David Knight (KTM) again showed why he is the best enduro rider in the world, dominating Red Bull Last Man Standing for the second straight year, while 126 other riders were literally left out in the cold in north Texas. Knight, the 2005 and 2006 World Enduro Champion from the Isle of Man and British Enduro Champion Wayne Braybrook from the UK were the only riders to brave the elements and complete all 80 miles of the ultra-demanding layout on the Texas/Oklahoma border.
"Last Man Standing is the toughest race of the year," said Knight. "It's the toughest one out there. You know, you've just got to keep trying and trying and if you can't get up, you have to keep going and going, and for me that's what actually makes it brilliant. You know it's not finished until we get up to the finish and that's hard enough."
After a snowstorm swept through the Midwest on Thursday, blanketing the 40-mile course under three inches of snow and ice, the planned Friday qualifier was cancelled to allow riders en route to arrive at the event site. The mud created by the melting snow added an additional challenge to the course, which featured car-sized boulders, dirt sections, loamy sand, high speed straights and technical elements with steep climbs and descents.
Consequently, instead of 100 starters, all 128 riders blasted off the starting line at the explosion of the start canon. Knight got the holeshot and never looked back, completing the first lap in 2:34:54, 24 minutes clear of Braybrook (Gas Gas), 45 minutes in front of Guy Cooper (KTM) and more than two hours ahead of Chris Smith (Christini), the 11th and final rider to advance to the second lap.
As the sun went down and temperatures dropped into the 20s, the second and final lap began. Once again, Knight was off and running, with the remaining 10 riders giving chase. He finished the second lap in 3:15:33, but in a rare occurrence, needed help from a fellow rider to get up one of the big climbs.
Meanwhile, Braybrook methodically made his way through the course while the remaining riders teamed up in an attempt to get each other to the finish. True to the nature of the event, the trailing pack had major struggles and was still well away from the finish line when the race was declared over, with just Knight and Braybrook having completed both laps. The final results were based on a moto format, with Knight going 1-1 and Braybrook finishing 2-2. Cooper, 3-4, was third overall and the highest-finishing American.
"Next year, I'll have a sleep before I start one of these," said Knight. "This race just wears you down. I don't feel absolutely bad, but everything is a little bit tired."
"This is the hardest event I've ever done in 27 years of riding motorcycles," said Braybrook. "It makes Hells Gate [enduro] look like a walk in the park. No kidding, this has been the toughest event I've ever done."
Red Bull Last Man Standing Scoring (Moto Format)
RIDER MOTO 1 MOTO 2 TOTAL
David Knight (Isle of Man) 1 1 2
Wayne Braybrook (UK) 2 2 4
Guy Cooper (USA) 3 4 7
Cory Graffunder (Canada) 4 5 9
Russell Bobbitt (USA) 8 3 11
Kyle Redmond (USA) 7 7 14
Marty Halmazna (CAN) 10 6 16