CAPTION: Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke, the MNZ Hall of Famer, former ISDE medallist, New Zealand event organiser and Romaniacs “legend” who finished high among the Silver Class competitors at this year’s Red Bull Romaniacs Hard Enduro event. Photo by Andy McGechan,

AUGUST 6, 2023: Germany’s Manuel Lettenbichler may have hogged the spotlight in winning round three of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championships overall, but a strong Kiwi contingent fired up at the event too.

The event doubled as the 2023 edition of the Red Bull Romaniacs, this massive week-long test of man and machine in Romania also considered a hugely-popular stand-alone international event in its own right.

And it was as a stand-alone event that a large contingent of more than 30 New Zealand riders, along with family and supporters, treated it, competing just below the Gold Class level that full-time professional factory-employed racer Lettenbichler dominated.

The Kiwi riders entered themselves among the Silver, Bronze and Iron categories and produced some creditable results over the five days, which began with an arena-style prologue in the Romanian city of Sibiu, followed by four days of “off-road” competition, the various trails sending riders up and down scarily-steep rock faces in the nearby mountains or weaving through dark and deep tree-root infested forests.

Outstanding among the Kiwis was Auckland rider Ryan Hayward, outright winner of his final build-up event in New Zealand in June, round one of the Forestland Cross-country Series near Tokoroa.

Hayward finished sixth overall in the Silver Class at this year’s Romaniacs event, while, also riding in the same class, Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke (a Motorcycling New Zealand Hall of Famer) managed 50th overall, Aucklander Bryce Williams finished 61st, Te Awamutu’s Kevin Archer finished 81st, Levin’s Malcolm Macrae finished 88th, Dannevirke’s Campbell Easton finished 97th and Whakatane’s Hayden Power placed 104th overall out of the nearly 170 riders entered in this class.

Kiwis who shone out in the 297-rider Bronze Class were Harrison McClintock (who finished fifth); Ethan Jameson (10th); Norman Thomas (34th); Spence McClintock (45th); Gerald Holden (46th); Warwick Batley (55th); Tim Lapwood (56th); Mark DeLautour (59th); Wayne Finlayson (61st); Glen Magson (64th); Aston Whyte (68th); Mark Newton (86th); Duncan McLaren (195th); Tony Walsh (198th); Matt Thorburn (199th); Nigel Reid (236th); Lachlan Niederer (258th); Mark Whyte (259th) and Phil Skinner (264th).

Other New Zealand riders who competed with distinction, all finishing inside the top half of the 155-rider Iron Class, were Stewart Cundy (18th); Bevan Holmes (53rd); Jamie Coad (55th) and Deane Manley (75th).

Sibiu is a city in Transylvania, in central Romania. It’s known for Germanic architecture in its old town, the legacy of 12th-century Saxon settlers. Around the city are the remains of medieval walls and towers, including the 13th-century Council Tower, so the intrepid Kiwi travellers no doubt had plenty of memorable sight-seeing to conduct too.

It has been an annual pilgrimage for some of the New Zealand riders and, in addition to racing with the Silver Grade, South Waikato man Clarke was classified as a “legend”.

‘Romaniacs Legends’ are amateur competitors in the Silver, Bronze or Iron race classes who have competed in a minimum of five Red Bull Romaniacs events.

“The final hill climb area this year was just psycho,” said Clarke.

“I couldn’t get up one of the banks and spent about half an hour with about 10 other riders trying to get up and wrecked my bike in the process.

“Day one was going really good until the final Silver Class uphill after it had rained. I reckon I wasted about an hour and a quarter when my spark plug fouled, and my battery went flat. The thunderstorms on day one were the worst I have ever seen

“On day two I couldn’t get up the first real big hill at the 19-kilometre mark. I made my way around the side. losing about half an hour.

“Day three went better, but Bryce (Williams) and I rode together for most of the day and had to help each other several times. It was nearly impossible to do on your own and, to be honest, I don’t know if I would have got to the end without his help.

“Day four was just survival for me and I couldn’t have ridden any slower and, when I did, I just fell over.

“The traction this year was just unbelievable. A couple of times I stalled on an uphill and it just flipped over backwards. I won’t be doing Silver Class again that is for sure. I maybe will do the Bronze Class next year so I can at least race it.

“I shouldn’t complain. It wasn’t called ‘The Impossible’ for nothing. It has been 20 years since the first Red Bull Romaniacs and that’s nine times now for me.

“Why do I keep doing it? It’s not just the race, it’s the country, the scenery, the people and just a great place to go. A big thanks goes to my biggest sponsor, my wife Adele, for helping with everything.”

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,