What Really Happened: Ontario EnduroCross Finals 2015

Webb Takes The Crown

Cody Webb is in the middle of the pack in the first turn.Photo by Bob Theobald

The GEICO AMA EnduroCross series came to a dramatic close this weekend, with 2014 Champion Cody Webb earning his second title in two years over an incredible fast Colton Haaker. You can read the full results and play-by-play breakdown of the race at http://www.dirtrider.com/ontario-endurocross-results-2015, but here's a deeper look at What Really Happened at the Citizen's Bank Arena in Ontario:

The weekend of racing started off on Friday with Destry Abbott’s Rookie’s Class experience, which gives newbie EnduroCross racers a one-hour, on-track instructional session under the watchful eye of Destry and several other EnduroCross pros. This segment is an awesome way for off-road riders to dip a toe into the sport of EnduroCross without diving full throttle into the racing on Saturday. This year’s Rookie Class focused on negotiating the tougher components of the track, which included both the rock garden before the finish and the deceivingly tricky matrix section. All of the participants made it through unscathed, including Dirt Rider Associate Editors Pete Peterson and Sean Klinger who, along with our Intern Justin Wilkins, will be doing a story on the Rookies class soon.

After a pile up in the woodpit, Colton Haaker was in last place. He was charging hard and passed Max Gerston in the water pit.Photo by Bob Theobald

The track in Ontario was fairly jumpy and somewhat easy compared to more technical rounds that we’ve seen in the past. As usual, the key separators in the amateur classes were the river rock turn, the rock garden, and the matrix turn, which required good line selection to navigate cleanly. For the pros, it came down to three different burly jump combinations: the finish line (a tire takeoff to dirt landing), the firewood pit (which only a handful of pros attempted), and the water segment (which bit Mike Brown hard in his first heat race—more on that in a moment). The racers who were able to do these jumps had a significant advantage when out front, but they were often unable to do them in traffic and amongst lappers.

To make up time, Haaker was jumping the wood pit.Photo by Bob Theobald

As always, Wild Wally Palmer continues to live up to his name with some of the most entertaining moments in all of EnduroCross. The crazy-fast racer from new Jersey came into Ontario injured; his lower back was numb and he was so sore that he couldn’t tie his shoes, but Wally still charged out aboard an SRT Off-Road backed KTM 300 two-stroke to give the night a go. In his Hot Lap, Wally had a spectacular crash when he tried to double over the firewood section but came up miserably short, ejecting in the air and sending his bike (and a nearby Beta mechanic) flying. Palmer got back up and still raced on the evening; say what you will about Wild Wally, but the dude is TOUGH.

It’s not a fluke that KTM’s Taylor Robert ended the night on top; the Pro Main Event winner was one of only a few racers to jump everything jumpable on the course, and even in practice he looked to have the best blend of aggression and finesse. In the main event, Taylor consistently knocked off a series of the fastest lap times on each lap, and he cut through lappers like an orange knife through tired butter. The win ends Robert’s career on a high note, leading him into a very special opportunity in 2016: Taylor will be racing in Europe full time next year for the European KTM team. The likable KTM racer will still be able to complete some rounds of the 2016 AMA EnduroCross series, although it’s still up in the air if he’ll be able to do the entire thing.

Cody Webb rode a smooth race, thinking of the championship.Photo by Bob Theobald

Dirt Rider test rider Michael Allen made his first ever EnduroCross main event in the Amateur class, coming in with a strong 6th-place finish aboard our Yamaha WR250F test bike. Michael’s machine featured a 270cc kit, which he said gave the bike more punch out of turns and an increased ability to get him out of trouble in the rocks, although he sacrificed a bit of traction in the process. DR Editor Chris Denison rode a Yamaha YZ250FX (like a squirrel) in the Expert class; that bike was stock except for a Dunlop 756EX rear tire, a stock Yamaha skid plate (from the WR) and a set of Enduro Engineering handguards. The YZ250FX has slightly lower gearing than the WR (51 versus 50), allowing for less clutching in each gear. In the end, both machines proved to be outstanding stock EX platforms with very little aftermarket work.

Taylor Robert catches Cody Webb and take the lead.Photo by Bob Theobald

In the night show, the team from Rever was doing some cool testing in conjunction with Dirt Rider on a new addition to their Rever App. Something like Strava for off-road riders, the Rever App allows motorcyclists the ability to discover, track, and share different rides. The new technology that they were testing in Ontario involved strapping a sensor to the subframe of Denison’s bike, which then synced with an iPad and showed the bike’s speed, pitch, roll, and gravitational g-forces encountered across the track. The real-time data was very fun to see, and the Rever team will incorporate what they learned into future versions of their groundbreaking app.

Colton Haaker charged through the pack and caught Cody Webb to challenge for second place. Haaker finished 3rd.Photo by Bob Theobald
Cody Webb celebrating his National Championship.Photo by Bob Theobald

In the Women’s division, the championship came down to the final round, with Husqvarna-backed Sandra Gomez from Spain earning the main event win—and the title—over Rachel Gutish. There was a lot of back-and-forth throughout the main, but when Gutish went to the ground in the elevated rock garden, she essentially handed the lead to Gomez for the final time, as the Husqvarna racer rode flawlessly to score the win. The highlight of the race was Gomez’s emotional celebration at the finish line, which rivaled the excitement of any EnduroCross winner we’ve ever seen. Gutish was humble and happy in second place, just ahead of Lexi Pechout. You’ll be seeing more of Gutish in the near future, as she’s schedule to begin an internship at Dirt Rider in early 2016!

As mentioned, Mike Brown’s crash in Heat #2 may have turned out worse than it looked. Brownie lost traction over the water pit double and stabbed the landing with his front wheel, dislocating a bone in his wrist in the process. Brown apparently didn’t even know he was hurt until he tried to get going again. After exiting the track cradling his wrist, Brown was later seen walking out of the medic’s holding area with his wrist massively taped and splinted.. Mike Brown is the kind of racer who would do anything to muscle through and continue the race; he clearly felt gutted at having to take a DNF at the final round. After speaking with Brownie on Sunday night he will be out for 2-3 weeks and is expected to be in Europe for a Supercross race to round out his 2015 year.

Jamie Lanza got paid for the pro main holeshot.Photo by Bob Theobald

The only racer to leave Ontario more disappointed than Mike Brown may have been Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker, who fell in the first turn and had to come from behind in the pro main event. Haaker showed blistering speed, but he was unable to get past Webb after catching the eventual winner on lap 13. It seemed that Haaker would catch Webb and then get hung up on either an obstacle or a lapper, and he was unable to force the issue—or the championship. Haaker was visibly disappointed, throwing his goggles to the ground at the finish line as Cody went on to celebrate his second title in two years.

Main event overall: 1st Taylor Robert, 2nd Cody Webb, 3rd Colton Haaker.Photo by Bob Theobald

Speaking of Cody Webb, the back-to-back champion will be on the factory KTM team for 2016 and he may be switching to a four stroke next year! Cody was calm all day and didn’t appear to show that much pressure as he could be seen joking and laughing with the fans before the night show. During the Main Event Cody knew he didn’t need to win the race to achieve the ultimate goal, and it showed in his strategy. He raced relaxed and once Taylor Robert caught him, he didn’t put much of a fight up as he normally would. Even Haaker’s antics during the Main couldn’t shake the friendly Northern California rider as he cruised in for second on the night and left the Citizens Bank Arena with the number one plate on his KTM.

Amateur National Championship winner Michael Arandas with his podium.Photo by Bob Theobald

It’s not yet known what the 2016 AMA EnduroCross Championship schedule will hold, but fans can look forward to another great season of racing, with Colton Haaker looking to dethrone Webb and the lanky KTM rider certain to want to retain his crown. Will Mike Brown be healed in time to race? Will EnduroCross legend Taddy Blazusiak come to spoil the party? And will any young up-and-comers—such as Ty Tremaine and Cooper Abbott—find the next gear in their young careers and become a threat for a win? A lot remains to be seen, but it won’t be long before we are revving up for the opening round of the 2016 Championship.

Heat race carnage in the rock corner.Photo by Bob Theobald
Destry Abbott tackles the boulders.Photo by Bob Theobald
Mike Brown leading his heat race.Photo by Bob Theobald
Geoff Aaron navigates the wood pit during his hot lap.Photo by Bob Theobald
Going from a big log to rocks can cause some problems.Photo by Bob Theobald
Sandra Gomez Cantero en route to winning the race and the National Championship.Photo by Bob Theobald

Photo by Bob Theobald

Dirt Rider Editor Chris Denison got to sit on the Hot Seat during the Pro Hot Laps.Photo by Bob Theobald
Race winner Taylor Robert exploding out of the water pit.Photo by Sean Klinger