2023 Tennessee Knockout: Hart tops Bolt and Lettenbichler for 2023 TKO victory
For the second year in a row, FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Trystan Hart has won the 2023 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout (TKO), beating Billy Bolt and Mani Lettenbichler to claim the AMA Grand Championship Extreme title.
Three TKO wins in the last four years shows Trystan Hart is the rider to beat in the “short circuit” knockout-style hard enduro races. The 2023 event saw the Canadian on top three of the four shootout rounds on the rocky and hilly Trials Training Center course after Ryder Leblond claimed the Saturday Hot Lap fastest time.
SuperEnduro World Champion Billy Bolt then went onto claim the Saturday night Straight Rhythm shootout and went on to trouble Hart closest in the main event, finishing 23 seconds back in the final. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Mani Lettenbichler rounded out the podium after a first lap clash with Billy in the final which saw his bike cartwheel down Red Bull Ravine.
Want to see what the collision with Billy looked like? Of course you do!
Sunday’s TKO race format consisted of three rounds of racing for the 56 riders who’d earned their places with Knockout round one on the 11 mile “long course” starting from 9am. Hart immediately set the fastest time with a time of 47:17seconds in relatively dry conditions providing more traction than normal on the rocks and contributing to quicker times.
2022 GNCC Champion Jordan Ashburn turned some heads with a second-place time of 48: 29 seconds on his Magna 1 Husqvarna to finish second ahead of Lettenbichler third in a time of 48:54 ahead of Will Riordan, Cody Webb, Bolt, LeBlond, South Africa’s Matthew Green, Jonny Walker and Alfredo Gomez completing the top 10 respectively.
There was a last-chance qualification race on the straight rhythm course among the four riders that just missed the top thirty and pro Hillclimb racer Logan Cipala took that spot to be the last rider to make it to the second round.
Find more awesome images of the TKO in our seperate story: 2023 Red Bull Tennesee Knockout Hard Enduro ‘Best Of’ Image Gallery
The second-round changes format to place 31 riders into five groups that race head-to-head on the long loop with another mile of extremely difficult sections added. The top four finishers from each group then earn spots in the 28 main event with the winners of each group earning front row starting positions.
Hart it was again who laid down the marker, winning group one over Bolt after a back and forth battle. 14-time US Trials Champion Pat Smage and James Flynn finished third and fourth to get into the main event.
LeBlond won group two in another tight battle with Ashburn and Colton Haaker for a Husqvarna top three and Gauge Logan-Key also earned tickets to the main with fourth.
Lettenbichler dominated group three ahead of Hard Enduro World Junior Champion Matty Green second with Rieju’s Quinn Wentzel beating Beta’s Tim Apolle to finished third and fourth respectively.
Group four saw Jonny Walker claim the win ahead of Riordan with Sherco rider Logan Bolopue and Beta’s Daniel Lewis taking the last two spots in this group.
The final shoot-out saw Cody Webb finish first from Spain’s Gomez and veteran enduro legend David Knight third with Mason George earning the final spot in the main event in his first ever TKO. George was the only rider from the 30 riders that qualified into the Sunday program via the Saturday races to qualify for the main event.
Main event clash between Bolt and Lettenbichler
The main event moves back to the short course for a 35-minute plus one lap race, which ended up taking 44 minutes and 34 seconds for Hart to complete. It was Lettenbichler who took the early lead heading into the woods with Hart and Bolt close behind.
Hart and Bolt found a way past Lettenbichler before hitting the critical Red Bull Ravine hill climb, but it proved to be a pivotal point as Bolt lost momentum at the top and Lettenbichler hit his rear wheel and flipped over backwards.
The German lost several positions when his bike tumbled down the hill, Bolt got back on it quickly but Hart had already made a break and had a 12 second gap as they started the second lap. The KTM rider then opened the lead to as much 45 seconds before backing off on the final lap to win by 24 seconds.
Bolt held second place throughout the race withstanding pressure from Walker for several laps and then Lettenbichler, who recovered from his crash. Bolt, Lettenbichler and Walker started the final lap separated by less than 10 seconds and the race was on but remarkably the order remained the same to the finish.
Cody Webb was the next along to complete the top five with LeBlond regrouping from the carnage of the Lettenbichler tumble on the hill climb but recovered for a sixth-place finish. Wil Riordan was the last rider on the same lap as the leaders to finish in seventh.
That put Gomez eighth on his Rieju and lapped ahead of Ashburn ninth after recovering from a first turn crash with Green. Smage rounded out the top 10 in his first Hard Enduro event of the season after wrapping up the US Trials championship.
Trystan Hart: “On lap two, I threw my bike up the Kenda waterfall and luckily no one was behind me and I just picked up the bike and went on my way but that was a little scare. From that point on, I just chilled out and nailed the hill climb and water fall every lap and just cruised on and maintained the gap which was really good.”
Billy Bolt: “It’s awesome, the crowd was insane the whole way around the track and you could barely hear the bike out there so that was pretty sick to see so many people out here supporting the race.
“As far as the race went, it was a struggle, I felt the pressure from behind just about the whole race to be honest. Jonny and Mani were on my wheel and that made it hard to concentrate and not make any mistakes. Trystan was nearly mistake-free and opened a gap early on and I could not make it back to him.”
Mani Lettenbichler: “Billy made a small mistake at the top of the hill climb on the first lap and I could not avoid him so I was back to sixth and had to work hard to move back to third, so I am really stocked on that. It was crazy good thanks to the fans cheering so loud in the woods and I didn’t expect that. Now I am glad that we are finished so we can get out of the heat!”
2023 Red Bull Tennessee, Knockout Main Event Results:
Dakar to TKO: Landman takes Women’s title
The Women’s pro class competed along with the top amateurs on the more difficult Saturday race two and Kirsten Landman took the win.
The South African has had a busy 2023 which began with the Originals class at the Dakar Rally but can now also add a TKO trophy to her cabinet with eth win ahead of alrounder Rachel Gutish and Nikki Russell rounding out the podium. Landman took the AMA Grand Championship number one plate and finished 14th overall among all the amateur riders.
Red Bull Tennessee Knockout amateur champions
Saturday included two rounds of amateur racing with race two serving as the championship-deciding race. Hawaii’s Kamakana Waiwaiole earned the number one spot with a winning time of 46 minutes and 44 seconds on his rented GASGAS. Mason George finished just two seconds behind and Maverik Thaxton rounded out the top three.
The top 30 riders also earned the opportunity to compete with the 26 pre-qualified pro riders, which kicked off their racing on Saturday afternoon followed by three rounds of racing on Sunday.
Other Saturday class winners among nearly 500 participants included Jared Kuehnhold in Amateur B, Leiber Adrian Ponce in Amateur C, Will Presson in Vet 40+, Travis Wilson in 45+ Vet and Coran Calvert in Youth Lites 12-15.
For the first time, the ECR eMoto class was recognized for an AMA Grand Championship and the riders completed three rounds of racing over three days. Thirty-four electric motorcycle racers took on the course and the top eleven earned a spot in the championship deciding Sunday final, which was on course with the pro riders. Seven riders completed the difficult course.
Spenser Wilton took the ECR eMoto AMA Grand Championship number one plate riding an Electric Motion with a time of one-hour and four minutes. Joseph Van Roekel finished second on a KTM about twelve minutes behind and Bridger Greenman rounded out the podium riding another KTM about eighteen minutes behind the leader.
Keep an eye on MAVtv for two shows featuring the 2023 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout. The network will have one show featuring the Straight Rhythm Prologue event that took place on Saturday afternoon and a second show featuring the Sunday pro TKO racing.
More information: www.tennesseeknockoutenduro.com
Photo Credit: Brandon Krause