Grant Baylor kicked off the 2016 Kenda AMA National Enduro Series with an exciting win, topping the 47th running of the Sumter National Enduro by 18 seconds over runner-up Russell Bobbitt.
Though he won only one of the six tests, Baylor relied on consistency to claim the win on the tight and sandy South Carolina trails. The N-Fab/Am Pro Yamaha rider turned the fastest time in the third test, which proved to be the turning point as he never relinquished the lead after that point in the race.
Baylor’s win was the second of his career, having closed out the 2015 season with a victory in Indiana.
“I’m pretty happy to come away from here with the win because I usually don’t do well in Sumter,” said Baylor.
“I only won one test but I was right there all day. That win in the third test moved me up from fifth to first and I just rode a consistent race for the rest of the day.”
Bobbitt, who spent the last half of last season dealing with a back injury, rode a 250F in Sumter, the FMF KTM Factory rider making the decision after spending the previous three weeks testing his options. The choice seemed to be a good one as he came away with second overall, edging Beta USA’s Jesse Groemm by two seconds.
“Overall, the day went just as I planned, we didn’t make a single change all day,” said Bobbitt. “I had a few problems with lappers, but other than that all was good.”
Groemm won test two and took the lead at that point in the race. However, a couple of mistakes in the final test cost the New Jersey rider the runner-up slot and bumped him to third in the final results.
“It was a tight race all day,” said Groemm. “This is a good way to start off the season and I’m hoping to be a podium finisher all year, that’s how you win championships.”
Fourth went to 2012 champ Steward Baylor. The SRT KTM rider was the only competitor to win more than one test, with a win in the fourth and sixth tests. Mechanical problems in the opening test proved too much for him to overcome and he was forced to settle for fourth.
Andrew DeLong finished fifth after getting off to a fast start with the second fastest time in test one. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing-backed rider fell off the pace in tests three and five and came up 16 seconds short of fourth.
JCR Honda’s Chris Bach made a rare enduro appearance to finish sixth, finishing ahead of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Josh Strang in seventh.
After spending the last two years recovering from double wrist injuries, two-time National Enduro Champ Charlie Mullins proved he still has the speed to win at the top level by turning the fastest time in the opening test of the day.
Mullins broke his foot three weeks before the Sumter round and was riding through intense pain, which would end up being more than the FMF KTM Factory rider bargained for and he backed off the pace in the final two tests, settling for eighth place.
Cory Buttrick brought his SRT KTM in for ninth, just ahead of FMF/RPM KTM Racing Team Maxxis rookie Pro Drew Higgins, who rounded out the top 10.
Local rider Zach Hayes drew first blood in the In the Rekluse Expert-AA class, taking the win by over two minutes. The KTM rider started strong by winning the first four tests; despite a nasty crash in test one.
Second went to N-Fab/Am Pro Yamaha’s Ryan Belue, who came on strong in the end by winning the final two tests of the day.
Nathan Ferderer rounded out the podium with a third. The Yamaha rider admitted that it took a few tests to shake off the cob webs after a long, cold winter.
The Kenda AMA National Enduro Series resumes action on March 20th for round two of the series in Maplesville, Alabama.
1. Grant Baylor (Yam)
2. Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
3. Jesse Groemm (Bet)
4. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
5. Andrew DeLong (Hus)
6. Chris Bach (Hon)
7. Josh Strang (Hus)
8. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
9. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
10. Drew Higgins (KTM)
Photos: Shan Moore