Here´s what it takes to stage one of the world´s toughest and most prestigious Extreme Enduro events: an opening prologue held downtown, four days of racing through the forests of Transylvania, gnarly up- and gruesome downhills, fast rally-type sections and a wild climb up a five-floor inner city building. In brief, these are the ingredients of the Red Bull Romaniacs.
The 2009 edition of the renowned race ended yesterday evening at Sibiu. The victory went to BMW factory rider Andreas Lettenbichler, who prevailed aboard his BMW 450 X. “Letti” entered the event together with his teammate Gerhard Forster, a two-time runner-up of this unique happening deep down in the backyard of Lord Dracula. Romaniacs-newbie Lettenbichler found the features of the 800-kilometer torture to his liking. The friendly Bavarian left the competition scratching their heads – among them some of the best riders in the world.
“I´ve never raced such a rally before, knew little about navigation and had to find my feet at first. But I soon established a rhythm and got on the gas. To be able to run with Cyril Despres, most notably a two-time Dakar winner, is more than I expected to achieve. This win means a lot to me. My bike worked perfectly the whole time, in the fast sections as well as through the tricky stuff. I am over the moon,” a beaming Lettenbichler said after the chequered flag had fallen.
The German started the fourth and final race day just 14 seconds behind Despres. All was set for a showdown between these two riders. Despres was leading the way in the beginning, but an almost insurmountable climb to the top of a hill changed the order. While Lettenbichler used all his skills acquired in a previous career as a Trial athlete, his rival didn´t even attempt to conquer the obstacle. Despres received a hefty time penalty, Lettenbichler brought home the win. He eventually crossed the finish line almost one hour before New Zealand´s Chris Birch.
Gerhard Forster rode a consistent race after having finished the prologue in third place. Unfortunately he overlooked a bump on the final day, crashed and injured his shoulder. “I was happy with third and looked forward to the opening stage. I managed to improve with each day and was going strong until the crash. Now I´m heading back to Germany to get the injury examined.”
Lettenbichlers victory acknowledges the work of BMW Motorrad Motorsport. The team is already looking towards the legendary Roof of Africa – to be held at the end of November in Lesotho (South Africa). The Romaniacs winner and his by then hopefully healed up team mate will be eager to record BMW´s next win at an Extreme Enduro.
Results overall Red Bull Romaniacs 2009
1. Andreas Lettenbichler (GER) BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 20:29:11 hrs
2. Chris Birch (NZL) KTM, 21:21:01
3. Cyril Despres (AND) KTM, 22:11:25
4. Lionel Seydoux (CH) KTM, 22:55:18
5. Paul Bolton (GBR) KTM, 23:38:05
6. Darryl Curtis (RSA) KTM, 23:41:36
7. Melcior Faja Beltran (ESP) GasGas, 23:55:51
8. Erich Brandauer (AUT), 25:04:24
9. Shane Cuthbertson (CAN) Husaberg, 25:20:55
10. Dieter Happ (AUT) Husaberg, 25:42:55