Story by Shan Moore and Kris Keefer
Photos by Shan Moore and Jeff Kardas
Charlie Mullins took a big win in the first muddy race of the year at the Cajun Classic Enduro in Forest Hill, Louisiana. This makes win number three for the FMF/KTM rider in this year’s Rekluse AMA National Enduro Series and it was a dominating one, as he swept all six tests and beat runner-up Russell Bobbitt by two-and-a-half minutes. The win was perhaps some measure of redemption for Mullins, after he finished 11th at the previous round in Texas thanks to a blown motor he suffered at the end of one of the tests.
“I’m pretty pumped that I won all six tests, that’s a big accomplishment for me,” said Mullins. “I’m pretty bummed about Texas so I’m happy to get some good points today. Now we just need to keep the momentum going.”
Thunderstorms the week before and on the night before the race left the area saturated and the trails were wet and slippery by the time the first riders hit the course. And in some cases, the course only got worse, as water puddles turned into deep, muddy ruts.
“Luckily I didn’t get stuck anywhere,” added Mullins. “I was able to keep it on two wheels all day and not have any problems.”
After four rounds, Mullins holds an 11-point lead in the 2013 points race, despite his 11th place finish in Texas.
Russell Bobbitt rode one of his best races of the year, but still came up short in his quest for the victory. Bobbitt has slowly been melding with his factory Husaberg and now seems to be in total sync with the bike. However, the Georgia rider is looking for just one more thing: His first win of the year!
“We’ve got the bike working really good now, and I just went out and rode a consistent race today,” said Bobbitt. “Going into the last test I was like two minutes down from Charlie and about a minute ahead of Fahringer, so I was kind of in no man’s land. I still charged hard when I could, but just came up kinda short. Second is good, but we just gotta keep pushin’ to get a win.”
Bobbitt was second fastest in four of the six tests, and was just five seconds off of Mullins in the fourth test. However, test three seemed to be his undoing.
“The second test was really fun, it was awesome. It was this burned-up forest that was all sand; it was almost like a Six Days test, it was really fun,” said Bobbitt. “I didn’t like the third test, however. It was hard-packed with mud on top, so it was super slick, and I kind of struggled in that one.”
Nick Fahringer continues to be among the more consistent of the top riders, and claimed his third podium of the season and second consecutive at the Cajun. The Radiant AirGroup Racing Husaberg rider turned the third fastest time in the final three tests of the day, which solidified his third place status.
“I was not feeling fast or comfortable today, but I still would up with third,” said Fahringer. “My bike setup has been improving all season, but I’m still waiting to match my best finish of the year, which was a second at the first round in Georgia. From section three on it was a lot of sloppy mud, with some good traction here and there. It was an interesting race, and I was able to call on my Ohio mud-riding skills to get me through.”
Mike Lafferty had what he considered an off-day, however, the eight-time national champ still walked away with fourth overall, mainly on the strength of his time in the third test, which was second fastest of the day in that section. At the end of the day, the factory Husaberg rider was about a minute behind Fahringer and about a half-a-minute ahead of fifth place finisher Jesse Groemm.
“It wasn’t the greatest,” said Lafferty. “We started off decent, and I didn’t have any problems or crashes. I just kept trying to plug on through, but just didn’t seem to be up to par with these guys. I just did my best to climb up the results. I was sixth after the first test and I just kept truckin’ and climbed up to fourth. I was close to Nick for a while, but then I lost a bit on him in the final two tests.”
New Jersey rider Jesse Groemm claimed his best finish of the year with a fifth. The AM Pro Yamaha rider was sitting in third overall after two tests, but he tangled with a slower rider in the third tests, and he explained that after that it was all down hill.
“I was riding good in the beginning, but I just put it on the ground too many times later in the race,” said Groemm. “I felt at home in the first two tests, they were nice and sandy, which is like where I ride at home. But the third and fourth tests get real slippery and slimy and I think I was lighting up the rear wheel and just getting a lot of wheel spin.”
Grant Baylor chose to run a trials tire in the first two tests, and finished 11th and eighth, respectively. However, he jumped up to third-fastest and second-fastest in tests three and four when he went back to a conventional knobby. Despite the slow start, the KTM rider from South Carolina finished sixth overall.
Texas winner Andrew DeLong struggled with the conditions and ended up seventh on the day. The FAR Husqvarna rider also said he wasn’t comfortable starting from the first Pro row, which is where he started the Louisiana race since he won the previous round in Texas.
“Things started off pretty good, but then I had problems staying up in the third test, which was a little slicker than I thought it would be,” said DeLong. “I also struggled in the last test; I thought I was going good, but then Bobbitt passed me, so I’m not very happy with how I rode. I guess I need to go back to the drawing board.”
1. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
2. Russell Bobbitt (Hsb)
3. Nick Fahringer (Hsb)
4. Mike Lafferty (Hsb)
5. Jesse Groemm (Yam)
6. Grant Baylor (KTM)
7. Josh Weisenfels (Yam)
8. Andrew DeLong (Hsq)
9. Ian Blythe (KTM)
10. Brad Bakken (Yam)
Since Charlie Mullins finished 11th at the last race he started the Cajun race from row 31 instead of from 21 that he’s been on all year. When asked if he thought it helped him to start behind his competition, Mullins said he thought it was a 50/50 proposition. “For a few of the tests the early rows were better and a few of them the later rows had the advantage so I don’t think it was a benefit to start from there,” Mullins explained. “There were a few tests where I had to deal with really deep mud and luckily I didn’t get stuck.”
After the race, third-place finisher Nick Fahringer weighed in on the sections. “The first two sections were awesome, the race didn’t seem to affect them,” said Fahringer. “They were really nice, loamy, loose sandy soil that bermed up and rutted really good. It was awesome and I was having fun in those. However, the third test was sloppy and nasty and I didn’t have a lot of fun there, so I switched up my tire combo after that and had a strong time in the fourth test, which I think saved my day.”
Russell Bobbitt also gave his account of the course. “The track was definitely muddy in sections and very slick to ride, but overall I felt pretty good today,” said Bobbitt. “I had a lot of fun in the second test section. It was really sandy which made it a blast to ride. The third section was pretty hard-packed and slick and I didn’t enjoy that one as much. The fifth and sixth tests were pretty fast paced and I was able to ride pretty strong in those tests. I am happy with a podium result today but definitely looking to get up to the top step of the podium.”
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis…
Rolling into round 14 of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship in Minneapolis, Minnesota, defending champion Ryan Villopoto has been on a streak, winning five straight races and looking stronger than ever. He came into the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (the house that Adrian Peterson built) to further cement his stranglehold on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship.
Amazingly, Motoconcepts’ Mike Alessi grabbed the holeshot in the main event just ahead of Villopoto, but his lead didn’t last long as RV2 passed Alessi on the first lap. It looked to be another runaway performance from the defending champion but Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey would match the high intensity of Villopoto on the night and slowly started to chip away at his lead. On lap 14 Dungey got behind Villopoto and showed him a wheel. It was obvious that Dungey could carve the inside lines better through the corners aboard his KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition and would and inch up alongside the Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F-mounted Villopoto. With three laps to go Dungey finally made the pass on a split lane section of the track, but Villopoto immediately made a counter move and passed him back. The Metrodome fans were on their feet as they saw their hometown boy Ryan Dungey pass Villopoto through the deep section of whoops and made it stick all the way to the checkers, earning his second win of the year in the process.
Villopoto would hang on for second and hold a 22-point margin over Dungey going into his hometown race next weekend in Seattle, Washington. Davi Millsaps had a great but lonely race finishing on the box in third with a lingering knee problem. Barcia was fourth, with Chad Reed two weeks out from knee surgery finished fifth. Andrew Short, Trey Canard, Josh Hill, Justin Brayton and hero privateer Weston Peick rounded out the top ten.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart had yet another crash in his Heat race, hitting a tough block and ejecting off of his ride. He had to come back to the LCQ (which he won) but the damage was apparently done; Stewart pulled off the track in the main event and called it a night. In a Yoshimura press release Stewart stated that he injured his wrist in the heat race and further aggravated it in the Main Event, and will be getting it checked out Monday morning.
KTM added to their magnificent night as Marvin Musquin took the win, leading all 15 laps and inching closer to Team Geico Hondas Wil Hahn going into the final round in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hahn had a brief block-pass battle with Rockstar Suzuki’s Blake Wharton in the opening laps but recovered and finished second. Rounding out the podium was Wharton. MotoConcepts had a career best fourth in the 250SX class with Gavin Faith just missing the podium, while Tyler Bowers, Lance Vincent, Vince Friese, AJ Catanzaro, Steven Clarke and Cole Thompson rounding out the top ten.