Tough is a word associated with Jonny Walker. A hard enduro expert coming back from a challenging time with his racing, his incredible wizard-like ability on a bike comprised with the will to win has transformed the Cumbrian rider into one of the world’s best extreme enduro-aces. Sixth at his HydroGarden Weston Beach Race debut last year, Walker is better prepared this time round and ready to mix it up at the front!
“I’m really looking forward to it (the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race), it was my favourite race last year. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, but we learnt a lot as a team and what we need to do for this year to be able to fight for the podium. Last year I had a nightmare on the first few laps – I think I was just a bit too excited, but the weekend is amazing, there’s so many bike fans. It’s cool for me because I can come from enduro and I don’t have any pressure to go there, just on myself to do good. With all of the people there, and to have my girlfriend and friends there is also cool. I don’t get to go back to the UK much, so it’s just a great atmosphere for me, and then after I go back to enduro training, which is what I do,” said Walker.
Talking about his season so far Walker says it’s been a difficult one, as he’s had multiple injuries yet he’s been grinding the workout week in, week out with the goal of getting back to his 2015 success, where he nearly won every race he entered. He’s more settled now at his base in Andorra, utilises former competitor Taddy Blazusiak as a training pal, and something must be working as he recently won the Red Bull 111 Megawatt event in Poland.
“It’s been tough, I’ve had some issues and some things haven’t gone to plan. I’ve been riding good, and training hard, but I’ve been hard on myself when I’ve not got the results. Obviously I want to win, I’m not going to the races to come second or third or not even get on the podium, which has happened a few times. It’s good to be back – I won the Red Bull 111 Megawatt event, which is a bit of a confidence boost, but it wasn’t without problems. Not everything went smoothly, it was hard work, but hopefully we can solve these issues before the Red Bull Sea To Sky race (at the end of September),” said Walker.
Following on from his debut last year it’s clear that the KTM-ace is looking forward to the buzz of racing at the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race. With around 70,000 spectators annually, it’s a fun festival weekend of great racing. Walker has some plans for this year having learnt from his inaugural attempt at the event in 2016.
It’s a special opportunity for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing star to compete in front of a British crowd. The 26-year-old doesn’t reside in the UK, or compete here with his focus fully on the hard enduro scene. He’s more used to riding over huge rocks in gnarly sections like that of Karl’s Dinner at Erzberg, the horrendous climbs of Hell’s Gate, and that hideous downhill section he broke his hand on at this year’s Red Bull Romaniacs – most people could not walk across the terrain he competes on, let alone ride it. While he’s not classed as a ‘beach racer’ he’s looking forward to a pressure-free weekend in the sand where he is looking to gain a good result.
“Last year I didn’t really know what to expect. I was up there on the first lap, but went into the second lap too fast. Instead of learning the track I just went in all out and ended up crashing, lost loads of time and we ended up having six pit stops, so we learnt a lot. I’m really looking forward to taking the experience from last year into this race, and I know I can do good as I have a lot of endurance and I love riding in the sand. I want to get on the podium and compete for the win,” continued Walker.
It’s true that there’s a lot of great riders at this year’s HydroGarden Weston Beach Race and Walker isn’t sure who he’ll be battling with. The KTM-ace says he’s been watching last year’s winner, Todd Kellett, and knows that there’s a great many guys that could be up there. Jonny has pointed out that it’s not just the motocross guys to look out for, as David Knight did beat 10-time world champion and sand expert Stefan Everts at the event some years ago.
Walker hopes he’ll be battling Knighter, and with Graeme Irwin also stating it would be cool for the duo to be pushing the former multi-time World Champion – we really could have an awesome race on our hands. But it’s tough out there, and luck plays its part.
“I like racing Knighter, he’s a legend. I know he’s fast in the sand and he’s really experienced, but yea he’s getting on a bit now, so hopefully I can beat him! (laughs). But I’m not just going there to beat him, I’m going there to try and win. I’d love to say I’ve won the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race,” explains Walker.
“I’m not going to get to test as much as I want to. I ride a KTM 300 EXC two-stroke all year, and when I go there I’ll ride a 350 EXC-F four-stroke. I’ve got another race in Turkey before Weston, and the hard enduros are where my focus is. For me to do Weston it’s hard to go testing as it’s totally different from my normal riding and there’s so little time. I’m going to Belgium after the Red Bull Sea-to-Sky to ride the bike in the sand for five days and hopefully that will be enough. I’m really looking forward to it.”
To see Jonny in action head down to the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race in Weston-Super-Mare on October 13-15. More information, entries and tickets can be found at www.westonbeachrace.com