Steward Baylor nails the win at the opening round of the 2017 AMA National Enduro Championship in Sumter. Splitting hairs, Baylor bagged the top step of the podium by just one-second over Kailub Russell.
- Steward Baylor claimed the series opener at Sumter.
- Kailub Russell was the runner-up, just one-second adrift.
- Russell returns to the series after a year’s absence.
- Thad DuVall completed the top three.
- Thorn Devlin was the Expert AA winner.
- Aussie Tayla Jones was the clear winner in the Women’s category.
- A bumper entry of 800 riders started round one.
After over 60 miles of racing, only one second separated the top two finishers at the opening round of the 2017 Kenda AMA National Enduro Series presented by Moose Racing in Sumter, South Carolina, as SRT Racing’s Steward Baylor topped FMF/KTM Factory Off-road Racing’s Kailub Russell in a tense and exciting display of competition that was most surely a preview of what’s to come during the remaining eight rounds.
Over 800 entries packed 120 rows at the start of the Sumter race, including an impressive and loaded field of over 30 pro riders. The pro class notably featured the return of 2015 national enduro champ Kailub Russell, a “finally” healthy Andrew DeLong (2014 national champ), five-time national champ Russell Bobbitt, new Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Off-road Racing signee Thad Duvall, and 2015 ISDE Individual champ Ryan Sipes, just to name a few.
A light rain began to fall as riders took to the tight and sandy opening section. Baylor set the tone for the day by winning the 9-mile test by seven seconds over DeLong, with DuVall finishing third just a fraction of a second back. Kailub, on the other hand, stalled his factory KTM twice and also had a tip-over before finishing the test with the fifth-fastest time, about nine seconds behind Baylor.
Kailub redeemed himself with the fastest time in test two, beating Baylor by eight seconds and setting the stage for a tight race.
Baylor countered in test three, topping the 12-mile test by four seconds over Russell Bobbitt, with Kailub in third, another three seconds back.
Test four saw DuVall get his only test win of the day, with Steward second, Kailub third, Cory Buttrick in fourth and Bobbitt in fifth.
Kailub added another win in the fifth test, with Baylor six seconds back in second and DuVall in third, which tightened things up between the two front-runners, although Baylor still held a relatively comfortable lead heading into the final test.
Heading into the sixth and final test of the day Baylor felt confident he could win since this was the same test the South Carolina rider had won just a year ago. However, Baylor almost threw it all away when he hit a stump in the trail and went down, losing nearly 20 seconds. Lucky for Baylor, he was able to get going and finish the event with just a second to spare over Kailub to secure the win. “Over 60 miles of racing and then for it to come down to one second is pretty gnarly,” said Baylor.
“It feels really good to get the first win of the year in the enduro series,” added Steward. “I raced a couple of local races leading up to this race so I felt really good coming in here.”
Though disappointed at missing the win by a single tick of the clock, Russell was pleased with how he rode, especially since it was his first enduro in over a year.
“It was what I expected it to be out there, tight and sandy in most places and flowy in others,” said Russell. “I knew Steward was going to be tough here, he always is. But I had a good day and I’m happy with how I rode, especially after being off for over a year.”
DuVall rounded out the podium in third, and like Kailub, he was making his first full return to the series since 2011, though he did ride one race last year in Ohio, which he won. DuVall admitted that the Sumter was a lot tighter than the Ohio race was and he was pleased with a third place finish.
“This was actually the first time I had fun at a Sumter Enduro,” joked DuVall. “I felt like I rode good in most of the tests, although I struggled in a couple of tests that I fell in. Overall, it was a good day, though. I don’t normally gel with this place but today I felt good on the new bike and I’m really happy to be on the podium.”
Fourth overall was Bobbitt, who said he felt he rode better than his results showed.
“I wish I could have made the podium, but getting out of here with fourth is not too bad,” said Bobbitt. “I felt my speed was there and the bike is working well so things are looking good for the rest of the series.”
Fifth went to Andrew DeLong, who was making his debut ride with Airgroup Racing/Enduro Engineering Husqvarna Racing. The Pennsylvania native started fast, and sat in second place after the first two tests.
“I was feeling pretty good at the start but in the third test I tangled with a lapper and we went down and it took about 40 seconds to get going again,” said DeLong. “In the fourth test, we had an issue with the bike, it’s new to us and we are still learning, but I’m pleased with how things turned out since it’s really my first season to be totally healthy in two years. Fifth is the best I’ve ever finished at Sumter so that’s another reason to be happy.”
Sixth went to Trevor Bollinger on a JCR Honda. Bollinger was part of last year’s US Junior Team at the ISDE, though he is new to enduro racing. Meanwhile, SRT KTM veteran Cory Buttrick finished seventh.
Grant Baylor (Steward’s younger brother) was eighth in his first national race for the KR4 Arrive-n-Ride Husqvarna team, just edging out Solid Performance KTM’s Jesse Groemm, who had an interesting day that included a big get-off in the first test and then nearly getting his head ripped off by a vine in test four.
Josh Toth rounded out the top 10, including an excellent ride in test three where he claimed the fourth fastest time on his N-FAB/Am Pro Yamaha.
In the Rekluse/Expert AA division, Airgroup Racing/Enduro Engineering Husqvarna Racing’s Thorn Devlin claimed a three-minute victory over JoJo Bowden for the class win with Husqvarna rider Alex Teagarden rounding out the podium. Devlin is from Pennsylvania and the tight sandy trail at Sumter was an eye-opener for him, though he handled it well enough to not only claim the class win but also 17th overall.
“The start of the race was pretty tough on me because my arms were pumping up pretty bad,” said Devlin. “It was mainly just from nerves, being the first race of the season, and I knew once I got that first test out of the way everything would be alright.”
Devlin fell twice during the course of the day but still managed to dominate the Expert-AA class.
Australia’s Tyla Jones added an international flare to the Sumter event by winning the Women’s Elite division. Jones was the top women’s competitor at last year’s ISDE in Spain and led the Aussie Women’s team to the Women’s Trophy.
In Sumter, Jones beat out Kendall Lafollette by 11 minutes, while Allie Spurgeon rounded out the podium in third.
“We have enduros in Australia, but they are no way as tight as what this race was,” said Jones. “It kind of took me by surprise, but after a few tests I was starting to get the hang of it. I really enjoyed the race and I’m looking forward to riding them all.”
The 2017 Kenda AMA National Enduro Series presented by Moose Racing resumes action on 19 March in Ormond Beach, Florida for the Alligator National Enduro. For more information on the series check out www.nationalenduro.com.
Results - AMA National Enduro Round 1
1. Steward Baylor (KTM)
2. Kailub Russell (KTM)
3. Thad DuVall (Hsq)
4. Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
5. Andrew DeLong (Hsq)
6. Trevor Bollinger (Hon)
7. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
8. Grant Baylor (Hsq)
9. Jesse Groemm (KTM)
10. Josh Toth (Yam)
Words & Images: Shan Moore