Mike Lafftery is going for his record-breaking ninth AMA Enduro title this year. Things started out very well for him, a racer better known for getting slower starts in championship points races. But between the third and fourth races this year, while holding the points lead, he crashed and injured his foot, and had to sit out the recent Lone Star Enduro in Texas.Mike talked to Dirt Rider about the details of his crash and injury, the steps he’s taking toward recovery, his plans to return, and how this affects his title hunt.DR: Can you give us the details about your crash?ML: We got some stuff that I wanted to test and I just went out by myself to try a couple of things. We’d had a ton of rain here and it was slippery and I got sideways coming around a little bit of mudhole. Just after this mudhole there were two trees, one of the left and then one staggered to the right. I glanced off the one on the left and then it pinballed me into the one on the right. I missed it with my handlebars but I slammed into it with my foot. The impact of the bike smashed the front of my foot in between it and the tree. I knew as soon as it happened that something was broken. Until I got to the hospital I didn’t realize how bad it was. I had like ten or eleven breaks.DR: So you rode yourself bike back to your place?ML: Yeah, I was probably three or four miles from home. I didn’t have my cell phone, I wasn’t going to be gone long, I just wanted to try a few things. I’ve done it a million times where I’ve had my cell phone, I just didn’t even think to take it with me. I knew I wouldn’t be but a couple of hours. It was just one of those things. I got myself up, got up to a road and cruised myself back. I was in denial. I was still in shock telling myself, “It’s not bad, it’s not bad, it’s not broken…” Once I tried taking the boot off I realized it was. Then once we got to the hospital the doc said he’d never seen a foot that looked that mangled with that many breaks.DR: What did it look like?ML: It took a hard right, buddy! I thought my ankle was dislocated. I was riding down the road, I was holding my knee up against the tank, and I looked down at my foot and the foot was facing off to the right. It wasn’t my ankle it was my toes that were making it do that. Everything was broken across the big toe, second, third were all broken and the fourth and fifth ones were dislocated and shoved off to the side. It was pretty mangled and pretty painful. Then once the doc took a bunch of x-rays and checked it all out he said hopefully we can make this happen and it won’t be more than one surgery, but he wasn’t guaranteeing it. I got out of surgery three hours later, and he came right to me with x-rays from before and after and everything looked good. He said I shouldn’t need to have any more surgeries if I keep it immobilized and keep the cast on it for two weeks. Then we’ll see how it feels, put an air cast on it from there and start doing some rehab and see where we stand. It’s on a day by day basis to see where things are going to head. These first two weeks will be pretty crucial keeping the thing up and letting the pins do their job. Right now I’ve got pins in three toes from the very top going all the way down, all the way through every joint, from the top of my toe down close to the ankle. The big toe, I broke that in four places, so there’s two pins sticking out of that holding that together. These are all external – they’re all sticking out of the skin.DR: What were you testing?ML: We’ve been having a little bit of an issue with my brakes heating up. We got some new stuff, a new master cylinder, and I knew I was going to race probably that weekend so I actually took a few brake pads with me that I wanted to break in, ’cause if I just throw them right in without actually scuffing them in they’ll actually heat up a bit quicker. So I was just scuffing up a few brake pads and seeing if I could tell a difference performance-wise with the test models.DR: Did the brake change have anything to do with the crash?ML: No, I wasn’t even up to speed, it was more just the place being really slippery. It had rained the day before and it was a little more slippery than normal. It was a piece of trail that I haven’t ridden hardly at all. Probably the second time I’ve ever been on it. It’s one of those things, just a freak deal.DR: Do you think you’re going to be able to get back on a bike in time for the next round?ML: That’s my plan. It’s a nine week break in the Enduro series, so it’s going to be really, really close as far as the round in Michigan in the middle of June. That’s gonna be one I may just tough out and try to get something out of it, get a decent placing. Then we’ve got another month until the one in the middle of July in Pennsylvania. So with the way things have been going, the way Russ (Russell Bobbitt) finished in Texas on Sunday (Bobbitt finished third), it’s just… with four rounds in you can never be too sure how things are going to end up. Anything can happen. I’m going to do everything I can to make that round in Michigan.DR: What were you doing last weekend during that enduro?ML: Pulling my hair out. Actually there was a local race here in New Jersey that my family, my brother raced. Me and a buddy went up there and chased around. My mechanic Evan rode. I really needed to keep busy. I was getting updates from Melissa, my old mechanic’s wife, she was there, she was giving me updates of every section, how people were doing, then she gave me the final results at the end of the day.DR: Can you give us an idea how tough that was to lose the points lead when you’re not on a motorcycle?ML: It’s frustrating as heck. I wasn’t that bad on Sunday. It was harder at the beginning of the week when I first got hurt, when I knew that I would miss Texas. It was harder the Friday that I did it, then the Saturday, the Sunday, that weekend when I was in the hospital. It was extremely difficult then because of the doubt of knowing when I was going to be back. That weekend (of the Texas race), I wouldn’t say it didn’t bother me, but it didn’t bother me that much. I was counting what place Russ would get and how many points he’d be ahead. I don’t know, I wasn’t that bad on Sunday. I kept myself occupied, and I’d seen the doc that Thursday, he was telling me this (June return) was definitely possible, where before he was telling me I might need two surgeries and he wouldn’t put a time frame on it. I kept telling myself I’m only going to miss one race, it’s not that bad. It could definitely be worse.DR: Do you get to drop a round in AMA Enduro competition?ML: No, they count ‘em all.DR: You want to tell us about fighting back from a mid-season injury?ML: Before the second round in Georgia this year I was feeling really strong, riding really well, and I crashed practicing on Wednesday before the race. I broke some bones in my hand and I finished that race in pain, struggled through it, and got third there. Then I didn’t ride the Alligator (not an AMA Enduro points event), took off two or three weeks, got myself together, and then won Louisiana. So I was thinking I was coming back pretty strong from that, and then boom, this happens. So I just recently came back from my hand. And then with my knees in ’04 I came back. I broke my knee early, then came back half way through and won three or four races, then at the end of that year I fell at the very last enduro and broke my humerus bone in eight pieces. I had to wait all winter to deal with that and then won the championship in ’05. Then in ’06 I blew my knee out half way through the year on that one, then came back and won in ’07. So I know the deal with coming back. It’s definitely something I’ve done before. I’ve dealt with it, I’ve done it, and I know what do to as soon as it happens, where to put my head… the first couple days are always hard. Just the doubt of knowing when you’ll be back, so I just took a couple days off to get my mind situated on what I wanted to do and now it’s down to work. It’s every day, everything I eat and do. I still train and work on things.DR: Will you be using any unique forms of rehabilitation?ML: I’ve got a great place, it’s called Nova Care Rehabilitation Center that I’ve always gone to with my knees. They don’t have anything trick, but it’s just every day they have something. They’re a firm believer that every time I get hurt, as soon as I can start exercising and pumping blood anywhere, whether I’m doing it upper body or wherever, that pumping blood helps heal bones. I was working out four days after I did it – what I could with a cast on my leg. They have a couple bone stimulator machines that I get on for a half hour or forty five minutes a day that helps pump blood also to the area where the broken bones are.DR: If you aren’t recovered in time how does this affect your plans for next year?ML: Regardless of what happens, win or lose, this is the end of a three year deal (with KTM), so I’m planning on signing up for another two, at least, if not three, and for that I’m not going to sign up for the national enduros just to ride them. I think I can still win them for the next few years. Regardless, win or lose, I’m racing for sure next year. It’ll be two years at least, maybe three, with an option to get out whenever I want.DR: Since this injury have you spoken with Dick Burelson (tied with Lafferty with 8 National Enduro titles, now retired)?ML: Actually Sunday at the race I talked to him on the phone a little bit.DR: Was it smack talk? Can you give us an idea what you talked about?ML: He’s extremely cool with me and I with him. I look up to that guy big time and he’s said it plain and simple, I’ve said it myself – you deal with it. It happened, there’s no sense in dwelling on it, it is what it is and you make the best of it. We both know the situation. He’s been in it and I’ve been in it. When I broke my hand in March he hooked me up with a doctor to go see, Dr. Augustine out of Florida. Dick knows what’s going on, he knows there’s a chance of me not being able to come back. He more looks out for me being healthy and being okay more than coming back and winning. I’m sure he’s bummed for me, he wants me to do well. We’re still friends besides championships and wins. We were before and we will be after.DR: Got any messages you want to give to your fans?ML: I have gotten a lot of calls and a lot of e-mails. That first week I was shying off a little because I wanted to really concentrate on getting myself in the right frame of mind. I appreciate everyone, they’re paying attention and that really has made me realize how many people are out there rooting for me and I do appreciate all that. Now it’s time for me to start getting back, getting in contact with people, but also keep working on getting myself better.DR: Do you have any message for your competition?ML: It’s not that I’m sending out a message, everyone knows that I’m trying to come back stronger and better and I want to come back where I left off. They all know that and I look forward to racing. Not only to winning but for the competition aspect of it. Whoever it is, the new guys, I’m pumped that Cole (Kirkpatrick) stepped up and won and I think he’s gonna be someone in the future that’s able to win races so as far as me coming back, everyone knows I’ve always been in the sport for the competition so hopefully I can just get back and still be in contention with everybody.