"ERZBERG WILL BE MY TOUGHEST RACE YET"
As the defending champion of the Red Bull Hare Scramble at the Erzberg Rodeo, KTM’s Jonny Walker starts this year’s race as one of the hot favourites.
Delivering a simply stunning start-to-finish victory in 2014, Walker dominated the toughest single-day enduro race in the world to secure his second win at the Iron Giant in Austria.
Entering this year’s Erzberg Rodeo having claimed wins at both Hell’s Gate and The Tough One, Walker has his sights set on both capturing his third Erzberg victory and his hat trick of 2015 Hard Enduro wins…
Jonny, the countdown to Erzberg 2015 is almost over. Do you feel ready to defend your title this year?
Jonny Walker: “Honestly I can’t wait to get started. Erzberg is my most important race of the year but it’s also one I really look forward to. That’s probably a strange thing to say about one of the most brutal tracks in the world but I love everything about it. From the atmosphere in the paddock, to the intensity of the race itself – it’s a couple of days of pure chaos, carnage and madness.”
With 1800 other riders starting this race is there anyone in particular you will be keeping a close eye on?
JW: “The best riders in the world are here so it’s going to be a hell of a battle. It will be my toughest race yet. I’ve won it twice now and I think that’s sort of helped me to mentally prepare for what’s ahead of me this year. I feel good about where I’m at and what I can do. But there’s also a lot of guys probably thinking the same thing. Graham Jarvis is highly motivated to win. I beat him in Hell’s Gate and The Tough One but I know he’d gladly trade those losses to win Erzberg. Alfredo Gomez is strong around the Iron Giant too and guys like Mario Roman can bag a good result too. But of course having Taddy Blazusiak on the starting line is going to make it interesting.”
What’s you thoughts on having Taddy back for 2015?
JW: “It’s cool to have Taddy back in the paddock. He’s got the most Erzberg wins – five straight – and that has helped build up even more hype for the race. Of course I want to beat him – you always want to beat your teammate – and I know he’s taking this return very seriously. Skipping X Games to race Erzberg is proof of that. He’s going to be pushing hard to win and I’ll be giving it everything I’ve got to beat him and everyone else.”
You rode an amazing race to victory in 2014, how have you prepared for it this year?
JW: “After such a busy start to the year I took a few weeks off to recharge my batteries and then got back into my training and preparation for Erzberg. I worked a lot on improving a few certain things. I’m always trying to make my riding more fluid and flowing. It’s not so much a matter of being able to ride the most extreme obstacles – I can do that – but really more about doing it without stopping to check lines and losing time. I’ve also spent a lot of time watching my GoPro footage from last year’s race. I’ve got the entire race on YouTube and it’s actually been a great way to study the course. I’ve picked up on a few things for this year.”
For a race like Erzberg – the toughest in the world – do you change the setup of your KTM 300 EXC to suit the conditions?
JW: “My bike’s been running great. My mechanic Seb is a perfectionist when it comes to race preparation. We’ve got a great relationship together and he really knows how to get my KTM 300 EXC working the best. The base setting we started out with in the beginning of the year hasn’t changed. There’s a few little extra things we do that are specific to Erzberg but other than that it’s nothing too drastic.”
Finally, what will it mean to win this race again and successfully defend your Erzberg crown?
JW: “Going to Erzberg with the #1 plate on my bike is a huge deal for me. It’s the biggest race in the world. There’s 1800 other riders there and I’m the guy that gets to start it with #1 on my bike. That’s a pretty cool feeling. But I have been in this position before and I didn’t end it with the same number – so I’m taking nothing for granted. This quarry demands a massive amount of respect and can turn on you in an instant – I’m all too aware of that. But I feel ready to give it my best shot and will settle for nothing less than a win.”