Kailub Russell celebrated his 30th birthday on Saturday by dominating the opening round of the 2020 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series, taking an impressive victory at the GTR Complex in Gaston, South Carolina.
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The FMF/KTM Factory rider, who is now actually eligible to race the Vet 30+ class, topped the time charts by nearly a minute-and-a-half over Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Ricky Russell to claim the win, while Am Pro Yamaha’s Layne Michael capitalized on two test wins to finish third.
“I felt pretty decent and I was pretty happy with where I was on the track and physically,” said Kailub. “Everything was kind of flowing and I was not trying overly hard to put in the times that I was putting in. So that was a plus. We made a bunch of changes throughout the weekend with the bike, playing around with it. Just trying to figure out which direction to go when the track gets a certain kind of condition. We went back and forth and made a bunch of changes and everything seemed to work pretty well all around for the most part. It was a really solid weekend of tuning and testing and having good results, too.”
On Saturday, Kailub put everyone on notice by winning the opening test (a Cross test) by more than 10 seconds ahead of Coastal Racing’s Craig DeLong.
Things began to too look bad for the competition as Kailub extended his lead with every test, with the exception of the third test when he dropped his front wheel in a hole and went down.
Am Pro Yamaha’s Layne Michael took advantage of the situation and won the test.
Meanwhile, Ricky Russell was slowly gaining his sprint legs and began battling Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Josh Strang and Michael for third.
In the end, Kailub won Saturday’s event by almost a minute, with Ricky in second and Strang in third.
Michael was fourth but might have had a shot at second had he not wrapped his brake pedal around his footpeg, which cost him considerable time.
“Saturday was going pretty good,” said Michael. “I stayed pretty mistake-free all day, just kind of started off slow. I was picking up speed as the day went and I felt really good and then in the last test I didn’t know what happened. I just kind of went against the bank and then I was on the ground. I was pretty confused because I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong, but after looking at the track I saw there was just a little hidden stump kind of in the track, or where we banked off, and it just happened to grab my footpeg and broke the brake tip off. Then it actually bent the rest of the pedal that was left on top of my footpeg, so I couldn’t even have my foot hardly on the peg and it cost me a lot of time.”
On Sunday, Kailub was all business again and won the opening test by nearly eight seconds over Ricky Russell. Tely Energy Racing’s Liam Draper, who was last year’s Pro2 Champion, turned in one of his best performances of the weekend for third.
Russell, Michael and Strang battled all day for second behind Kailub, with Michael getting the best of Ricky by over four seconds to take the runner-up slot, thanks in part to another test win over Kailub in the final test. Strang was fourth ahead of Draper.
Overall, Kailub easily topped the podium, ahead of Ricky in second. Third went to Michael by virtue of his two test wins.
Strang was frustrated with fourth overall. The 2018 series champ had looked as though he would finish second on Saturday, but test five had to be thrown out for the Pro class due to a track banner that got taken down, which dropped him to third for the day and fourth overall for the weekend.
“It was a bit disappointing,” said Strang. “I think I might have finished third if we had that test in. I struggled a little bit all weekend, but other than that, it’s good to be back racing. The track got really rough this weekend, so I think compared to last year it was maybe rougher. The sand was a little wetter than normal and it created some more bumps. But it was good. For the most part I felt decent, but not as good as I feel like I should have. But it’s all right.”
Draper was fifth in the Pro class.
“I started off rough,” said the New Zealander. “Day one, test one, I crashed. It just put me back, but today I rode good. I was happy with that. Mixing it up with the top boys. I’m up in the XC1 now so it’s no joke, really. You got some fast boys out there. Hopefully round two goes better.”
DeLong had several good tests, but a few rough ones to go along with it and finished sixth.
“Obviously Saturday was better,” said DeLong, who was riding a 350. He normally rides a 250. “I was kind of in the mix for a podium for most of the day until the end, and then I kind of fell apart. Today I was just struggling. I tried to make some adjustments to try to make it better as the track got rougher, but it didn’t seem to work out in the beginning of the day. I had a decent test halfway through but then in the woods test I struggled the most. I’m not sure if it was me or the bike or just a combination, but I just couldn’t seem to find the speed that everyone else was riding with.”
Ashburn rounded out the top seven in the Pro division.
The Pro2 class was a battle deluxe between Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Lyndon Snodgrass, from Australia, and Trail Jesters KTM’s Johnny Girroir. Snodgrass was solid on Saturday, winning four of five tests, while Girroir won the remaining test.
On Sunday, Snodgrass and Girroir went back and forth again, with Girroir taking Sunday’s win, however, Snodgrass claimed the overall thanks to his strong performance on Saturday.
“Johnny beat me by a few seconds today, but we’ve got the overall for the weekend, so that’s pretty cool,” said Snodgrass. “I’ve enjoyed myself out here. We finished up with no injuries or nothing, so that’s good as well.”
Third went to former Pro motocrosser from Pennsylvania, Ben Nelko, on a Seven Sixty Motorsports Husqvarna.
“I’m not really a sand rider but I was able to make it work,” said Nelko. “I ended up third in Pro 2 and ninth overall, so it was a good weekend.”
The ProAm class went to local boy Cole Mattison. The KTM rider topped Georgia’s Josh Lee by 1.57 seconds with Pennsylvania rider Neil Enman finishing third.
“I took a digger on the first cross test, but other than that I just tried to hold my lead and bring it in home with the win,” said Mattison.
Rockstar Husqvarna Lan Mills XC rider Tayla Jones had a scare in the Women’s Pro class when she dropped her bike into a deep mudhole on Saturday and lost over a minute getting out. Jones made up the time by winning every test on Sunday to take the overall win ahead of BABS Racing/Maxxis/Fly/Pro Circuit Yamaha’s Becca Sheets by nearly 15 seconds.
“The tracks are super rough, but overall I had a lot of fun,” said Jones. “The first race of the season went really well, so I can’t really complain. Saturday, I ended up getting stuck in a mud hole and lost like a minute thirty, so I had to come back from that. So that kind of sucked and put me behind going into the last couple tests, but I ended up making up the time. I won yesterday and today, so I’m pretty stoked.”
New Zealand’s Rachel Archer was third on an Am Pro Yamaha, while Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish finished fourth and Canada’s Shelby Turner was fifth. CN
2020 South Carolina Full Gas Sprint Enduro Results
- Kailub Russell (KTM) 1:17:57.180
- Ricky Russell (Hus) 1:19:24.092
- Layne Michael (Yam) 1:19:29.417
- Lyndon Snodgrass (Kaw) 1:19:29.562
- Josh Strang (Kaw) 1:19:36.451
- Johnny Girroir (KTM) 1:19:36.985
- Liam Draper (KTM) 1:20:18.458
- Craig Delong (Hus) 1:20:32.433
- Ben Nelko (Hus) 1:21:21.995
- Jordan Ashburn (Kaw) 1:21:25.446
Get the complete South Carolina Full Gas Sprint Enduro results here.
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