Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Josh Strang ends an almost two years win drought with victory at last weekend’s Full Gas Sprint Enduro at Lake Sugar Tree. 

 

Aussie off-road star, Josh Strang ended a lean period away from the top step of the podium by taking victory at round three of the 2018 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series at Lake Sugar Tree Raceway near Axton, Virginia: “This was a long time coming, and that’s what makes it special,” said Josh from the podium. 

Strang last won a round of the Sprint Enduro series on August 16, 2016, at the Rockcrusher Sprint Enduro in Georgia. not long after he suffered a foot injury during ISDE competition that same year, which proved a major setback. For just over a year now, josh has worked hard to regain the speed that once carried him to the 2010 GNCC title. 

“I feel like I’ve been getting a little faster with each race, but I got off on the wrong foot this weekend and I wasn’t sure I could recover,” said Strang. “I crashed in the first test on Saturday and lost a lot of time, so I was riding from behind right from the get-go. I just kept grinding away at it and I was able to make up some time and finish second for the day.”

 

strang sugar tree Sprint 006 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Shan Moore

 

On Sunday, Strang was consistently in the top three throughout the six tests, winning test five outright – a Cross test, bringing to an end Ryan Sipes’ undefeated status in 2018 Cross tests. 

After 12 tests and two days of racing, Strang took the overall win by 17 seconds from Layne Micheal. After the race, Strang revealed that he has changed a few things with his technique. 

“I’ve been working on a few things since the last race,” said Strang. “One of them was not using my rear brake as much. At the last race I think I needed five sets of rear brake pads and a complete brake line, this weekend I didn’t even change pads.”

With the win, Strang moved ahead of Grant Baylor and into third overall in the series standings.

Layne Michael struggled with the muddy conditions on Saturday but came on strong during Sunday’s event with the track tacking up after a wet and slippery previous day. The KR4 Husqvarna rider scored two test wins on Sunday to finish runner-up to Strang.

 

layne Michael sugar tree Sprint 129 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Shan Moore

 

“Things started off a little rough, I think I struggled with the conditions on Saturday,” said Michael, who was fifth at the end of the first day. “The conditions were a lot more to my liking today. The only thing I struggled with was staying off the ground in the Cross test.”

The Enduro test was Michael’s strong point and that’s where both of his wins came, although he was third in the final Cross test behind Steward Baylor and Ryan Sipes. 

Ryan Sipes rounded out a Husqvarna podium, 22 seconds behind Michael after winning five of the six Cross tests yet struggling in the Enduro tests. 

“I’m surprised to finish third considering how I rode this weekend,” said Sipes. “I had a few falls in the Enduro test, but even when I didn’t fall I was just off the pace. 

“I haven’t ridden in the woods in about a month and it really showed when I got in the Enduro test.”

 

mens Pro podium sugar tree Sprint 242 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Shan Moore

 

Sipes still leads the overall series standings by 11 points over Steward Baylor who could only manage sixth this weekend.

Fourth overall went to Grant Baylor, who battled for the lead on Saturday, however, the Tely Eenergy KTM rider struggled to stay on two wheels on Sunday.

“I was second in the first three tests on Saturday, so I was leading the race at that point,” said Grant. “After that, things went downhill. I crashed three times in the fourth test, and over the weekend I think I crashed seven or eight times.”

Despite the crashes, Grant was just eight seconds away from a podium finish behind Sipes.

Jordan Ashburn kicked off the weekend by winning Saturday’s opening Enduro test. The Beta USA rider was sitting third behind Evan Smith and Josh Strang at the end of that day. A tougher day on Sunday meant he settled on fifth overall. 

 

evan Smith sugar tree Sprint 125 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Shan Moore

 

SRT Racing’s Evan Smith deserves credit after finishing a heartbreaking ninth overall. Smith was in good shape to take the overall win for the weekend after turning in his best performance of the season and winning on Saturday. But a thrown chain in test four on Sunday threw a wrench in the works and left him with a DNF for the test.

“I was feeling good on Saturday and I think I just had fewer mistakes than everyone else.” Smith said after the race. “I carried that momentum into Sunday’s race but in the fourth test a rock hit the chain guide and threw the chain off and it ended up getting wrapped up in the countershaft sprocket.”

 

Pro2 Class win for McGee

In the Pro2 class, Braxton McGee took top honors, finishing almost a minute ahead of Cole Mattison and Billy Schlag in third. 

“It feels good to win one of these things,” said McGee. “I was battling all weekend with Cole and he was better in the Cross test, but I was able to get him back in the Enduro tests. I just kept pushing and I was able to make it happen.”

 

Braxton mcgee sugar tree Sprint 004 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Shan Moore

 

Women’s Pro division

Tayla Jones came out on top of yet another close battle with Mackenzie Tricker for the win in the Women’s Pro division. Tricker finished just a half-second faster than Jones during Saturday’s round, but Jones came back with a good ride on Sunday to take the overall win with Brooke Cosner third overall.

“It was very close with Mackenzie and the track was very challenging which made it a good race,” said Jones. “I was on the ground more than I wanted to but it was a good weekend.”

The pair traded fastest test times with Jones having the edge in the Cross test, while Tricker was fastest in the Enduro test.

“We were swapping back and forth and we went into the final test separated by seven seconds,” said Tricker. “I wanted to make up the deficit but I ended up going down and that cost me a chance.”

 

tayla Jones sugar tree Sprint 234 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Shan Moore

 

ISDE qualifiers

The Lake Sugar Tree race also doubled as an AMA ISDE Qualifier round. Eighteen Letter of Intent (LoI) riders signed up to try and qualify for this year’s ISDE in Chile.

James King of Hot Springs, Arkansas won the LoI class at his first attempt at qualification with 11th overall. The Honda rider also won the Lites A division.

“I had a lot of back-and-forth racing all weekend with Tyler Vore,” said King. “I had one bad test on Saturday that I had to come back from but Sunday went pretty well. I tend to do better in bad conditions so Saturday my times were better, but I was able to go 1-1 in the LoI class for the weekend.”

This was King’s first time to attempt to qualify for ISDE.

Cody Pingley won the Open A class over Luke Ross. Meanwhile, Sam Forrester beat out Amel Advokaat for top honors in the Vet A 30+ class. 

 

The Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series resumes action with round 4 of its series in Wellston, Ohio, on June 16-17. 

For more information: sprintenduro.com

OVERALL RESULTS

  1. Josh Strang (Hsq) 
  2. Layne Michael (Hsq)
  3. Ryan Sipes (Hsq)
  4. Grant Baylor (KTM)
  5. Jordan Ashburn (Bet)
  6. Steward Baylor (KTM)
  7. Mike Witkowski (Bet)
  8. Mario Testa (KTM)
  9. Evan Smith (Hsq)
  10. James Justice (KTM)

 

shan moore bio enduro21 09a 1200

Shan Moore
North America Correspondent