When Jonny Walker found himself without a ride for 2021, he saw a real opportunity. In his own words, it was either “do my own thing or quit. And I wasn't going to quit”.
Anyone who’s ever seen Jonny ride, or even speak for that matter, knows that he’s up for any challenge, and putting together his own team for this year’s newly named FIM Hard Enduro World Championship is one challenge he’s not just embraced, but relished.
The starting point? A bike, of course.
Beta days ahead: Jonny Walker shows off his new bike for the 2021 season
Jonny Walker’s Beta RR 300 Enduro: the stats
- Engine: Single cylinder, 2-stroke, liquid-cooled Beta RR 300 Enduro
- Frame: Molybdenum steel with double cradle split over exhaust port
- Wheels: SM Pro Platinum
- Sprockets: ZF steel (50 rear, 12 front)
- Tyres: Michelin Enduro 90-100 (with standard moose)
- Front suspension: KYB Factory spring forks
- Rear suspension: ZF shock
- Exhaust: FMF (full factory system - pipe and silencer)
- Brakes: Nissin caliper
- Brake discs and pads: Galfer full rotor
- Handlebar: Renthal 821 Fatbar (with Renthal grips)
- Protective covers: AS3 Performance Factory Series (clutch, water pump, mast cylinder covers)
- Plastics: Polisport custom kit
- Graphics: Amped
“I knew if I got a good bike – one that I really wanted to ride – then from there I would build everything around that,” explains Jonny. “I got in touch with Beta, went to test the bike and really liked it immediately. The factory has been super proactive since we started working together, doing everything we wanted.”
A collaborative creation
Working closely with Beta Racing team manager Fabrizio Dini and his crew, Jonny and the Italian marque set out to establish an extreme enduro set-up on a standard Beta RR 300 two-stroke.
The progress has been rapid and impressive in such a short timeframe.
“When I got there, they had a few bikes for me to test on, everything was pretty much standard, but as soon as I tested the bike I felt more comfortable than I had done in the last few years,” says Jonny. “That was a big bonus from the very start. We just went from there, changing little things to suit what I needed.
Why Beta made the cut
It’s clear from talking to Jonny that he’s thoroughly enjoying riding the Beta, but what makes it stand out?
“There are a few things. The geometry of the frame and the way it handles is really nice, the suspension is great and that's key, but the engine is probably the biggest thing. It's so strong.
I'm excited to get to the races and show everyone what we've got, and what we've achieved over the last few months
“It's got a carburettor, which is different to the top brands in the sport, as they're all fuel injection, so it’s kind of old school, but I believe it's better in a way. The way the engine works, it feels stronger off the bottom and I think it's just going to be a better all-round bike when I get to the races. We’ve got a great base heading into the start of the season.”
Being so involved in the development of the bike and having control over its design (the perks of being the boss of your own team) have also helped Jonny rediscover the enjoyment of riding.
“I'm not going to say I fell out of love with the sport, but by building my own team I can use all the brands I want, have helped design the graphics I wanted, all that kind of stuff.
“I picked the wheels I wanted, black with red hubs. It was cool being able to design the bike with the colour scheme I chose. It's close to the Beta design graphics, but I get to choose where to put the logos and make the bike look how I want. I'm excited to get to the races and show everyone what we've got, and what we've achieved over the last few months.”
The challenge ahead
The season starts this weekend in Lagares, Portugal, and while there’s an element of the unknown for Jonny as he races the Beta for the first time, he’s clearly taking huge confidence from everything that’s been achieved to get this far already.
I feel like I've got a bit of got a chip on my shoulder and a point to prove this year. I want to beat everyone, to put Beta on the top step
”I've been thinking about this in the last few days,” he says of the impending 'baptism' of his new-look bike and team. “I'm so proud of where I've got all the things that we've had to get together. It'll be a huge learning curve, but I'm more motivated than I've ever been.
“I feel like I've got a bit of got a chip on my shoulder and a point to prove this year. I want to beat everyone, to put Beta on the top step.”
The calendar features some of the most iconic hard enduro events such as Erzbergrodeo and Red Bull Romaniacs, both races Jonny has won multiple times, and it’s Romaniacs that Walker’s pin-pointed as a real milestone.
“Romaniacs is middle of the season and that's one of my favourite races. I've won it before, and I think the bike can be really good at that race. That's probably the one I'm most looking forward to.”
And the overall target for 2021? What other answer could you possibly expect from someone as determined as Jonny…
“Winning the championship. I obviously want to win races, but realistically, I do want to win the championship this year. I feel like I can.
“It's going to be difficult, but I am pretty sure even if you go to the first round and just get a top six – really I want to be on the podium – but I'd be happy with a top six as a good base to work from.”