From KTM – Red Bull KTM factory rider Jonny Walker of Britain turned up the heat on the first of three days of offroad competition on Wednesday at the eleventh edition of the Red Bull Romaniacs as riders settled down to attack the challenges in and around Sibiu, Romania.
Walker, winner of the 2014 Red Bull Hare Scramble at the legendary Erzbergrodeo in Austria at the beginning of June played his cards close to the chest in Tuesday’s prologue to secure a good tactical starting position in Wednesday, the first day out in the dramatic Transylvanian countryside.
The British rider, sponsored by Red Bull, was the first home after a battle with title-holder and old rival Graham Jarvis, and with KTM UK rider Paul Bolton, also another strong performer but it was the Walker, the young pretender who took line honors in the prestigious gold class on the opening day.
“I’m pretty satisfied with my rider today,” “Walker said. “I can’t complain about how things went for me. The track was relatively easy today but you have to be careful because there are always a lot of things that can go wrong.” Walker completed the course in 4 hours 09.08 and will be out in front at the start on Thursday with a six-minute advantage over Jarvis. Walker is competing on aKTM 300 EXC machine.
Two other strong KTM riders rounded off the top five in the class. Germany’sAndreas Lettenbichler was fourth and New Zealand’s Chris Birch was fifth. Both are Romaniacs veterans. Lettenbichler’s performance on day one was all the more impressive because he is riding with a spinal disc injury, according to KTM’s own Heinz Kinigadner, in Romania to follow the event.
“The navigation is a big issue in this event,” Kinigadner said. “Riders don’t use a road book but they have to follow the track using GPS.” Kinigadner, a former motocross world champion and Dakar Rally veteran also reported that heavy rain in the early hours of the morning had made the course at the start of the day very slippery, even if it did dry out relatively quickly.
“Jonny is looking very motivated this year,” Kinigadner said after watching Walker battle it out with Jarvis and Bolton. Walker, at 23, is the youngest in the group of possible winners and has been making inroads into the Hard Enduro competitions in the past two years.
KTM riders filled seven of the top ten places in the Gold class with good performances also coming from South Africa’s Wade Young, Philipp Scholz of Germany and Austria’s Lars Enoeckl who took places 6-8.
Some 350 riders from all over the world are contesting the 2014 edition of the Red Bull Romaniacs, a unique chance for riders with a range of skills to pit themselves against both the track and the best in the world. It has also developed into one of the riders’ favorites, as expressed by Andreas Lettenbichler when he told organizers: “What do I love about the Romaniacs? You are five, six, seven hours on the bike, you see different areas, different people, you have to push. I love it all!”