Photography By: Shan Moore
The 2013 AMA/Rekluse National Enduro Series Presented By Moose Racing, kicks off this weekend in Greensboro, Georgia, with the opening round of this year's 10-round series, and the competition should be more competitive as ever.
Veterans like Mike Lafferty, Russell Bobbitt, Nick Fahringer, Andrew DeLong, Brad Bakken and Charlie Mullins will be going head to head with young guns like last year's champ Stu Baylor, Jesse Groemm, Paddy Holloway and Shane Hufford Jr. in the battle for this year's title. Unfortunately, Baylor will still be sporting a cast on his wrist for a few more weeks and won't be in action until at least round two of the series in South Carolina, however, don't count out the newly signed KTM factory rider, since Mullins won the 2010 title after DNFing a round, so anything is possible.
Speaking of Mullins, the KTM rider is finally healthy after spending most of last year dealing with a multitude of injuries and he has his sights on regaining the title he lost to Bobbitt in 2011.
In the meantime, Bobbitt, who has been on team KTM for what seems like forever, has joined eight-time enduro champ Mike Lafferty on the factory Husaberg effort and has had some impressive results during the off-season, making him one of the riders to watch in 2013.
"I'm really excited to race for the Factory Husaberg Team," says Bobbitt, who is an avid two-stroke fan. "I know that Husaberg is looking to gain ground in the enduro segment and I'm excited to help them pursue that goal alongside Mike [Lafferty]."
Meanwhile, Lafferty, who finished runner-up to Baylor last year, will be going for an unprecedented ninth national enduro title this year.
Nick Fahringer switched teams as well, going from the factory Husaberg team to Air Group Racing, a satellite team from Nebraska. Fahringer's teammate on the AirGroup Racing team will be Paddy Holloway, a Virginia rider with youth and plenty of potential on his side.
Signing with Yamaha during the off-season was last year's Top Pro Rookie honoree Jesse Groemm, who will be riding a 2013 YZ250 two-stroke for Randy Hawkin's AmPro Yamaha team. Groemm just missed the podium on two different occasions during last year's series and is a sure bet to challenge for a top-three spot this year. The New Jersey rider had a strong performance at the Sumter Enduro on February third, winning the first two tests.
"This is truly an opportunity of a life time for me," says Groemm. "I can't thank AmPro enough for giving me a shot at my dream. I love racing the National Enduro Series and look forward to a year of learning and mentoring from one of the best enduro racers in history."
Husqvarna will once again be represented by Fred Andrew's FAR Husqvarna Racing team and will feature Andrew DeLong and Nick Davis. DeLong is a scrappy competitor from Pennsylvania who finished seventh in last year's series despite missing two rounds due to injury. He will be a solid podium threat in the coming series.
Another podium threat for 2013, and a solid top-five performer is Brad Bakken, who will once again ride a 250F for the Obermeyer Yamaha/Raines Riding University/OffRoadviking.com Team.
Coming in for his first full year of Enduro racing will be Australian off-road star Rory Mead, who has backing from Florida-based WMR Off-road Racing for the coming season. Mead is a former trials competitor and excels at the really tough events, so the Enduro series should suit him well.
Not lining up in Georgia will be Cory Buttrick, who recently re-injured the knee that he just had surgery on and explains on his blog that he's looking at a return to racing this summer, although it is not clear on what bike, or with what team.
Something new to this year's series is the amended start procedure, which will see the pros line up according to their finish at the previous round. This will even out the advantage a rider might get by starting on a later or earlier row depending on the weather or conditions.
Another noteworthy topic is the sizable pro purse that will payout in 2013. This year's KENDA/NEPG Pro Purse will amount to a 25% increase of last year and will pay the top eight spots overall. Here's a breakdown: $900, $500, $300, $250, $225, $175, $150 and $125.
In additon, AirGroup is posting the $5000 AirGroup Bounty at each of the five new 2013 venues in Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Oklahoma, which will pay $1000 per race to any rider that can win all six test. If no rider wins, then the money rolls over to the next race amounting to a $2000 bonus, similar to the skins game.
CycleNano is also having a free demo Husaberg giveaway to the Women's class champion at the end of the year.
For more information on this year's series check out www.nationalenduro.com.