Cory Buttrick secured victory at the final round of the AMA Enduro Championship at Zink Ranch but it was Russell Bobbitt who ended the year as champion.
Home to the 1994 ISDE, the John Zink Ranch marked Buttrick’s first win in four years but a fifth title for Bobbitt.
Buttrick’s win was his first in four years in the Kenda AMA National Enduro Series while Bobbitt left town with a fifth national enduro title in his back pocket after finishing the day in sixth overall.
The event was organised and hosted by the Tulsa Trail Riders, who did a fantastic job and even kicked off the event with a grass track test in the same location as the grass track used at the Six Days in ’94.
The last time Buttrick won a national enduro was in 2012. After that, the Ohio native suffered several injuries, which have kept him on the comeback trail for the last few years. This year, however, Buttrick has remained relatively healthy and he has worked hard to build back his speed and his conditioning.
It all paid off in Oklahoma where Buttrick won two of the seven tests and never finished lower than third fastest in any of the remaining tests, giving him the win by 21 seconds.
“This is incredible,” said Buttrick. “It’s kind of funny because I didn't really think I was riding all that great. I was getting frustrated at all the lines I was missing and I was just doing silly things and that kept me mad all day, which I think kept me motivated. Getting the win was a big relief. It’s been a long time coming and at times it’s been a frustrating struggle.”
Heading into the final test of the day, Buttrick held a 22-second lead over Specialized Performance KTM’s Jesse Groemm. Like Buttrick, Groemm is an interesting story in that he suffered a seizure just a few weeks before the race, which the doctors think was related to a concussion he suffered two years ago.
The New Jersey rider was cleared to get back on a motorcycle just two weeks ago and this weekend he kicked things off by winning the opening two tests. He had a few problems in the fifth test, though, which allowed Buttrick to pull a small gap heading into test seven, which Buttrick held to the finish.
Third place went to Buttrick’s SRT KTM teammate Steward Baylor, who has been in contention for the title all year. Baylor competed on the US Junior Team at this year’s ISDE in Spain along with his brother Grant and both were still a bit jet-lagged in Oklahoma.
“We just finished over 1000 miles of racing in six days and I just didn’t feel I had any flow to my riding,” said Steward. “I was sixth or seventh after the first two tests, but I made some adjustments and started to move up a bit near the end of the race. The bike I rode this weekend was different from the one I rode in Spain and it just took a while to adjust.”
Fourth was Colorado KTM rider Ian Blythe, who was hot off a second consecutive off-road title in Brazil. Blythe won the final test of the day and was second in tests one and five.
Newly signed Beta USA rider Drew Higgins finished fifth, his best national finish yet. Higgins seemed to like the terrain and said it was similar to what he rides at home in Texas.
Bobbitt was sixth and knew he only needed a solid finish to wrap up the title and was hesitant about taking any risks on the notoriously rocky Sand Springs terrain. The FMF/KTM rider turned his best time with a fourth in the final test.
Andrew DeLong, who is coming off a long road to recovery from a wrist injury, finished in the seventh spot, just ahead of Am Pro Yamaha’s Grant Baylor. Meanwhile, RPM Racing’s Evan Smith and AirGroup Racing’s Nick Fahringer rounded out the top 10.
In the final series standings, Bobbitt claimed the title with 214 points, while the Baylor brothers, Steward and Grant, were second and third, respectively, with 203 and 184 points.
In the Rekluse Expert-AA class, the championship results are still to be determined by the AMA, however Nathan Ferderer (Yam) won the Rekluse Expert-AA award. On the day, Dillon MacRitchie (KTM) won the class with Ferderer in second and Tyler Vore (Hsq) in third.
FMF/KTM’s Kacy Martinez won the Women’s A/B class ahead of KTM riders Kristina Zmuda and Kristi Grote. Martinez wrapped up the title at the previous round in Missouri.
The Tulsa round marked the end of the 2016 Kenda AMA National Enduro Series, however, for more information and next year’s schedule check out www.nationalenduro.com
Photos: Shan Moore
1. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
2. Jesse Groemm (KTM)
3. Steward Baylor (KTM)
4. Ian Blythe (KTM)
5. Drew Higgins (KTM)
6. Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
7. Andrew DeLong (Hsq)
8. Grant Baylor (Yam)
9. Evan Smith (KTM)
10. Nick Fahringer (Hsq)