Axton, VA (May 19-20, 2018) – “This was a long time coming, and that’s what makes it special,” Josh Strang said from the podium after winning his first KENDA Full Gas Sprint Enduro overall in two years.
To be exact, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory rider last won a round of the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro series on August 16, 2016, at the Rockcrusher Sprint Enduro in Young Harris, Georgia. However, the Aussie off-road star ended that long dry spell by taking the overall victory at this weekend’s Lake Sugar Tree Sprint Enduro – round three of the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series at Lake Sugar Tree Raceway near Axton, Virginia.
Not long after his 2016 victory, Strang suffered a foot injury during ISDE competition, which was a major setback for him. For just over a year now, Strang has worked hard to regained 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.”
On Sunday, Strang was consitently in the top three throughout the six tests and he won test five outright – a Cross test, which ruined Ryan Sipes’ undefeated status in 2018 Cross tests.
After 12 tests and two days of racing, Strang took the overall win by 17 seconds over 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, and this weekend I didn’t even change pads. So I’m trying to stay off the brakes as much as I can and I think that made a big difference.”
With the win, Strang moved ahead of Steward Baylor and into second overall in the series standings.
Relentless rain on the days leading up to the race, and during Saturday’s event, left the Lake Sugar Tree course in less than desirable condition. However, the Full Gas track crew did a fantastic job of prepping the course and by the end of the weekend, and after the sun came out on Sunday, most of the riders agreed that the course was epic.
Layne Michael struggled with the muddy conditions on Saturday, but came on strong during Sunday’s event with the track tacking up. The KR4 Husqvarna rider scored two test wins on Sunday to finish just behind Strang in the runner-up slot.
“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 of racing. “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 suit and that’s where both of his wins came, although he was third in the final Cross test behind Steward Baylor and Ryan Sipes.
“Overall, I’m really happy with my result,” added Michael. “It’s progress for me; I’ve been struggling a little bit this year with comfort and consistency. I feel like today I was able to really find my groove.”
Ryan Sipes rounded out the podium 22 seconds behind Michael. The Rockstar/Leatt/Maxxis Husqvarna rider won five of the six Cross tests over the weekend, but struggled 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’ve been traveling a lot lately and racing a lot of different kinds of races and I haven’t ridden in the woods in about a month, and it really showed when I got in the Enduro test.”
Despite the finish, Sipes still leads the overall series standings by 7 points over Josh Strang.
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 the opening test on Saturday, an Enduro test. The Beta USA rider was sitting third behind Evan Smith and Josh Strang at the end of the day. Sunday was a tough day for the Tennessee rider, however, and he settled for fifth overall at the end of two days of racing.
“It was pretty muddy when we started on Saturday and I was able to win that first test, which put me in good shape,” said Ashburn. “I felt really comfortable in that first test but it ended up being shortened because of the conditions, and I think that took away my advantage, so I was trying to make up for that in the Cross test and it just didn’t happen.”
Tely Racing KTM-backed Steward Baylor rounded out the top six, finishing 24 seconds behind Ashburn. Meanwhile, Beta USA’s Mike Witkowsi claimed his best finish of the year in seventh.
Ohio motocrosser Mario Testa was eighth overall on a borrowed KTM, while SRT Racing’s Evan Smith finished a heartbreaking ninth overall after winning Saturday’s round. Smith turned in his best performance of the season on Saturday and was in good shape to take the overall win for the weekend, when a thrown chain in test four on Sunday threw a wrench in the works and left him with a DNF for the test.
“That’s dirt bike racing,” Smith said after the race. “I was feeling good on Saturday and I think I just had fewer mistakes than everyone else. I felt strong and fast and 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.”
Ohio rider James Justice finished off the top 10 on a KTM.
In the Pro2 class, Braxton McGee took top honors on a Husqvarna, finishing almost a minute ahead of KTM-mounted Cole Mattison. The win was Braxton’s first in the Pro2 class.
“It feels good to win one of these things,” said McGee. “I started off with two bad tests so I was trying to push hard to overcome that. 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.”
The fight for the final podium position was a close one between GasGas rider Tyler Vore and TrailPros/Ride On Moto’s Billy Schlag. Schlag, the defending Full Gas Open A Class champion, made the move to the new Pro2 class for 2018 and was able to nab the final podium position, his first of the season, by just 5-seconds over Vore at the end of the weekend.
Pro2 points leader, KR4 Husqvarna’s Liam Draper suffered the same fate as Evan Smith with a derailed chain on Saturday which took him out of the hunt for the overall. The Kiwi was able to regroup and took the win on day two and keep his championship points lead over Braxton McGee.
KR4/Husqvarna/Rockstar’s Tayla Jones came out on top of a close battle with Bonanza Plumbing/Trail Jesters KTM’s Mackenzie Tricker for the win in the Women’s Pro division. Tricker finished 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.
“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.”
Jones had 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 so I just went out and sent up but I ended up going down and that cost me a chance.”
Brooke Cosner was third overall on a Yamaha.
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 with an 11th overall finish. 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 go to www.sprintenduro.com.
|1||114||Joshua Strang||Pro (1)||Denver, NC||12||01:20:06.876|
|2||523||Layne Michael||Pro (2)||Boonville, NC||12||01:20:23.730|
|3||264||Ryan Sipes||Pro (3)||Ekron, KY||12||01:20:50.975|
|4||14||Grant Baylor||Pro (4)||Belton, SC||12||01:20:58.786|
|5||2||Jordan Ashburn||Pro (5)||Livingston, TN||12||01:20:59.416|
|6||1||Steward Baylor||Pro (6)||Belton, SC||12||01:21:23.164|
|7||282||mike witkowski||Pro (7)||north liberty, IN||12||01:24:26.121|
|8||217||Braxton McGee||Pro 2 (1)||Beulaville, NC||12||01:25:07.913|
|9||29||Cole Mattison||Pro 2 (2)||Inman, SC||12||01:26:10.148|
|10||17||Mario Testa||Pro (8)||homerville, OH||12||01:27:00.091|
For complete results visit results.sprintenduro.com.