Paddock star Wade Young (Brother Leader Tread KTM) was unable to replicate last year’s podium finish as the Red Bull Romaniacs reached its climax in Romania on Saturday.
South Africa’s number one enduro rider, who 12 months ago finished the famous Romanian rallye in third place, drowned his bike in the “Appetizer” section, shortly before the Service Point.
This saw Young finish fifth overall after a total of 25 hours 10 minutes 40 seconds of riding over the four Off-Road Days.
“It’s been a couple of long, hard and fast days of riding. I knew I had to go out and push hard to gain time on Gomez and Bolton which I did and at one stage I was leading the pack but made a mistake in the river and drowned my bike,” said Young.
“I spent over 20 minutes getting my bike started but I knew my chances of gaining on the top guys were gone so I just brought it home. I am so grateful to my sponsors for making this possible and for all the support. A special shout out to Franziska – thanks ‘Boss.'”
Oslo Beach rider Blake Gutzeit (Fox/CTI/Rock Oil) finished with a flourish which saw him better his ninth place on debut last year with a hard-earned eighth position.
Brett Swanepoel rounded off the top 10 and was closely followed by Scott Bouverie and Romaniacs rookie Travis Teasdale in 11th and 12th respectively.
Dwayne Kleynhans completed a stellar showing for South African Gold Class riders with a deserved 17th place finish.
Jonny Walker (UK, KTM) won the race for the second consecutive year. He was pushed hard throughout the whole race by Graham Jarvis (UK, Husqvarna), who took the day`s win from him within the last few metres. They had crossed some of the world’s most difficult terrain and ended up only being a few seconds apart at the end of the day.
Following the results of the previous day, the starting order was Letti, Gomez, Jarvis, Young, Walker, Bolton. Paul Bolton, (UK, KTM) started the day by pushing hard and staying on the heels of the two leaders.
He was riding some of the best times and caught up with the leading pack around the “Appetizer” section. He was awarded with a place on Saturday’s podium (third). Bolton finished the rally fourth overall.
In “Appetizer”, only Jarvis passed through like a champ. Everyone else was struggling in this section, including Walker, and even needed help (Letti, Bolton). Due to the favourable weather conditions throughout the race, there was hardly any water in the “Appetizer” on Saturday.
However, there were still plenty of mean little pools, capable of swallowing whole bikes and riders. The “refreshment” was welcomed by Jarvis, who had just run out of drinking water.
A few more drowned bikes and some fast riding later, the final cruel surprise was awaiting the riders in the famous Red Bull Romaniacs finish “Gusterita”. In addition to the already existing uphill, prologue master and “Folterknecht” Andy Fazekas had added new sections just before the finish arch, causing utter carnage in front of the cheering crowd.
The Bronze class riders, who had arrived there earlier, made it even more difficult by carrying mud and water from the pond onto the structures. Walker was first to arrive there, after struggling slightly with the main uphill. Only a couple of minutes ahead of Jarvis, he lost precious time in the mud-hole, which ended up costing him his victory for the day.
Jarvis, who kept chasing him like a bat out of hell throughout the race, nailed the finish uphill in the first attempt and kept flying towards Walker. One of the most breath-taking finishes unfolded, with Walker being stuck in the mud and Jarvis approaching.
Jarvis pulled smoothly through the slippery section and passed Walker only metres away from the finish line. This last effort secured him his win for the day with a lead of just seconds.
Once he had passed the Red Bull arch, Jarvis held his breath in anticipation, while Walker was struggling out of the mud and over the wet wood. But Walker pulled through and managed to preserve his overall lead, winning the 2015 Red Bull Romaniacs with just a two minutes 10 seconds lead over Jarvis.
“It feels awesome to win again – it was a lot tougher than last year and I am looking forward to going home,” said Walker.
Jarvis said: “Jonny was riding really well, I pushed hard but it was very difficult to lose him during the day. This was the closest finish ever and I am still happy about being second.”
All of the top guns rode “wide open” throughout the whole race; crashed and burned many times but arrived in the finish after a gruelling 600 km and four long Off-Road Days.
In particular Walker and Jarvis were seen riding side by side at maximum-speed in sections like “One Day Uphill”. The trails there are so steep and uninviting, even hikers would struggle to scramble up them. The riders’ performances have now reached a level at which they arrive within seconds of each other – after hours of riding.
Martin Freinademetz said: “We have invested significant effort into improving the flow of the race and each class has been spread out more, which will better separate the field of riders. It looks like it paid off – we hardly had any traffic jams! However, we noticed some large differences in the skill level of riders in each of the classes, especially in the Bronze and Silver class.
“The top 20% rated the race-track as moderate, occasionally easy and ended up arriving in the daily finishes up to 45 minutes early. On the other side of the scale, the weaker riders in the silver class were overwhelmed, leading to only about 50% of finishers in this class. We had an overall of ca. 75% finishers – the very mild and dry conditions certainly helped. We noticed huge smiles on the finisher`s faces!”
The Silver class was mostly reigned over by New Zealanders Archer, Herbert, Clarke, Parker, Broughton and Grey, who constantly placed in the top 10. Kevin Archer (NZL, KTM) maintained his overall lead throughout, with his closest threat being Norbert-Levente Jozsa (RO, KTM), who finished second overall. The Romanian Norbert kept pushing Archer throughout the race but Archer was the stronger rider and won the Silver class.
In the Bronze class, Israeli riders, Tomer Shemesh and Ziv Kami (both KTM) performed well, placing first and third. Neither rider favoured the prologue and chose to take it easy, preferring to preserve themselves for the Off-Road Days unlike Sandra Gomez, Alfredo’s younger sister, who showed her fellow class riders, as well as spectators, how a technical prologue is done.
Her first Hard Enduro rally was off to a great start, placing third in the prologue. After delivering top ten performances during the first Off-Road Days, the rallye had begun taking its toll on her and she finished 25th overall. Sven Heidemann (GER, KTM) finished second in the Bronze class.
Everything is possible at the Red Bull Romaniacs – and former winner Andreas Lettenbichler (D. KTM) had to learn it the hard way: he took a wrong turn in the morning of Off-Road Day Two and lost enough time to cost him any chance for a podium in the overall ranking. And even though he finished Off-Road Day One in second place and completely dominated day three, he was only able to end the race sixth.