Ryan Sipes Wins The Opening Round Of The 2018 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series | Dirt Rider
Shan Moore

Ryan Sipes Wins The Opening Round Of The 2018 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series

Rockstar/Leatt/Maxxis Husqvarna rider on top of the box at round 1 in Georgia

Ryan Sipes wasn’t sure where he would fit into the pecking order heading into the opening round of the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series this past weekend. While most of his competition was in Florida preparing for the upcoming season, the Rockstar/Leatt/Maxxis Husqvarna rider was at home with his wife Holly, who was expecting the couple’s third child. When Holly gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday, however, Ryan got the green light to go to Moccasin Creek Off Road Park in Georgia and compete. The competition may now be wishing Holly held off a few more days.

After two days of racing and 12 rough, sandy special tests, Sipes came out on top of a battle with defending series champ Steward Baylor by 23 seconds to claim the overall win and the initial lead in the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series championship standings.

“I had no idea what to expect coming in here,” Sipes admitted. “Since my wife was expecting, I didn’t get to ride the last few weeks so I didn’t know if I would come in here and get smoked or win the thing.”

Ryan Sipes

Ryan Sipes swept all of the Cross tests, but his performances in the Enduro tests gave the former Supercross star the overall win.

Shan Moore

Sipes got the ball rolling by winning the first test of the day—a Cross test—and then backed it up with a second win in the second test, an Enduro. The Kentuckian then proceeded to win all five of the remaining Cross tests. Sipes sealed the deal, however, in the final Enduro test.

“At the end of day 1, Stew was gaining on me, and he was obviously doing it in the Enduro test,” Sipes said. “So I walked that test a total of four times trying to figure out where he was gaining time on me, and I think that made the difference. Stew’s lines are really good and I could see, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s braking early and turning here,’ whereas I was taking the main line a little too much.”

Sipes was able to pull off the win each day in addition to claiming the overall victory, which puts him in good position heading into the rest of the season. But Baylor gave Sipes a run for his money, winning a total of four tests, all of which were Enduros. The Tely Racing KTM-backed South Carolina rider kept Sipes honest in the Cross tests en route to the runner-up slot.

Steward Baylor

Steward Baylor is known as an enduro specialist, but after spending the winter working on his “moto” speed, the Tely Racing KTM rider showed good speed in the Cross tests and kept Sipes honest all weekend.

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“This weekend was encouraging for me,” Baylor said. “I’m usually down a lot further from Ryan in the Cross tests. I’m normally finishing fourth or fifth in those and then having to make up the difference in the Enduro tests. But this weekend I felt I was a lot closer to Ryan in the Cross tests, which is a result of all the moto time I put in during the off-season.”

Baylor came into the weekend carrying a lot of momentum after winning a national enduro the previous weekend and shouldn’t be counted out of the championship.

With a win in the fourth test on Saturday, Josh Strang put pressure Sipes and Baylor, but the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory rider struggled to find a comfortable setup and finished the weekend third overall, 23 seconds off Baylor’s pace. Strang spent the rest of the weekend fending off a challenge from Beta USA’s Jordan Ashburn but wound up topping the Tennessean rider by 16 seconds at the finish.

“I think my speed was good, but I wasn’t comfortable,” Strang said. “The track got a lot rougher than I expected, and from start to finish we were making changes to the bike, just trying to find the setup. I think the last four tests on Sunday really showed that we found it, and I was a lot more comfortable in those tests.”

Josh Strang

Josh Strang won test 3 on Saturday but said he suffered most of the weekend with his setup. “I struggled at first to find that sprint speed right out of the gate,” he said. “I think I was dragging the rear brake too much, and that’s just me trying to get back up to speed, knowing I can do it. I was downshifting too much, but in the last couple of tests I decided to leave it in a taller gear and lug it, and my times picked up.”

Shan Moore

Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series Round 1 Overall Results

  1. Ryan Sipes (Husqvarna)
  2. Steward Baylor (KTM)
  3. Josh Strang (Husqvarna)
  4. Jordan Ashburn (Beta)
  5. Evan Smith (Husqvarna)
  6. Grant Baylor (KTM)
  7. Layne Michael (Husqvarna)
  8. Liam Draper (Husqvarna)
  9. Mike Witkowski (Beta)
  10. Cole Mattison (Yamaha)
Jordan Ashburn

Fourth-place finisher Jordan Ashburn, who was a consistent podium finisher in 2017, spent the weekend adjusting to the terrain. “We don’t have a lot of sand where I live, so we ended up learning a lot about our bike setup for sandy conditions,” he said. “We were close all weekend, just a second here and there. Strang and I battled both days, and early on Sunday I narrowed it down to three or four seconds off his overall time. But then I think he picked up the pace and I missed the podium by about 16 seconds. Overall, I’m happy to come away with fourth, but I’m looking to get back on the podium.”

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Evan Smith

Evan Smith shows his speed in the Cross test. The SRT Off-Road Husqvarna rider finished fifth overall.

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Layne Michael

Coastal Racing’s Layne Michael finished just behind Tely Racing’s Grant Baylor in seventh.

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Liam Draper

New Zealander Liam Draper is spending the year in the US to contest the Full Gas Sprint series and the GNCC series. The KR4 Husqvarna rider was eighth overall and first in the Pro2 class.

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Russell Bobbitt

Gnarly Routes KTM’s Russell Bobbitt was the ninth Pro class rider and 14th overall.

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Mike Witkowski

Beta USA’s Mike Witkowski rode a Beta 250RR to ninth overall, despite getting stuck in a mud hole on Saturday.

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Tayla Jones

Defending AMA Full Gas Sprint Enduro Championship Series Women’s Pro champion and Aussie off-road star Tayla Jones picked up where she left off last year with a victory.

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Mackenzie Tricker

Bonanza Plumbing/Trail Jesters KTM’s Mackenzie Tricker gave Jones a run for her money and finished second in the Women’s Pro division.

Shan Moore

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