In the absence of five-times winner, KTM’s Taddy Blazusiak who was competing in the EnduroCross World Championship second round in the USA this weekend, Walker’s victory also signaled the passing of the mantel to the next generation of great KTM riders. Walker not only won the mighty race, he did it in style and with an impressive winning margin of around 20 minutes from second placed Dougie Lampkin (Gas-Gas).
The race lived up to its international reputation for delivering not only stunning racing from the world’s toughest riders but also an element of drama. Of the 500 starters only seven were listed as official finishers when fog caused the race to be halted after three and a half hours instead of the usual four-hour limit. Six of the seven official finishers were on offroad bikes by the Austrian manufacturer.
Walker was the third fastest in the prologue and thus was in the first wave of riders to tackle the terrifying slopes of the Austrian iron ore mountain and by the first corner he was tucked in behind Austrian KTM rider Lars En??ckl. The two then proceeded to distance themselves from the rest of the field in the first of the 25 km. Behind them were Hare Scramble evergreens, Graham Jarvis of Britain and Germany’s Andreas Lettenbichler.
By the time the TV cameras had captured a glimpse of Walker 30 minutes into the race he was in the lead while Lettenbichler was hunting down Lars En??ckl. Then just minutes later came the dramatic news from race officials that both Lettenbichler and Jarvis had been disqualified for missing an entire terrace in the high-speed section ‘Rosina’. Neither rider saw the announcement and continued on racing.
Some 50 minutes later Walker was at Checkpoint 13, the dreaded ‘Carl’s Diner’ where he took a spectacular dive over the handlebars in a section of rocks that is totally unforgiving in the face of rider errors. But he quickly regained his composure and pressed on. Meanwhile En??ckl was being hunted down by Lampkin, who chose another line to overtake him, deploying all of his skills as a much rewarded trials champion.
After 1 hour 15 it was Walker, En??ckl, Lampkin, Ben Hemingway and Paul Bolton but with the two disqualified riders still battling it out. Jarvis was first to the finish only to learn his efforts were for nothing and three minutes later Walker claimed the victory.
Jonny Walker: ‘I knew that Jarvis had been disqualified and in the final part I didn’t take any risks. I was simply too fast at Carl’s Diner and I hurt my back a bit when I went over the handlebars. It’s simply fantastic to be the winner in only my second start here in Erzberg.
Alex Doringer (KTM Team Manager): ‘It’s just great for us that such a nice young guy like Jonny walker has won here. We really knew he had improved since last year. We already knew that before the race and that’s why we were counting on him. What we didn’t know is just how much he had improved and that surprised everyone. Last year’s fifth win by Taddy Blazusiak was already sensational. Now we have another great winner!’
Results Erzberg Rodeo Red Bull Hare Scramble 2012
1. Jonny Walker (GB), KTM 300 EXC, 1:41 h
2. Dougie Lampkin (GB), Gas-Gas, 2:05 h
3. Ben Hemingway (GB), KTM 300 EXC, 2:17 h
4. Paul Bolton (GB), KTM 300 EXC, ? h
5. Taichi Tanaka (J), KTM 300 EXC, 3:00 h
6. Lars En??ckl (A), KTM 300 EXC, 3:05 h
7. Dan Hemingway (GB), KTM 300 EXC, 3:17 h