Welcome back Ben Townley, who just signed with Chad Reed’s TwoTwo Motorsports team to ride the 450 class in this summer’s AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Reed, who suffered season ending injuries a few weeks ago at the Dallas Supercross, said that he had previously been talking to Townley about returning to the United States, and possibly riding a Mitch Payton-built bike out of the TwoTwo Motorsports truck. However, after suffering his injury, Reed considered the idea of putting Townley on his personal bike. It appears he made that happen! Townley, who had planned on riding the Australian Motocross Nationals, which start in April, will begin testing soon with Reed’s team in preparation of the outdoor opener at Hangtown on May 19. That’s great news considering the depleted field we currently have in Supercross… the more warm bodies, the better!
I just returned from a three week trip to South Carolina, Florida and Georgia for the Daytona Supercross, a round of the AMA Rekluse National Enduro Series, and the opening two rounds of the GNCC series, and I have to say that off-road racing is alive and well in the southeast. There was a HUGE turnout for the enduro, and the GNCC rounds were good, as well, although their numbers were down slightly from last year. However, even with the loss of the Suzuki off-road program, there seemed to be plenty of OEM and aftermarket support in both series. Honda has upped the ante this year, with support of Thad DuVall and the Shenandoah Racing/Offroadchampions team, as well as the JT Bennett’s JG Offroad racing, which features Jimmy Jarrett and Nate Kanney on Hondas – which helps to fill the of the loss of Suzuki.
The GNCC series has become quite an international affair; with 2010 champ Josh Strang hailing from Australia, while the 2009 champ was New Zealander Paul Whibley. David Knight (Isle of Man), and Juha Salminen (Finland) have also won titles, as has Shane Watts (Australia). This year, Aussie off-roader Glenn Kearney, who was a mainstay with the series for the past several years, returned for the first two rounds to fill in for the injured Andrew DeLong on the FAR Husqvarna team. Meanwhile, multi-time Japanese Cross-country champ Takeshi Koikeda is riding the entire series on a privateer KTM. Koikeda speaks very little English, but gets along just fine in the pits with fans and the other riders. He finished a respectable eighth at River Ranch and 10th in Georgia.
It was cool seeing GNCC star Paul Whibley riding the Sandlapper National Enduro in South Carolina. Whibley admitted that we wasn’t too keen on riding the event, since it was a new format to him, but the Am Pro Yamaha rider did quite well until he fried a clutch on his YZ450F. In fact, he thought it was great practice for his sprint speed, which he claims is something he needed to work on anyway.
Another rider new to national enduro is Jason Thomas, who is contesting the entire series for FAR Husqvarna, in addition to his normal stint on the GNCC series. Thomas admitted that he was overwhelmed by the tightness of the trail at the opening round, but has since been practicing on the tight stuff and says he is really enjoying the series. His results have improved dramatically since the series opener and I think it will be just a matter of time before we see him on the podium.
Privateer KTM rider Steward Baylor (Fly/WP Suspension/RidePG) is on a roll in east coast off-road racing, and in a matter of a few weeks, leads both the National Enduro and XC2 GNCC points standings and has two national enduro wins to his credit, as well as a couple of XC2 race-wins as well. It’s also cool to see Stew careening off the trees in national enduro with his wide bars and sit-down style. Like I said, the boy is on it!Speaking of east coast races, the 11th Annual Perry Mountain 24-Hr Challenge will be held June 2nd & 3rd in Maplesville, Alabama. This 24-hour race is often referred to as the ultimate test of endurance, skill and strategy for both novice and expert riders. Teams, duos and single riders are invited to ride 10 miles of wood trails, fields, fire roads and creekbeds. For more information visit www.24hourchallenge.com or call 334.872.0619.-Shan MooreThat’s all for this week. Check back next week when we will have a full crew reporting.