Rnd 4, World Enduro Super Series – Red Bull Romaniacs, Romania
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jonny Walker has finished third at the 2018 Red Bull Romaniacs – round four of the World Enduro Super Series – to retain his position at the top of the championship standings. KTM rider Manuel Lettenbichler finished as runner-up in what was a truly grueling event.
The 15th running of the ‘world’s toughest hard enduro rallye’ was held in extremely difficult conditions following heavy rainfall, both during the run-up to the event and during the early stages of the race. With an already challenging course becoming even more tricky, the race tested all riders to their maximum.
The traditional prologue held on the streets of Sibiu threw up the usual array of man-made obstacles, boardwalks, and water hazards. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Taddy Blazusiak fought his way through to claim third, closely followed by Lettenbichler and team-mate Walker.
With the results of the prologue deciding the start order for Off Road Day 1, it was Blazusiak who set off first into the wilderness of the very wet Carpathian Mountains. An early mistake caused the former Endurocross champion to crash and injure his shoulder. It was then Germany’s Lettenbichler, South African Wade Young and Jonny Walker who would lead the Gold class riders to the finish.
Walker placed as runner-up on Off-Road Day 2 after close to six hours of riding, with Lettenbichler third. On day three, those results were reversed with Walker troubled by an injury to his knee yet still placing third, 30 minutes ahead of the fourth-placed rider. With most riders declaring the event as the toughest in its 15-year history, skill and stamina separated the elite from the rest of the Gold class competitors.
On the fourth and final day, competitors faced another long stage – the leaders taking approximately five hours to complete the route before attacking the famous final hill at the finish near Sibiu. With only seconds separating Young and Lettenbichler right up to the final few checkpoints, and with Walker just minutes behind in third, there was everything to play for.
Manuel ultimately won the day, but his time wasn’t quite enough to take the overall win. Walker cleaned the final hill to claim third for the day and secure third in the overall results, earning himself valuable WESS championship points to retain his series lead.
Jonny Walker: “It was a good day today – tough but fast. I was pushing as much as I could but still struggled a little on the slippery hills. The whole event has been a real challenge, I don’t think I can remember a race ever being so tough, or so exhausting. My knee has been giving me some trouble, so I have had to take care (of) that. I am here at the finish though and got some good points in the championship, which is the most important thing.”
Josep Garcia and Nathan Watson both experienced their first ever Red Bull Romaniacs. The two former EnduroGP riders took some time to become accustomed to the navigation, the long days and the conditions of the 2018 event. Despite the demanding new challenge, the two Red Bull KTM Factory Racing athletes rode an impressive event with neither giving up, despite the challenges of the event. Finishing inside the top-20, both riders earned World Enduro Super Series points with four more rounds left to contest.
Josep Garcia: “That has been the toughest event of my career, but I am so happy to make the finish. With all the rain that the area has had over the past few weeks, the track became very difficult to ride. The first offroad day was the worst, I was on the bike for close to 12 hours in terrible conditions, but I am glad I made it. I knew that I had to keep going for the championship and now it all seems worth it.”
Nathan Watson: “I can’t believe the conditions out there – the hills have been so steep and slippery. When the bikes ahead have gone through they really cut things up and it makes it even worse. It’s been an exhausting five days of racing, but it means a lot for me to be stood here at the finish. It’s time to rest now and then look forward to the remaining events on the calendar, which should suit my style a little better.”
Despite a strong start and running in fourth place after Off Road Day 2, a bout of food poisoning forced Taddy Blazusiak to retire from the event at the beginning of day three. FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Cody Webb was present in Romania but didn’t compete due to an injury sustained at the Erzbergrodeo.
The next event on the 2018 WESS calendar is Red Bull 111 Megawatt on 8-9 September
Results – 2018 Red Bull Romaniacs
1. Wade Young (RSA), Sherco, 26:03:15
2. Manuel Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 26:05:30 +2:15
3. Jonny Walker (GBR), KTM, 26:39:22 +36:07
4. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 28:27:36 +2:24:21
5. Alfredo Gomez (ESP), Husqvarna, 28:55:17 +2:52:02
6. Paul Bolton (GBR), KTM, 29:43:36 +3:40:21
7. David Cyprian (CZE), KTM, 31:12:43 +5:09:28
10. Philipp Scholz (GER), KTM, 33:53:15 +7:50:00
15. Josep Garcia (ESP), KTM, +26:10:34
16. Nathan Watson (GBR), KTM, +32:10:37
Provisional World Enduro Super Series Standings (after 4 of 8 rounds)
1. Jonny Walker (GBR), KTM, 2900 points
2. Manuel Lettenbichler (GER), KTM, 2715 pts
3. Billy Bolt (GBR), Husqvarna, 2520 pts
4. Wade Young (RSA), Sherco, 2220 pts
5. Paul Bolton (GBR), KTM, 1832 pts
7. Josep Garcia (ESP), KTM, 1750 pts
8. Taddy Blazusiak (POL), KTM 1445 pts
11. Nathan Watson (GBR), KTM 1318 pts
Words and image courtesy KTM Sportmotorcycles GmbH