Race on a golf course? YES ! Defending champion FMF/KTM rider Kailub Russell lead the field into Hidden Valley Golf Course in Glen Daniel, West Virginia; round two of the 2020 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series. Story and photo by: Shan Moore.
Russell set the stage by winning the opening cross test by just .4-second ahead of Strang, which would be an indicator of the two days to come. Russell admittedly made his share of mistakes over the weekend, and Strang kept him honest.
“It was pretty up and down, really,” said Russell. “On Saturday I couldn’t keep it off the ground. I crashed twice in the first two tests and I still won them. Each one was by less than a second; just minute wins. Luckily, I was still in the fight there. The woods are iffy and not my favorite and I had a three-second lead going into the last test and I threw it away. That really kind of pissed me off.”
Strang took the win on Saturday, finishing a little less than five seconds ahead of Russell. Meanwhile, Pro2 rider Johnny Girroir turned some heads by finishing third overall for the day, the Trail Jesters Racing KTM rider finishing 13 seconds ahead of Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Jordan Ashburn, with AmPro Yamaha’s Layne Michael, who is rebounding from a shoulder injury a few weeks ago, rounding out the top five overall, another three seconds back.
On Sunday, Russell came back strong, but stalled his engine twice during the first test, the Cross test, having damaged his kill switch from the crash on the previous day. This gave Strang a little more daylight, as Michael finished second and Russell rebounded for third. However, Russell took out his frustrations on the Enduro test, where he had crashed the afternoon before, and won the test by an amazing 10 seconds.
“This morning I felt like I really should have got that time back and won the first test, but I had a little bike malfunction,” said Russell. “So yesterday when I crashed we were thinking I damaged my kill switch because my bike shut off on me twice in the very first test today. That’s the only thing we could think of was the wires were shorting out. But it did it twice and I only lost by four seconds. I was pretty happy with that because like I said, the first time it did it, it took me three or four seconds right there just to get it to refire. Then, I just rode that first woods test today real pissed off. I knew I was better than that. I got all the time back in the lead in the one test. I won by ten seconds. I just hung it out. It was actually better that I had somebody to catch in front of me. So I was super focused in that test and I absolutely smashed it. I felt like I threw it away there on Saturday, but Josh was riding good. He kept me honest all weekend. It was tough.”
Strang finished the weekend off just 2.5 seconds behind Russell for second overall, which the Aussie off-road was pleased with.
“You just have to be aggressive but also have to not make any mistakes, and it’s difficult,” said Strang. “I enjoyed it yesterday more so than today, but the woods test for me was fun all weekend. My times were competitive too, which was good. Usually the Cross test I’m more competitive and I lose a little bit in the enduro. I think I won four enduro tests, so that’s good for me. Overall, the weekend was good. I lost the overall by two and a half seconds. I didn’t do anything wrong. I had a few small mistakes but all my tests were pretty good. Kailub had a killer first enduro test today. He was ten seconds faster than everyone all weekend. That’s Kailub. He can pull it out, he must have been on edge. He does it everywhere. He’s good at it.”
There was a major focus on Girroir on Sunday, to see if he could repeat his third overall finish from Saturday, and the Southwick, Massachusetts-native delivered, edging Michael by just less than six seconds and securing third overall for the weekend. The finish also put Girroir at the top of the Pro2 division.
“I started off a little bit slow, just timid on the weekend,” said Girroir. “I didn’t really want to crash, but it’s not the name of the game here. It’s sprinting. I think I won 11 out of 12 tests in Pro2, so it feels good. I liked the roots and rocks and stuff in the Enduro test. They were just slick and high-speed, so it was a little dangerous.”
Michael finished P3 in the Pro class and fourth overall.
“Today (Sunday) was much better for me,” said Michael. “I stayed off the ground all day which was huge. I just kind of felt more comfortable today. Yesterday was the first time I’ve ridden in the woods in five weeks. I’ve just had some time off the bike. Today I felt much more like myself. I was contesting for test wins. I didn’t get one, but I was close all day.”
Michael ended up with three runner-up finishes on Sunday.
Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Jordan Ashburn was fourth in the Pro division and fifth overall.
“I got some good tests on Saturday,” said Ashburn. “I just made a few mistakes on Sunday. Today I just wasn’t quite on the edge. Layne picked up some time on me. Overall, I’m happy with the weekend.”
Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Liam Draper, who moved into the Pro division this year after winning the Pro2 championship last year was sixth overall.
“I got off to a slow start both days, really,” admitted Draper. “I couldn’t figure out this Cross test all weekend. That was my downfall. But I had a fun weekend. Battling with these Pro 1 boys is no joke, really. They’re fast guys. It’s all tight turns, but I really enjoyed the Enduro test a lot and I had fun, so it was a good weekend.”
Former National Enduro winner Cory Buttrick was seventh overall.
“It was pretty up and down,” said Buttrick. “I wish I could have started where we finished. I finally started making steps in the right direction. I feel like the last three tests today (Sunday) I finally started racing instead of riding. It felt like all weekend I was kind of just scared to go the pace. I was just struggling to carry speed everywhere. I couldn’t connect an entire lap. I made a few small changes to the bike today just suspension-wise. I picked up some time. Finally I was happy with how we finished. We were heading in the right direction.”
Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Jesse Ansley went into the final test on Sunday with a nine-second advantage over 760 Husqvarna’s Ben Nelko for second place in the Pro2 class, but a crash in the final test dropped him to third in class and ninth overall, behind Nelko.
“I was third Pro2 rider at the end of day one, then I made up really good ground the beginning of today,” said Ansley. “Then going into the last test I had a nine-second buffer on Ben. I ultimately blew it, honestly. Ben caught me and I crashed up. I just gave up so much time. Then for me to be in a good position and I just blew it. Obviously it’s all on me. I just got to go back and figure it out.”
Former Pro Motocrosser Andrew Matusek rounded out the top 10 overall on a Suzuki.
Matusek also won the Open A class ahead of Hans Neel and Luke Ross.
West Coast rider JT Baker won the ProAm class on a FactoryONE Sherco, beating out round-one winner Cole Mattison. Anson Maloney, another Californian, was third.
In the Women’s Pro Class, Rockstar Husqvarna Lan Mills XC rider Tayla Jones took the win by just less than four seconds ahead of Am Pro Yamaha’s Rachel Archer.
“I had a pretty good weekend,” said Jones. “I was super stoked to be back at the Full Gas races, these are my favorite. The tracks were awesome. It got dry and dusty, but it’s summertime. What do you expect? I didn’t have any crashes. I was pretty amazed at that with how slick the conditions were. I had fun and got another win here, so I’m stoked.”US ISDE Team member Brandy Richards, of Arizona, was third on an FMF/KTM.