KTM's Jonny Walker snatched victory in a nail-biting final few minutes of the 2015 Red Bull Romaniacs Hard Enduro to make it two wins in two years. Walker did enough on the final day of competition to put himself on the top step of the podium from Husqvarna duo Graham Jarvis and Alfredo Gomez in what was one of the closest ever finishes in the race.
With everything still to play for on the fourth and final day, it was Jarvis who started third on the road, and one minute in front of a chasing Walker. With the overall gap between the two riders just three minutes, Jarvis knew he couldn't afford to get caught while Walker couldn't afford to cruise this one home.
By the midway service point the pair were almost level and the win was looking like Walker's. Entering the Gusterita finishing area, Walker had indeed broken clear of the Husqvarna rider. But finishing Romaniacs is never easy and with a 50 metre stretch of hell waiting for them, the victory very nearly swung back in Jarvis' favour.
With a balance beam above a pit of swampy water to cross, Walker slipped off the edge and needed a second try. Meanwhile Jarvis arrived on cue as the KTM rider dragged his way out of the quagmire. Going for the win, Jarvis cleared the beam and crossed the finish-line first.
As the nail biting seconds passed, Walker finally made his way past the hoards of hobby riders stuck in the mud and across the beam to stop the clock with his race lead still intact and the victory his.
"It was all or nothing for the win today," said Walker. "It feels fantastic to win this race again. I knew it would be a close fight and rode on the limit to try and break away. It worked but then I lost it all in those final 50 metres. That run to the finish was crazy but I somehow kept my cool and won."
Not disappointed with finishing second, Jarvis enjoyed yet another epic battle in the Carpathian Mountains. "I can't be too disappointed with my result. Of course I wanted to win but I rode my heart out this week. I gave it everything I had. It's been a very competitive race this year.
"I think the level has really stepped up. It's nearly turning into a sprint race each day – the pace has stepped up that much. I think it being very dry this year was a factor but I'm enjoying the competition."
After what was a disastrous first couple of days in the mountains, Husqvarna's second rider Alfredo Gómez turned his race around on day three, and then finished things off with a podium result on the final day.
"It's taken me a couple of days to find my rhythm in this race but I'm happy it's come good at the end," confirmed Gomez. "The first two days were a bit of a write off – they didn't go well. But yesterday and today were much, much better. Jonny and Graham were on another level this week and it would have been hard to match them, so for me third is a really great result."
With Gomez snatching third by just two minutes, KTM's privateer Paul Bolton was forced to settle for fourth, while Wade Young dropped from third overall to fifth when he drowned his engine during a river crossing.
For some finishing the Red Bull Romaniacs is a victory in itself. Tackling his first edition of the race – and in Gold class – Frenchman Yannick Marpinard was the 21st and final official finisher of the category. Dedicating his result to fallen neighbour and friend – F1 driver Jules Bianchi – he is paving the way for fresh French talent in hard enduro.
2015 Red Bull Romaniacs Final Results
1. Jonny Walker (GBR) 23h49m42s
2. Graham Jarvis (GBR) 23h51m52s
3. Alfredo Gómez (ESP) 24h48m02s
4. Paul Bolton (GBR) 25h00m10s
5. Wade Young (RSA) 25h10m40s
6. Andreas Lettenbichler (GER) 25h44m50s
7. Philipp Scholz (GER) 26h24m37s
8. Blake Gutziet (RSA) 26h27m09s
9. Lars Enöckl (AUT) 26h39m38s
10. Brett Swanepoel (RSA) 26h44m01s