Steward Baylor topped a massive field of off-road competitors this weekend, taking an impressive win at the opening round of the 2015 Kenda AMA National Enduro Series in Sumter, South Carolina.
A record turnout of 825 riders took to Sumter’s tight and sandy trails, and after 65 miles of racing, Baylor held off a last minute challenge by FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell to take the overall victory by 13 seconds. Baylor’s win was significant in that the 2012 series champion is returning to action this year after spending all of last year recovering from injury.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Baylor. “This is where I’ve wanted to be since 2012, to be on top of the box. The day started out pretty rough, but I just kept pushing and it paid off.”
Baylor got off to a rough start in test one, losing valuable time when he crashed midway into the test. However, the Mototech KTM rider quickly regained his footing with a solid win in test two, finishing 10 seconds ahead of 2014 champ Andrew DeLong. In all, Baylor won only two of the six tests on the day, however, consistency paid off in the long run for the South Carolina rider, and he collected to first victory of the 2015 season.
Russell finished up the event with an impressive ride for second place, although he had his ups and downs. On the “up” side, Russell was fastest in the first and last tests of the day. However, a crash in test two left the North Carolina rider 10th fastest for the test. Russell was sixth fastest in test three, but then he started to pick up the pace and was second to Motosport Yamaha’s Brad Bakken in tests four and five. A win in the final test allowed Russell to move ahead of Motosport Yamaha’s Brad Bakken for second.
“It was good, bad and ugly,” said Russell. “I didn’t really get going until the end of the third test, and then I felt like I had a good rhythm.”
Bakken rounded out the podium, finishing just five seconds behind Russell. Bakken also got off to a slow start but came on strong in the middle part of the race before a bad final test stopped his momentum.
Fourth went to four-time champ Russell Bobbitt, who is back on KTM after spending the last few years on Husaberg and Husqvarna. The FMF/KTM rider lost considerable time in test four when he took a tumble and bent his controls, but came back with some good rides in the final two tests.
Beta USA’s Cory Buttrick turned in his best performance in a couple of years with a solid fifth place finish, while Chris Bach made a rare national enduro appearance to claim sixth, edging out Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Josh Strang by just two seconds.
Defending series champ Andrew DeLong ran in second place for most of the day, but a pair of devastating finishes in the final two tests dropped the Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing-backed rider all the way down into eighth for the day.
Meanwhile, Am Pro Yamaha’s Grant Baylor and AirGroup Racing’s Ryder Lafferty rounded out the top 10.
Australian off-road star Daniel Milner was expected to do well in Sumter, however, the Am Pro Yamaha rider ran out of fuel in test one when a mechanic forgot to fuel his bike, and he was not able to start the second test.
Zach Hayes won the Rekluse Expert-AA division, which is considered a stepping-stone for young riders hoping to move into the Pro ranks. The South Carolina rider was seventh fastest in the fifth test and he beat out fellow KTM rider Drew Higgins by three minutes and 49 second for the AA-Expert class-win. He also finished 12th in the final overall standings.
“I was really tight in the first test, and in test two I went over the bars, but then I start getting it together and rode strong for the rest of the race,” said Hayes.
Higgins had to overcome arm pump to finish second, while Motosport Yamaha’s Ryan Belue was 23 seconds back in third.
The Kenda AMA National Enduro Series resumes action with round two of the series on March 1st in Pelion, South Carolina. For more info on the series check out http://www.nationalenduro.com.
1. Steward Baylor (KTM)
2. Kailub Russell (KTM)
3. Brad Bakken (Yam)
4. Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
5. Cory Buttrick (Bet)
6. Chris Bach (Hon)
7. Josh Strang (Hus)
8. Andrew DeLong (Hus)
9. Grant Baylor (Yam)
10. Ryder Lafferty (Hus)