Layne Michael, Kailub Russell Split Wins At Harleywood Full Gas Sprint Enduro
Am Pro Yamaha’s Layne Michael and FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell traded overall wins at this weekend’s three-day Harleywood Full Gas Sprint Enduro, rounds four and five of the 2020 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series in Bristol, Tennessee.
Round four had been scheduled for the previous weekend at Harleywood, which would have been back-to-back weekends at the course. However, thanks to a hurricane hovering off the coast, the weather forecast leading up to the first race called for two inches of rain and 30 mph gusts, so series promoter Jason Hooper decided to run both rounds over Labor Day Weekend. A call that worked out perfectly since Mother Nature cooperated over the three-day holiday.
The race for the overall win ended up being a dogfight between Russell and Michael all weekend, and Michael’s victory at round four (Saturday and Sunday) marked the first time this year anyone has able to wrestle the top step of the podium away from Russell. Russell had bike setup issues, then had brake problem. Michael’s was solid on his AM Pro Yamaha. “Now I feel like I’m back in tune with the bike,” said Michael. “This place suits me pretty good. You got to be patient. It’s rocky, it’s choppy and it’s not too tricky. I think this track, you can easily over-push and make more mistakes but it seems to suit my style really well.”
Michael would go on to win three tests on Saturday and four tests on Sunday, giving him the “day win” on Saturday and the overall win for round 4 of the series by 3 seconds over Russell.
Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Johnny Girroir continues to impress with his top finishes from the Pro 2 division. Girroir was third overall at round 4 and first in the Pro 2 class. “There were no berms, no ruts. It was a lot of just kind of body position and working the motorcycle and sliding around and staying on the front end and shifting your weight around,” said Girroir.
Grabbing his first Pro podium and fourth overall was Liam Draper. The Tely Energy Racing KTM rider started fast by winning the first Enduro test on Saturday. He consistently scored in the top-four the rest of the weekend. Four-time National Enduro Champion Steward Baylor put his privateer Kawasaki into fifth overall, just 16 seconds behind Draper. Meanwhile, Jordan Ashburn got the hard luck award for the day. The Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green rider was sitting in a solid third overall heading into the final test, but clipped a tree and lost his clutch, which cost him enough time to drop him to sixth overall.
The Harleywood course dried out a bit for Monday’s round 5, leaving mostly flat turns with no berms to speak of and Chile’s Ruy Barbosa drew first blood on his Husqvarna by winning the opening test of the day (a Cross test) by 1.5 seconds ahead of Michael, with Ashburn in third. Russell slid out in a dry turn and ended the test in sixth.
Barbosa, a former European Junior World Enduro Champion, was using the Harleywood race as a warm up for the upcoming World Enduro Series, which kicks off as stand-alone events this coming weekend at Hawkstone Park in Great Britain. Pro 2 riders owned the Cross test on Monday, as Girroir would win it on the second run, while Barbosa returned to take another win on the final pass.
Michael and Russell remained locked in a battle for the overall as they traded wins in tests two and four. Heading into the sixth and final test, Russell led Michael by less than 0.2-second for the overall win. Obviously upset at how the weekend had gone so far, Russell posted an amazing final test to claim the overall win by 6.8 seconds ahead of Michael. “I ride better when I’m pissed off,” said Russell. “A lot of people get mad and get frustrated and it works the opposite way, but if you piss me off I’m going to lay the hammer down. I was frustrated with how the day was going and how well Layne was riding. I felt like I was riding good. I ride with him all the time so I know where I stack up against him. He was definitely head and shoulders better than he’s ever been this weekend. I was frustrated and wanted to lay it all out there.”
Girroir was third overall once again, although this time he was being pushed hard by Barbosa in fourth. Barbosa ended the day with two outright test wins, while Girroir finished with one. However, Girroir was a bit more consistent and beat out Barbosa by about 15 seconds in the overall standings. Draper edged Ashburn by just two seconds for fifth overall, with Baylor coming in at seventh overall and fifth in the Pro division. Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Jesse Ansley was eighth ahead of 760 Husqvarna’s Ben Nelko and Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Jo Jo Cunningham.
In the Women’s Pro Class, Rockstar Husqvarna Lan Mills XC rider Tayla Jones had amassed enough of a lead in the series standings that she wrapped up her fourth Women’s Pro Championship just by starting Monday’s event. Enduro Engineering/ Mepmx/Fly/Grizzly Peak/Traveler’s Rest Speedway/KTM’s Mackenzie Tricker went on to take the round 5 win, with Archer rounding out the podium in third.
Tricker was pleased with her performance over the course of the three days.
“It couldn’t have gone much better,” said Tricker. “I won three days and both the overalls. Today I had a little bit of a lead going into the last test and I knew I didn’t want to make a mistake, so I cruised a little bit and ended up losing the last two tests today. Other than that, it was a great weekend.”