Welcome to The Weekly Dirt, the place to go each Wednesday to catch up on the latest happenings in the realm of off-road motorcycling. I’ll be on the road every weekend bringing you the straight skinny from trenches with a tinge of Oklahoma twang – heavy on the racing and light on the fluff.
We’ll kick things off this week with news from overseas where Taddy Blazusiak won the second round of the FIM Indoor Enduro World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. Not really a big surprise since he’s been a dominating figure in extreme racing for a few years now. The really big news, however, is that David Knight finished second while riding a prototype 350 EXC-F (Euro version of the XC-F). Knighter rode the big 530 in World Enduro last year, en route to the E3 title, but KTM is making a big push to promote the 350 and who better than DK to get the job done. After the race, Knight noted that “it was clear [the 350] has great potential, even though I couldn’t get it to my liking.” By the way, Knight set the fastest time in qualifying before the race.Right now the little 350 seems to be struggling somewhat on the AMA Supercross circuit, racing against the bigger 450s, so it’ll be interesting to see how it performs in east coast off-road events like GNCC and National Enduro, which should the prefect fit for this bike. So far, KTM’s factory WORCS riders, Kurt Caselli and Mike Brown, have elected to ride the 450, however, the factory KTM “east” guys, Cory Buttrick, Charlie Mullins, and Kailub Russell, are slated to ride the 350 in GNCC and national enduro. On the other hand, Nate Kanney will be riding the 450 for a privateer team in GNCC competition and Russell Bobbitt will ride the 250 two-stroke in national enduros.
Interestingly enough, this week KTM announced it’s new generation of EXC bikes, including the 350 EXC-F Factory that Kighter rode in Barcelona this weekend. KTM’s selling point: “Due to its sophisticated design with an electronic fuel injection and state-of-the-art engine management, the 350 EXC-F Factory’s DOHC single has nearly the same output as a 450 cc power pack. At the same time though, it is as compact as a four stroke 250 and has the low weight and dynamic response of the smaller capacity.” The new bike will be ridden in World Enduro competition in the E2 class by 2009 World Champ Johnny Aubert.In related news, a little birdie told me that Knight will be riding this year’s Alligator Enduro and the Washington, Georgia GNCC, so it’ll be cool to see him racing on American soil again, and, for sure, we’ll check in with him at those races.Speaking of GNCC, the series schedule will be kicking off in a few weeks – March 7th for bikes, to be exact – and we spotted this cool bit of news from Appalachian Offroad MC, which is offering a limited edition 2011 350 SX-F, totally set up for GNCC competition. Among the aftermarket goodies included are a Clockwork Oversize EFI Clear Fuel Tank, 18″ Rear Wheel with Tubliss System Pre-Installed, Enduro Engineering Aluminum Skid Plate, 70 Degree Map Select Switch and “your choice of handguards (EE Evo, Pro Bend or CRM).” Also included are Trail Tech Hour Meters and a Batter Tender Quick-Release Terminal Harness as well as an orange ktm-parts.com Billet Brake Reservoir Cover. Might be the perfect answer for anyone not wanting to wait for one of the XC-F models.
While on the subject of 350s, Beta also just announced it’s latest off-roader (Today!), which just happens to be a 350: the 350RR. And, as with KTM, the goal was to “create a modern 350cc four-stroke engine which combines the qualities of a 250cc four-stroke with the reliability of a larger displacement motor.”According to American Beta, a limited number of the 2011 Beta 350 RR’s will be available on the U.S. market in April 2011 for an MSRP of $8499.00.
American Cody Webb has been in Italy, working with Beta on the new 350 and he’s shown promising results in the first two rounds of the Indoor Enduro World Championships. At the opener, Webb, who is also the reigning U.S. National Trials Champ, finished seventh in one of the finals, and in Spain he added an eighth. This weekend, Webb is riding Hell’s Gate, along with teammate Kyle Redmond, so we’ll check in on those two next week.Husqvarna will field an “east coast” team and a “west coast” team in 2011, with Ty Davis running the west troupe while Fred Andrews handles the east side of the country. In the west, Davis has Cory Graffunder, Jamie Lanza and Bobby Bonds running WORCS, D-37 and H&H, with Graffunder and Bonds on the 2011 TC499 and Lanza riding the TE310.In the east, Andrews is bringing in Finn Simo Kirssi to race the XC1 class on the TE310. Kirssi is an established competitor in the World Enduro series and he won the 2008 European Cross Country Championship while riding for BMW Motorrad. Simo also raced for Andrews back when he ran the Kawi team a few seasons ago. “He raced three or four races for us that year and he did quite well,” Andrews told me. “When he heard I was running the Husqvarna team this year, he called me and wanted to know if he could come race the big class for me. He’s already under contract with BMW/Husqvarna, so it was a great fit. He’s a really good rider and he’s excited to come to America and race.” FAR will also have Jason Thomas and Morgan Moss riding the XC2 class in GNCC competition. According to Andrews, the team will also race a few other high profile races, such as AMA National Enduro. “Wherever we think we can get some good expose, we’ll go race,” added Andrews.
Word from the Am Pro Yamaha (Randy Hawkins) camp is that Paul Whibley has been racing and riding all winter in New Zealand (although it’s summer down there) and is looking forward to the start of the GNCC series. Whibs finished off the 2010 season with a pair of wins and is looking to get a fast start to the 2011 season. Whibley’s teammate, Thad DuVall has been spending his time at Hawkin’s place in North Carolina, working on his conditioning and his enduro technique – Thad will also race the national enduro series in 2011. DuVall finished a surprising third in his first ever try at a national enduro at the Rekluse/AMA National Enduro series finale in Indiana last season, which prompted Hawkins to sign him up for the entire series in 2011.
The Supercross series makes its first eastern trip of the year, setting up shop in Houston’s Reliant Stadium this coming Saturday. James Stewart is definitely on a roll, and another win this weekend could help him stamp his name on the series. As expected, Chad Reed is gathering speed as he gets his new Honda’s sorted out. Team TwoTwo Motorsports came into the season with very little racing knowledge of the bike and has had to pretty much “learn” everything on the go. This will be an important race for Ryan Villopoto, who appeared to have momentum early on, but hasn’t been able to keep pace with Bubba at the last two rounds. Should be an interesting race.That’s it for this time; catch ya’ll next week.