Smage And Freixa Split Florida MotoTrials Opener

Hot times at Florida MotoTrials

Pat Smage, Florida MotoTrials 2016
Pat Smage kicked off the 2016 SWM US National MotoTrials Series in the best possible way, with a win on Saturday.Photo By Shan Moore

The 2016 SWM US National Championship MotoTrials Series kicked off in Ocala, Florida this weekend where eight-time and defending US Champ Pat Smage (Team RYP/Zip Express/Dunlop/Maxima/Sherco) and former number three in the world, Spaniard Marc Freixa (US Montesa), split wins over the course of the two-day event.

Freixa is a welcomed addition to the American series, and in addition to competing in the championship he is also here to help develop American talent for Honda/Montesa. The 37-year-old retired from the world championship series five years ago and hasn’t ridden in competition until this weekend, so he came into the Florida event as somewhat of a dark horse. However, Smage had a good idea of what Freixa was capable of.

“Freixa was actually one of my favorite riders to watch when I was growing up,” said Smage. “I watched him on videos and I knew what he was one of the best in the world, so to be able to compete with him now is really cool.”

Smage got off to a great start on Day One, posting a three-point first lap as temperatures approached ninety degrees with high humidity. The Wisconsin rider was clean until the seventh section, where he managed to get through what most of the riders considered the toughest section of the day with a two-point ride.

“That section had a big wall in the beginning and an exit that required pinpoint precision,” said Smage. “I just didn’t get enough lift on the big wall on the first lap and had to put my foot down to pull it onto the rock.”

Marc Freixa, Florida MotoTrials 2016
Spaniard Marc Freixa won day two of the Florida MotoTrial series opener.Photo By Shan Moore

Smage came back with a clean in section seven on his second attempt, propelling him to a two-point second lap. On lap three, Smage needed just one point to navigate the 12-section course, and he ended the day with six total points (3/2/1) to give him a decisive victory.

“I felt I rode well considering it was the first event of the season,” said Smage. “A couple of my points came from just nervous dabs or in situations where I was close to the ribbon and rather than risk a five I just took a point.”

Having not competed since the 2011 season, Freixa had to shake off some of the rust on Day One; and though he clean section seven on the opening lap, he fived it on his second lap.

“I just didn’t get enough lift and I hit my skidplate,” explained Freixa.

Freixa finished lap one with six points, while his second lap consisted of five points. The father of two whittled his score down to two points on his final lap, giving him a total of 13 for the day and second overall.

“I’m happy with how I rode, considering it’s my first competition in a long time,” said Freixa. “It was difficult, and I got tired, but there are plenty more rounds to go.”

Andrew Putt, Florida MotoTrials 2016
Andrew Putt turned in a pair of consistent third place finishes.Photo By Shan Moore

Andrew Putt (Team RYP/Zip Express/Dunlop/Maxima/Sherco) rounded out the podium on Saturday with a total of 27 points. The Pennsylvania rider got off to a shaky start, dropping 18 points on lap one, but came back with six on lap two in addition to an excellent three-point final lap.

“Today went well, although the first lap was a bit rocky, but I think I was just trying to get back in the swing of things,” said Putt. “I was able to get it together on the second and third loops and my third loop I’m really proud of.”

Gas Gas USA’s Alex Niederer turned in a solid performance to claim fourth with 63 total points.

“My first lap was a little off but I improved with each lap so I’m happy with my performance,” said Niederer. “This was a good start to my season.”

Meanwhile, Karl Davis Jr. (Team RYP/Zip Express/Dunlop/Maxima/Scorpa) made a triumphant return to national competition after a three-year layoff to round out the top five just one point behind Niederer.

On Sunday, Freixa turned the tables on Smage, taking a clear victory after dropping just one dab all day long, although he was given a controversial five when he crossed his tracks in section 11, leaving the Spaniard with a total score of six for the day.

“I don’t understand the markers here in the United States and it is unfortunate but they called a five for me,” said Freixa.

Sunday’s sections didn’t suit Smage as well as Saturday’s sections did, and the Sherco rider took a few costly points on some of the loose uphill climbs. Smage finished the event with a total of 15 points for second place, leaving him tied for first place in the series standings with Freixa heading into next week’s round in Tennessee.

“These sections didn’t really suit my style, although this is the kind of stuff I’ve been trying to improve on,” said Smage. “I took a lot of points that I know I shouldn’t have and that cost me today. I’m looking forward to next week in Tennessee, where I know the terrain will suit my style.”

Putt rounded out the podium for the second day in a row, finishing Sunday’s event with 21 points.

“Today was a lot better,” said Putt. “I found my groove on the first lap instead of on the second and third loops like yesterday. After my first loop I was happy because I knew I could fix the mistakes I made. On the second lap I eliminated one of my mistakes from the first lap, but I added a mistake in another place. But my last lap I was really proud of, so I think I’m going in the right direction.”

Karl Davis Jr. improved by one position over Saturday’s event, putting his Scorpa into fourth place for Sunday with a score of 61 points. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s Logan Bolopue rounded out the top five with a total of 68.

The series resumes action next weekend at the Trials Training Center in Sequatchie, Tennessee, for rounds three and four of the series. For more information about the 2016 SWM US National Championship MotoTrials Series please visit www.mototrials.com.

RESULTS

Saturday

  1. Pat Smage (Shr) 6

  2. Marc Freixa (Mon) 13

  3. Andrew Putt (Shr) 27

  4. Alexander Niederer (GG) 63

  5. Karl Davis Jr. (Sco) 64

  6. Logan Bolopue (Shr) 73

  7. Daniel Blanc-Gonnet (Mon) 79

  8. Sam Fastle (Shr) 86

  9. Quinn Wentzel (Sco) 97

Sunday

  1. Marc Freixa (Mon) 6

  2. Pat Smage (Shr) 15

  3. Andrew Putt (Shr) 21

  4. Karl Davis Jr. (Sco) 61

  5. Logan Bolopue (Shr) 68

  6. Daniel Blanc-Gonnet (Mon) 75

  7. Alex Niederer (GG) 81

  8. Sam Fastle (Shr) 103

  9. Quinn Wentzel (Sco) 133