Russell Bobbitt claimed a surprise victory at the Sumter National Enduro, the opening round of the 2019 Kenda AMA National Enduro Series.
Despite apparently retiring from full-time racing nearly two years ago, Russell Bobbitt claimed the win ahead of Steward Baylor at Wedgefield, South Carolina this weekend.
The Gnarly Routes KTM rider, Bobbit, last won a National Enduro in 2016 but the 33-year-old managed to find a bit of that old magic outrunning defending national champ Baylor by 16 seconds after six tests and 64 miles of racing.
This year’s Sumter Enduro marked its 50th anniversary and the SERMA Club put on a near-perfect event with a massive turnout of over 800 riders filling the start grids. In fact, the event sold out within 10 minutes after sign-up opened and a good sign for National Enduro in the U.S.A.
Perfect conditions at Wedgefield
Bobbitt started fast, winning the first three tests, as dark clouds threatened to dump rain on Wedgefield. Heading into the fourth test, Bobbitt enjoyed a 54-second advantage over Evan Smith, with Baylor another four seconds back.
Tely Energy Racing’s Baylor, dealing with a nagging knee injury, made worse with a practice crash a week earlier, still settled in by the second half of the race and started reeling off test wins in an effort to catch Bobbitt.
Baylor would catch and pass Smith in the final test of the day, but he would come up 16 seconds short of catching Bobbitt with Smith in third.
“It was super fun to be back on the two-stroke, it felt like old times,” said Bobbitt. “The first three tests went well, and I kept it clean. The wet sand conditions make up some of my favorite style terrain to ride. I caught a flow early on and rode well all day. The last three tests went well, too, with good times and I was stoked to be in the top five.”
Baylor was happy with second after finishing 2-4-5 in the first three tests: “I started the day off riding very tight and almost with a mental block and I really found myself struggling in the first half,” said Baylor. “But for the final half of the race, I was able to turn the day around and win the final three tests, but it just wasn’t enough to close the gap that I had lost in the first three.”
Smith matched a career-best with his third-place finish: “I rode tight most of the day and I just didn’t have that comfort level I was looking for, but I think I was capable of going faster,” said Smith. “I had a couple of crashes that cost me some time, but I picked up some good lines and for the most part it was a clean day. I was ahead of Steward going into the last test, but I jammed my wrist and struggled to hold on.”
Mike Witkowski turned in a career-best ride with fourth overall. The Beta USA rider also finished second in test four, which is another first for him. GasGas North America’s Thorn Devlin looked impressive all day and rounded out the top five, finishing 36 seconds ahead of Ohio Husqvarna rider Cory Buttrick.
NE Pro2 class for Hayes
Zach Hayes (KTM) overcame a crash in the second test to finish seventh overall and first in the NEPro2 class. “Seventh overall is a personal best so I’m really happy with that,” said Hayes. “After I crashed I just put my head down and started charging.”
AirGroup/Enduro Engineering Husqvarna’s Jake Froman, who is starting his first full year in the Pro division, came away with eighth overall, just 23 second behind Hayes.
New Zealand’s Liam Draper put his Tely Energy KTM into ninth overall, which was good enough for second in the NEPro2 division. Meanwhile, Tegan Temple (KTM) was 10th overall and third in NEPro2.
Tricker takes the Women’s class
Mackenzie Tricker got the season off to a good start with a big win in the Women’s Elite class, topping defending champion Tayla Jones by over a minute. These two battled back and forth all last year and it looks like 2019 will be more of the same. Brooke Cosner rounded out the podium on a KTM after posting some impressive rides.
Eight-time National Enduro Champ Mike Lafferty came out of retirement to compete, riding a KTM 500 EXC to the win in the AA division. Mike thrilled the fans with his go-for-it style and his trademark smile.
The Kenda AMA National Enduro Series returns to action on March 24 at the Alligator Enduro in Ormond Beach, Florida.
Sumter National Enduro 2019 Results:
- Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
- Steward Baylor (KTM)
- Evan Smith (Hsq)
- Mike Witkowski (Bet)
- Thorn Devlin (GG)
- Cory Buttrick (Hsq)
- Zach Hayes (KTM)
- Jake Froman (Hsq)
- Liam Draper (KTM)
- Tegan Temple (KTM)
More information: nationalenduro.com
Report and Photos Shan MooreNorth American Correspondentshan@tandenews.com