Manuel Lettenbichler has taken victory at round two of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, Red Bull Erzbergrodeo in Austria.
In what proved a thrilling race, the German made it two wins from two starts in this year’s championship chase. Pushing him hard all the way, Brit Billy Bolt took second, with Canadian Trystan Hart completing the podium.
With the Blakläder Iron Road Prologue put to bed, attention turned to Sunday’s feature race at the Red Bull Erzbergrodeo, round two of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship. Ahead of the 12.00 CET start, all 500 qualified riders took their position on the start line at the base of the Iron Giant quarry.
For 2023 no course walking was allowed, meaning competitors had little idea of what to expect from the 35-kilometre-long track. And with outside assistance forbidden, getting a clean start and being at the head of the field would prove crucial.
As the flag dropped, Hart grabbed the holeshot ahead of EnduroGP regular Andrea Verona and Manuel Lettenbichler, with Dominik Olszowy slotting into fourth.
Drama didn’t take long to kick in with Billy Bolt crashing on the very first climb. Remounting outside the top 30 put him immediately on the back foot. Upfront and the leading quartet of Hart, Lettenbichler, Olszowy, and Verona remained relatively unchanged as they cleared the first few early checkpoints. Bolt was on a mission though and after 20 minutes had joined Lettenbichler and Hart at the front as Olszowy and Verona dropped back.
Through the rocky Machine climb, Lettenbichler and Bolt were wheel to wheel and now pulling clear of Hart. With Olszowy fourth, there was a battle between Sherco’s Wade Young, Teodor Kabakchiev, and Jonny Walker forming for fifth.
At Udo’s Playground, checkpoint 17 of 27, Bolt overhauled Lettenbichler. Arriving at the notorious Carl’s Dinner boulder field, Billy pressed on and opened up over 100 metres of an advantage during the 35-minute section. However, a damaged exhaust would leave the Husqvarna rider limping through the following MOTOREX Highway climbs and Lettenbichler struck back with around 30 minutes of racing to go.
Passing Bolt, Lettenbichler put his head down and never looked back. Through George’s Avenue, Dynamite, and the final signature section of Lazy Noon, Manuel built up a 10 minute lead. With everything under control, he arrived at the winner’s enclosure as this year’s Red Bull Erzbergrodeo winner, making it two wins from two starts in this year’s FIM Hard Enduro World Championship.
Despite giving it everything he could, Bolt ultimately had no match Lettenbichler as the final kilometres unfolded. Soldiering his way home, Billy took a hard-fought runner-up result.
The battle for the final step of the podium began to heat up during the final signature sections. Hart had a virtual grasp on third but couldn’t shake off a determined Walker. With the Beta rider keeping the Canadian honest, Hart crossed the finish line just two minutes ahead of Walker for third.
For Walker, fourth was still a very satisfying result having climbed as high as third at checkpoint 18 before Hart pulled him back in at Carl’s Dinner. Putting in a solid performance throughout the race, Sherco Factory Racing’s Wade Young completed the top five.
“To get back-to-back wins at Red Bull Erzbergrodeo and also my second victory of the Hard Enduro season is amazing,” a delighted Lettenbichler said. “My start was fairly solid, and I got away with the top three straight away so I pushed hard. When Billy caught up, we rode together for a while and then he pulled away from me during Carl’s Dinner. But when I got past him again at MOTOREX Highway I put my head down and pushed on. It’s been an awesome day.”
Billy Bolt admitted he couldn’t keep with Lettenbichler but was happy with second. “I got a great jump off the start line but crashed on the first climb. It was probably the worst place to fall off. The next 10 minutes were a blur trying to pass so many people before we hit the first forestry section. I caught up to Mani and rode together. But I put a dent in my exhaust pipe and lost some power. In Carl’s Dinner I knew that was my best chance to try and pull a gap, so I pushed hard. But when I got to MOTOREX Highway I struggled on the climb and kinda hit the wall. Mani got passed me again and I couldn’t go with him. I wanted to win, and I gave it everything I had today!”
Trystan Hart was happy to be on the podium with third, “Finishing on the podium two years straight here is incredible. But if I’m honest I’m not super happy with my result, I did want a bit more. I led early on and was pushing hard. But I got a bit tight and then in the first hour, I made a mistake by taking the wrong line. Fixing that burned a few matches for me and my energy dropped. I didn’t have much left after Carl’s Dinner, so I kept it together to get home in third.” the Canadian said.
Round 3, the Red Bull Romaniacs, Romania will take place on July 25/26/27/28/29
Results: FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, Round 2
Red Bull Erzbergrodeo
1 Manuel Lettenbichler (KTM) 2:31:15
2 Billy Bolt (Husqvarna) 2:42:15
3 Trystan Hart (KTM) 2:57:09
4 Jonny Walker (Beta) 2:59:30
5 Wade Young (Sherco) 3:04:21
6 Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) 3:13:55
7 Michael Walkner (GASGAS) 3:22:18
8 Alfredo Gomez (Rieju) 3:24:30
9 Teodor Kabakchiev (KTM) 3:25:00
10 Cody Webb (Sherco) 3:29:09
11 Matthew Green (KTM) 3:31:45
12 Sonny Goggia (KTM) 3:49:21
13 Dominik Olszowy (GASGAS) 3:51:59
14 Jack Price (GASGAS) 3:52:08
15 Dan Peace (Sherco) 3:55:58
16 Mitch Brightmore (GASGAS) 3:58:39
17 Will Hoare (GASGAS) 3:59:13