After narrowly missing out on a podium finish in 2013, Britain’s Jonny Walker rode the race of his life at the 2014 edition of the super-tough enduro race to crown himself the new “King of the Carpathians” in the most suspense-packed Red Bull Romaniacs ever.
“For me these were the toughest days ever on a motorbike,” commented a dejected Jonny Walker back in 2013 after failing to make the podium at his first Red Bull Romaniacs. In 2014, just weeks after having nailed the Erzberg Rodeo, Walker returned to Romania well-prepared and raring to go. “I have put in a lot of effort into preparing for this race and my focus is different from last year,” explained Walker ahead of the event.
It certainly paid off for the young British rider. After winning two of the four Offroad Days and finishing third in the Prologue, Walker claimed an impressive overall victory at the 2014 Red Bull Romaniacs.
The day of racing started damp and foggy after some heavy thunderstorms the night before. Walker was first onto the course, with his closest rivals – Graham Jarvis and Wade Young – following him in five-minute intervals. Despite tricky conditions on the many energy-sapping sections, there was no catching Walker, who continued to increase his advantage over Jarvis step by step during the day – he led by three minutes at “Sigi Zig Zag”, five minutes at the Service Point and seven minutes at Checkpoint 7, just before the fearsome “Black Mamba”.
While Jarvis kept working on catching up with Walker, he was himself starting to be chased. Paul Bolton, who had left 11 minutes after him in the morning, showed up hot on his heels and eventually passed Jarvis. “I gave everything and rode a good race to try and win the Red Bull Romaniacs for a fifth time. But Jonny was simply too hard to beat and his victory is well earned. The many fast sections were in his favour – I was often far out of my comfort zone trying to match his speed there,” commented Jarvis, who still managed to claim second overall ahead of South Africa’s Wade Young in third.
Jonny Walker – Red Bull Romaniacs 2014 winner: “I’m so pleased to have won Romaniacs. After winning at Erzberg I really wanted to keep things going well, and I knew that beating Graham here wasn’t going to be easy. But that’s what I focused on and worked hard to do. And it’s happened, I’m so, so happy.
“Romaniacs is a race you have to learn, and the last two years were all about learning really. I had some good days but also some bad days, but more than anything I worked out what the race is about and what you need to do to be properly prepared for it.
“I didn’t push too hard on the prologue simply because I didn’t want to make any mistakes that might mess things up. The first full day went really well, and was a great start to the event. I wanted to try and push hard again on day two, but I ended up drowning my bike, which wasn’t ideal. I just dropped into a part of a small river that was a lot deeper than I was expecting. I had to pump the water out of my motor, which cost me some time, but I still managed to get a good result at the end of what was a bit of a bad day.
“I don’t know why but I just wasn’t riding well during day three. I caught Graham but I just didn’t feel good at all. On the last day I knew that if I rode well I’d be able to pull time on Graham, and I felt good. I was pretty confident that things were going the way I needed them to, although I got lost a few times later on in the day so I did get a little worried a few times.
“To finally get to the finish knowing that the race was won is an amazing feeling. Romaniacs wears you down day-after-day but winning is a great feeling. The race couldn’t be more different to Erzberg, and to have won both races this year means a lot. I have to thank Seb my mechanic, all the guys at KTM and all of my sponsors – winning races like Romaniacs is a real team effort.”
Graham Jarvis: “Unfortunately, it’s my first Red Bull Romaniacs defeat in four years but overall I’ve got to be happy with the runner-up result. Jonny rode a great race and hardly put a foot wrong all week. I was hoping to try and gain some time back on him on Day Four but it wasn’t possible. The early part of the day was quite fast and he managed to pull a gap on me. In the end I was just happy to ride home for second. It’s been a different race this year – not as hard as it’s been in the past. It’s been good though. I’ve really enjoyed it, but I just didn’t have the pace of Jonny in all the fast stuff. Of course I wanted to win but I’ll come back stronger next year and try to win it back.”
Results: 1. Jonny Walker (UK), 2. Graham Jarvis (UK), 3. Wade Young (ZA), 4. Paul Bolton (UK), 5. Andreas Lettenbichler (GER)