KTM's UK factory rider Jonny Walker soared up Austria's Iron Mountain to seal the overall win at the Erzberg Rodeo Red Bull Hare Scrambles, June 9-10, which is considered one of the world's toughest one-day Hard Enduro competition. It was only the 21-year-old rider's second start in the classic endurance event.
Walker's winning margin was around 20 minutes over Dougie Lampkin (Gas-Gas).
The race lived up to its billing. 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.
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. By the first corner, he was tucked in behind Austrian KTM rider Lars Enöckl. The two then proceeded to distance themselves from the rest of the field in the first 18 miles or so. Behind them were Graham Jarvis of Britain and Andreas Lettenbichler of Germany.
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 Enöckl. 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 called "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, Enöckl was being hunted down by Gas Gas-mounted Dougie Lampkin.
After one hour and 15 minutes, it was Walker, Enöckl, Lampkin, Ben Hemingway and Paul Bolton, but with the two disqualified riders - Jarvis and Lettenbichler - 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.
"I knew that Jarvis had been disqualified [so], in the final part, I didn't take any risks. I was simply too fast at Carl's Diner and 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."
In the end, it was Lampkin finishing second, followed by fellow Brits Hemingway (KTM) and Bolton (KTM). Japanese rider Taichi Tanaka (KTM) finished fifth, while Enockl ended up sixth. Great Britain's Dan Hemingway (KTM) was last official finisher in seventh.
Multi-time Baja Champion Kendall Norman compete at Erzberg for the first time. Riding a KTM 300 two-stroke, Norman was credited with 56th overall, making it to checkpoint 11.
Norman was 10th in Saturday prologue.
Norman, however, was not the only American rider at Erzberg nor was he the top American finisher. That honor went to KTM pilot Don Boespflug who finished 40th on his KTM 300.
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 Enöckl (A), KTM 300 EXC, 3:05 h
7. Dan Hemingway (GB), KTM 300 EXC, 3:17 h