By Shan Moore and Chris Denison
Photos by Shan Moore and Jeff Kardas
There was plenty of racing action to go around this past weekend, with the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series kicking off the second half of its schedule in St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome, where Ryan Villopoto grabbed his fourth win of the year. Meanwhile, just about 800 miles southeast, the second round of the Rekluse AMA National Enduro Series took place on the sandy and tight trails near Pelion, South Carolina, with Charlie Mullins coming away with another win.
South Carolina National Enduro Enduro
Charlie Mullins is two for two in national enduro competition this year after winning the Sandlapper Enduro in Pelion, South Carolina, this weekend, round two of the Rekluse AMA National Enduro Series.
Mullins pretty much dominated the competition, jumping out to the early lead on his FMF-backed KTM 350 XC-F and winning the first five tests of the six-test, 65-mile race. In the end, Mullins finished with a 50-second advantage over second place finisher Mike Lafferty.
“I started strong and other than going down twice in the last test everything went pretty good today,” said Mullins. “I wanted to win all six tests, but I’m happy with how things went and it’s a good start to the series. Hopefully I can carry this momentum into the next round in Texas.”
It’s obvious that Mullins came into the season prepared and with a plan. During the off-season, the North Carolina-based ride made the decision to switch to a 350F from the 450 he rode last year, and his latest win confirmed that is was a wise choice.
“I felt a lot more comfortable on the 350 today and I think it’s a good fit for the enduros,” added Mullins.
Known for switching things up on a regular basis, Mike Lafferty turned some heads when he showed up in South Carolina on Husaberg’s 350FE four-stroke, instead of the 250 two-stroke he’s been riding for over a year.
Lafferty rode the bike earlier in the year at a national hare scrambles and had a good showing on it, so after what he said was a disappointing performance at the series opener in Georgia, Lafferty decided to make the plunge. Like Mullins, it was a good choice for the eight-time champ and at the end of the day he came out on top of a four-way battle for the runners-up slot, beating out Thad DuVall by six seconds.
“I felt great and I’m definitely happy with my decision,” said Lafferty. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about the decision, but it all came together for me.”
It’s been a long time since a Honda saw the podium at a national enduro, however Thad DuVall put his CRF250R on the final step of the Sandlapper podium after turning in one of his best-ever performances in the series. DuVall split his time between a 450F and a 250 two-stroke over the course of last year’s schedule and, at least for the conditions the riders found at the Sandlapper (sandy whoops), he felt the CRF250R was the best.
“The 250F was the best choice for me today, and I ended up having a pretty good day, I think it was more of a four-stroke kind of track,” said DuVall. “I think I had two bad tests all day; I just couldn’t get going in the first test, and then the fourth was really, really tight, but I still made it into the top-five. But other than that, I was just a consistent top-three, top-four all day and that put me up there.”
Russell Bobbitt missed landing on the podium by just five seconds, losing that honor to DuVall. Having just signed with Husaberg for 2013, Bobbitt says he’s still trying to find a setting that he feels comfortable with.
“The bike is great; it’s just the little personal stuff. We still playing with a couple of settings, but we’ve pretty much found a setup that works pretty good overall,” said Bobbitt. “We’re still working on a few personal preference stuff, but overall the bike is good.”
Bobbitt was in the hunt for second, but a couple of crashes in the fifth test dropped him down the order. He tied with DuVall for the fastest time in the final test, but it was not enough to catch the Honda rider.
After finishing second at the series opener in Georgia, AirGroup Racing’s Nick Fahringer backed it up with a fifth in South Carolina. Riding the 250TE, “Ringer” was among the four riders battling for the runner-up position.
“I got off to a slow start today,” said Fahringer. “Right off the bat there was a really fast sandy section and I just wasn’t comfortable. Then the second test was really tight and choppy, and for being a strong tight rider, I still wasn’t comfortable. I adjusted my bars forward a bit and started to feel a little more comfortable. In the last test I was right there but I hit a stump at speed and scared myself. It just wasn’t my day; South Carolina has never been a good race for me. So to come away with a fifth and to come away healthy, I guess I have to be happy with that.”
• A couple of the Japanese brands are starting to make a dent in the stranglehold that the Euro marquees have held in national enduro competition over the years. Besides Thad DuVall’s Honda, Am Pro Yamaha’s Jesse Groemm has been a top-six performer on a YZ250, and Brad Bakken was been making noise, as well, on his Athena-kitted “290F” Am Pro-backed Yamaha.
• Gas Gas, Sherco, KTM, and Husaberg all offered free demo rides the day before the Sandlapper enduro. Riders could signed up to ride each of the bikes on a marked demo course to get to know and evaluate a few of the new bikes on the market today, helping them to make a better choice when buying a new bike.
• Fifteen-year-old Grant Baylor, younger brother of 2012 national enduro champ Stu Baylor, finished an impressive sixth at the Sandlapper with the backing of FLY/Rider PG, Genuine Dirt Racer Products and WP. This kid is a rising star, for sure.
• KENDA Tire Company, along with the NEPG, increased the pro rider purse by 25% for the 2013 AMA/Rekluse National Enduro Series. The new payout is: 1st $900, 2nd $500, 3rd $300, 4th $250, 5th $225, 6th $175, 7th $150, 8th $125.
1. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
2. Mike Lafferty (Hsb)
3. Thad DuVall (Hon)
4. Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
5. Nick Fahringer (Hsb)
6. Grant Baylor (KTM)
7. Andrew DeLong (Hsq)
8. Brad Bakken (Yam)
9. Kyle McDonal (Hsb)
10. Ian Blythe (KTM)
Ryan Villopoto Gets Big Win At St. Louis Supercross
Meanwhile, fans in the Midwest saw a great night of live race action inside of the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri, where Ryan Villopoto picked up his fourth win of the Monster Energy Supercross Championship. In the 250SX division, GEICO Honda rider Wil Hahn scored his second consecutive victory and came up with the championship points lead.
In contrast to many of the previous rounds of racing, the indoor St. Louis track once again featured some of the best dirt of the year. A mix of loam and sand, the course broke in nicely throughout the night, with multiple passing opportunities available and a safe (albeit tricky) dogleg first turn. The whoop section was one of the longest in recent memory, though the riders seemed to get through it fairly well throughout practice.
In 450 Heat #1, Ryan Villopoto came out swinging and led every lap, taking the win by over two seconds over Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia, who looked loose and smooth on the flowing track. Third place went to Toyota/ JGRMX/ Yamaha’s Justin Brayton, ahead of Andrew Short, Mike Alessi and Trey Canard. GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac had a tipover in the sand section and would finish outside of qualifying position in 12th, though a win in the LCQ would put him in the main event with ease. Early on in the day, Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart suffered from a small crash in practice, but regained his composure to qualify well in the night show with a win in the second 450SX heat race. Points leader Davi Millsaps came in second, with Ryan Dungey and Chad Reed in tow.
When the main event took off, over 60,000 fans watched Mike Alessi jump out to a signature holeshot, with Barcia in second (and almost going down in the process). Stewart maintained third out of the first corner and quickly moved into second place on the first lap before grabbing the lead, with Villopoto and Millsaps both working through the pack. But on lap three, Toyota/ JGRMX/ Yamaha’s Kyle Chisholm went down hard, resulting in the red flag being thrown, indicating a restart (Chisholm was subsequently carted off the track in the Asterisk medical team for what is rumored to be a leg injury). Before the restart could take place, Villopoto made a pass on Alessi under a yellow flag and was assessed a three-position penalty.
The single-file restart format saw all 19 racers (Chisholm excluded) lined up single file behind a set of tough-blocks, with the rules stating that racers cannot pace the rider in front of them until they are past the blocks. This format created an incredible intense lineup with Stewart, Barcia and Reed in the top three positions after the restart and Villopoto hot on their tracks, moving into third on lap five. The resulting train was a battle between Stewart, Barcia, Villopoto, Reed and Dungey, who hung in closely with Millsaps waiting in the wings.
At this point, Villopoto put his head down and charged passed Barcia for second place (Justin would soon make a bobble, relegating him to fifth place on the night). Villopoto then engaged in a dogfight with Stewart, who looked uncharacteristically calm but showed slight signs of fatigue. Several passes took place between the two racers before Villopoto was able to make it stick (although whether or not he passed on a yellow flag was a point of contention), moving into the lead and taking the win over Stewart and Reed. Dungey remained solid and hung in for fourth, with Millsaps unable to get past Barcia for a top five.
With the win, Villopoto’s points deficit narrowed to just 12 points behind leader Millsaps. In the grand scheme of things, 12 points is a realistic gap to close, but Ryan has to ride smart and continue to finish in front of Millsaps as much as possible. Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey sits in third in the points. Meanwhile, Millsaps was seen icing his wrist after the race, having gone down with Canard and taking the brunt of the impact on his lower arm.
In the 250 main event, Hahn put on a great charge (despite a broken toe suffered the previous weekend) to stay in front of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson, who was gunning for the lead toward the last laps of the main. Rockstar Energy Racing’s Blake Wharton came into the main hot after a heat race win and was able to secure third place. Hahn now has a one-point lead over Wilson in season standings, with Wharton in third.
Racing resumes next weekend at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Be sure to check back to www.dirtrider.com for more Supercross results, info and photos!
450SX Class Results: St. Louis
1. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki
2. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki
3. Chad Reed, Australia, Honda
4. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM
5. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda
6. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
7. Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Fla., Suzuki
8. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda
9. Justin Brayton, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Yamaha
10. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM
450SX Class Season Standings
1. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki, 189
2. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki, 177
3. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 166
4. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda, 148
5. Chad Reed, Australia, Honda, 147
6. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda, 132
7. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 122
8. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM, 113
9. Justin Brayton, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Yamaha, 103
10. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Suzuki, 87
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Results: St. Louis
1. Wil Hahn, Decatur, Texas, Honda
2. Dean Wilson, Scotland, Kawasaki
3. Blake Wharton, Pilot Point, Texas, Suzuki
4. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM
5. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha
6. Vince Friese, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Honda
7. James Decotis, Peabody, Mass., Honda
8. Cole Thompson, Brigden, Canada, Honda
9. Zach Bell, Cairo, Ga., Honda
10. Peter Larsen, Menifee, Calif., Honda,
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Season Standings
1. Wil Hahn, Decatur, Texas, Honda, 70
2. Dean Wilson, Scotland, Kawasaki, 69
3. Blake Wharton, Pilot Point, Texas, Suzuki, 60
4. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM, 53
5. Vince Friese, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Honda, 39
6. Gavin Faith, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Honda, 38
7. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki, 36
8. James Decotis, Peabody, Mass., Honda, 34
9. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha, 32
10. Kyle Peters, Greensboro, NC, Honda, 31