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 about that. I am here at the finish though and got some good points in the championship, which is the most important thing.”