it was easily incorporated into established indoor events and became an instant hit.
The first champion was German legend Michael Freund, who took the title five times, sharing it once in 2005 with the great Ijsbrand Chardon of The Netherlands, who himself has been crowned champion on three occasions. Current holder of the title is Ijsbrand’s son Bram, who seized the crown for a second time in Leipzig (GER) in April 2022 during the bumper event which also hosted the FEI Dressage, Vaulting and Jumping World Cup™ Finals.
However, the man who has dominated the format since he won his first title in Gothenburg (SWE) to round off the 2008-2009 season is current Four-in-Hand World Champion Boyd Exell (AUS). Fresh from his record-breaking sixth win in Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA) in September, he really wants a tenth World Cup title. Determined to ensure that next-generation driver Bram, whose hunger for a win makes him a formidable competitor, does not prevent Boyd’s dream of a double-figure tally of titles, the Australian will surely give it everything this season. During the press conference at the end of the World Championship on a wet Sunday in Pratoni, Boyd stated that he had already started training his indoor horses for the season – as did the gold winning Dutch team of Ijsbrand, Bram and Koos de Ronde, another former champion (2012-2013).
The FEI Driving World Cup is open to the top ten ranked drivers who have gained points at outdoor qualifying events during the preceding season. Their participation is then spread out evenly between the eight legs with five athletes per competition plus up to three ‘Wild Cards’, which organisers are at liberty to invite and may include a national driver, such as Fredrick Persson (SWE) who will compete in Stockholm (SWE) in November. At the end of the legs, the six top placed drivers are eligible for the Final.
One athlete who will be missed this season is Mareike Harm (GER), a finalist in Leipzig who is currently ranked 5th having also finished 5th individually in Pratoni and was a member of the German silver medal winning team. In what must be a first for the sport, she drove at the World Championship while five months’ pregnant and so has had to opt out the forthcoming World Cup series as her baby is due in February.
The Longines Equita Lyon (FRA) plays host to the first leg of the 2022-2023 season. The line-up packs a punch with on-form Ijsbrand, fresh from his individual silver and team gold in Pratoni, joined by indoor specialist and young talent, the 27-year-old Dries Degrieck (BEL) who was second at the same event last year and placed fourth in the final in Leipzig, just outside the medals. In what will be a close contest, the ever-competitive Koos will be pushing for a podium place alongside America’s leading driver Chester Weber and another indoor specialist, Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) with his Swiss Freiberger horses. Benjamin Aillaud (FRA) takes the Wild Card.
The first round is an early start at 8:30am on Saturday 29 October with the second round at 12:50pm on Sunday 30 October (CET). The order of the first round determines the running order of the second, both of which have a drive-off for the top three drivers.
Next in the series is Maastricht (NED) in early November, which is the first event for Boyd, who will be joined by outdoor marathon supremo Michael Brauchle (GER), plus Benjamin, Koos and Ijsbrand, and it’s a first outing for Glenn Geerts (BEL) as the Wild Card. The following weekend the focus moves to Stuttgart (GER), then Stockholm (SWE) before Geneva (SUI) in early December where Bram will be hoping to win again. The annual Christmas extravaganza at the London International Horse Show (GBR) is a popular pitstop on the circuit, followed by a post-Christmas outing in Mechelen (BEL) and the last leg in Leipzig (GER), ahead of the final in Bordeaux (FRA) in February.
With the series starting and ending on French soil, all eyes will be on Lyon this weekend as drivers tackle a course designed by one of the most experienced designers on the circuit, Jeroen Houterman (NED) who was also behind the Leipzig course and was the technical delegate in Pratoni. That task in Lyon is assumed by one of the most experienced judges on the circuit, Anne-Marie Turbé (FRA) who was also in Pratoni, as President of the Ground Jury, a role she also assumes, alongside being Technical Delegate, this weekend.
It would be foolhardy to bet against Boyd smashing his own record to take a tenth win, or to think that Bram won’t go all-out for his third World Cup title, but such is the quality of the field this season that there’s every chance a new name will be added to Driving’s ‘Hall of Fame’. Michael Brauchle and Koos de Ronde flew round the obstacles in Pratoni, perhaps a prelude of what’s to come this World Cup series?
The wait is nearly over…
List of qualified athletes for the first leg of the FEI Driving World Cup™ 2022 – 2023:
Boyd EXELL (AUS) –
Ijsbrand CHARDON (NED)
Bram CHARDON (NED)
Glenn GEERTS (BEL)
Koos DE RONDE (NED)
Chester WEBER (USA)
Jérôme VOUTAZ (SUI)
Benjamin AILLAUD (FRA)
Michael BRAUCHLE (GER) – Dries DEGRIECK (BEL)
Dates, schedules and information here