Photo Credit: Shan Moore
Broc Hepler reached an enduro milestone when he claimed a debut overall victory in the Full Gas Sprint Enduro Championship.
Former factory pro motocross racer Broc Hepler proved he still has what it takes to win at the highest level by claiming the overall win at this weekend’s LLR Sprint Enduro – round six of the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series presented by PRI Powersports Insurance in Fairmount City, Pennsylvania.
The former factory Suzuki and former factory Yamaha rider retired from professional racing in 2009 after a series of concussions left him unable to compete. However the Pennsylvania native has started racing again at select off-road events the past few years, including last year’s International Six Days Enduro in Spain.
Though it’s been a while since he was a full-time racer, the Lunova Racing-sponsored rider had more than enough in the tank to come away with the overall win at this weekend’s event, though he did have to contend with SRT Racing’s Steward Baylor Jr. and Beta USA’s Jordan Ashburn, who have spent most of the season in a back and forth battle for the lead in the series standings.
Hepler was the clear-cut leader after Saturday’s round, winning four of the six tests, however Baylor turned up the heat on Sunday after a sub-par first day and took the day-two win, giving Hepler a run for his money, though Hepler still took the overall victory by 12 seconds over Baylor with Ashburn in third another 13 seconds back.
“I came in here hoping for a top three but after a couple of tests I realised I was winning,” said Hepler. “I was relaxed and had a good time on Saturday and I think it showed in my riding.
“However, the realisation that I could actually win this thing set in on Sunday and I started to get arm-pump and the usual stress that comes with competition, which is something I don’t miss about racing at all. In the end, though, this was a fun event and I really like the format, which is similar to ISDE. I really enjoyed myself, for sure.
“I came into Sunday’s event with a 12-second lead, but in this type of racing one slip-up or tip-over can cost you a lot of time, so I knew my lead wasn’t safe,” added Hepler.
“I did managed to stay off the ground until the very last corner in the last test of the day on Sunday; I fell over and my leg was trapped under my bike. Luckily, my bike kept running and I was able to finish without losing too much time to Baylor.”
Photo Credit: Shan Moore
From the very first test, anyone who had ever had the pleasure of seeing Hepler race back during his prime could see the grace and form coming back to the multi-time national motocross winner, which just goes to show that you never really lose skills like that, though you might have to knock off a little bit of rust.
Heavy rain and strong winds on Friday night left Saturday’s track wet and slippery, conditions any Pennsylvania rider worth his salt should be able to handle with ease, and Hepler did just that, winning all three cross tests and one enduro test.
Integrity Acquisitions-backed KTM rider Evan Smith was on a roll of his own during Saturday’s round, winning two of the three enduro tests and finishing off the day in second place, 12-seconds behind Hepler.
Baylor and Ashburn locked horns in a tight battle for third, with Baylor edging the Beta rider by a mere four-tenths of a second for the final podium spot. Meanwhile, SRT Racing’s Cory Buttrick rounded out Saturday’s top five another nine second behind Ashburn.
Ben Kelley finished Saturday’s round in sixth, despite suffering mechanical problems in the final test, while Colorado’s Ian Blythe was seventh.
The course tacked up nicely for Sunday’s round, and Baylor picked up the pace, actually beating Hepler for the fastest time in the second cross test, bringing his total to three test wins for the day.
The South Carolina rider beat Hepler by six seconds for Sunday’s win, but it was not enough to overtake the Husqvarna rider for the overall win.
“Obviously, I wanted to be on top of the box for the overall win, but Hepler was twisting it,” said Baylor, who finished second overall on the weekend.
“Broc was fast all weekend and did what he needed to do to win, and he rode the day pretty smart. I got off to a slow start yesterday so I’m happy to have come back strong enough today to win the day and finish second overall.”
Smith dropped off the pace on Sunday, due to a few tip-overs, allowing Ashburn to move into the third-place spot for the day and in the overall standings for the weekend.
“I was a little timid yesterday so I got off to a slow start,” said Ashburn. “I kind of got it together towards the end of yesterday and I got off to a lot better start today.
“I just had a hard time memorising the track yesterday but the more time I got on it the better I went, and today I just had my lines down a little better.”
Smith dropped to fourth for the day, 13 seconds behind Ashburn, which also left him fourth overall for the weekend. Meanwhile, Buttrick won the final test of the day, which allowed him to edge Kelley out for fifth by three-tenths of a second.
Due to his mechanical problems on Saturday, Kelley switched to his two-stroke for Sunday and actually finished with the third-fastest time in the second enduro test of the day.
With his runner-up finish, Baylor regained the series points lead over Ashburn by four points, with three rounds remaining on the schedule. Buttrick sits in third, another thirty-four points behind Ashburn.
Billy Schlag took the win in the Open A division, beating Cody Pingley by just under four seconds, with Jacob Rowland in third. Meanwhile, Cole Mattison topped the Lites A divisison, beating RJ Cook and Devan Welch in the process.
Women - Jones on winning form again
Photo Credit: Shan Moore
Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/KR4 Arrive-n-Ride Racing’s Tayla Jones grabbed her fifth win of the year after beating Bonanza Pluming KTM’s Mackenzie Tricker by two-minutes-and-17 seconds for the victory. Brooke Cosner, sponsored by the Cycle Shop, finished third. Tricker is the only other rider to win an overall in this year’s Women’s Pro division, and she did so at the Georgia round.
“It was quite slippery on Saturday, but I managed to stay on two wheels all day and come away with the win,” said Jones. “Sunday was more to my liking and I had a lot of fun today.”
The 2017 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series presented by PRI Powersports Insurance resumes on September 30-October 1 for the Hidden Valley Golf Sprint Enduro, round seven of the series in Glen Daniel, West Virginia.
For more information on the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series presented by PRI Powersports Insurance check out www.sprintenduro.com.
RESULTS — OVERALL
1. Broc Hepler (Hsq) 1:11:26.279
2. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM) 1:11:38.271
3. Jordan Ashburn (Bet) 1:11:52.948
4. Evan Smith (KTM) 1:12:00.602
5. Cory Buttrick (KTM) 1:12:23.907
6. Ben Kelley (KTM) 1:13:20.604
7. Ian Blythe (KTM) 1:14:49.906
8. Brendan Riordan (Yam) 1:16:25.542
9. Mason Atherton (Hsq) 1:16:43.449
10. Anthony Frederico (Yam) 1:17:23.190
Shan MooreUS Contributorshan@tandenews.com