Athens County Fair Moto Enduro
Athens County Fairgrounds
Story and Photos by David L. Patton, Jr.
ATHENS, OH, AUG. 7, 2013
“Bad Thad” Duvall blasted to the Pro-class win at the inaugural Athens County Fair Moto Enduro, presented by KB Productions, Pat Smith, CPA and Action Sports Promotions. Duvall survived a crash over the tabletop of logs and a near fall over the firewood pit to hold off fellow GNCC competitor Jason Thomas to claim the victory. National Arenacross star Nathan Skaggs rounded out the top three, ahead of GNCC competitors Layne Michael and Rory Mead.
Nelsonville, Ohio’s Triston Landrum also rode well, taking wins in the Enduro A class and the Schoolboy class. Rachel Gutish has ridden all over the world in 2013, including at the X Games in Los Angeles, and her experience in this type of racing propelled her to the win in the Women’s division – and a large chunk of the $1,000 purse for the class.
The Fair entertainment for 2013 included arenacross-style motorcycle racing and the always popular Demolition Derby, but the fans who packed the grandstands got to see the best of both sports, as the $4,000 purse pulled in a great mix of racers going all out for the win. Athens’ off-road legend Kevin Brown – with the help of Drew Wolfe and his sons, Kyle and Ryan of Action Sports Promotions – laid out a gnarly course. Then, 40 minutes before practice started, a massive thunderstorm pounded the area.
“There is about six inches of mud on top now,” said Brown before practice started; but he noted that the storms did, however, help the riders, as he added with a smile, “I had some other obstacles to throw at the riders, but because of the rain, I left them out.”
Christopher Robertson, also from Athens, has ridden these types of races before, but even he was a little surprised.
“There is some iron here tonight, some names,” Robertson said. “I expected one or two really good riders, and there are 10. This track will be a lot more racy. I think the one at the Jackson Fair a few weeks ago was just an arenacross with some logs added to it.”
After practice, the Pro riders regrouped for the qualifiers.
“It is pretty slick, and the rocks are tough; you will have to put in solid laps and not wreck,” said Sam Evans, who has had a breakout season and was looking for a good result.
Layne Michael nailed the dead-engine start and blasted through the first turn on the Morgantown Powersports/ Scott/ Dunlop-backed KTM. Thad Duvall didn’t get off the line as well, but he was quickly up to speed.
“I didn’t get the greatest jump off the start,” Duvall said, “but I bulldogged my way into second.”
“I realized Thad got up behind me, and I slowed up to let him by,” Michael recounted. “I didn’t want to make a mistake, riding over my head to keep ahead of him.”
Duvall and Michael quickly left the rest of the field behind. Meanwhile, Nathan Skaggs slotted into third, while Rory Mead and Sam Evans were coming back from falls early on. Skaggs is used to banging bars in an arena with big jumps, and his minimal experience racing in the woods hadn’t prepared him for this race.
“I still have the supercross suspension on my bike, and there is too much water for me,” he laughed. “This is definitely out of my league.”
Skaggs is extremely talented, and he hung in there, holding third for the whole race.
Those in the packed grandstands cheered as Mead and Evans battled for that fourth and final transfer spot. Mead finally took control of it near the end on the Athens Sport Cycles/ RPM Racing/ Fly Racing-backed KTM.
“It’s hard to pass out there, and the rocks are getting kicked around,” Mead noted. “It will be a long main event.”
Evans was disappointed that he would have to race the last-chance qualifier.
“I struggled,” he confessed. “I got a bad start and got covered in water. Then I got impatient. I got into the top four and wrecked, got up there again and fell again. Hopefully I can ride more consistent in the LCQ.”
Duvall was stoked after his win on the Shenandoah Honda/ FMF/ USWE-backed Honda.
“Once I got into second, I had a couple of quicker lines and I got by,” Duvall said. “I just rode my own race. I saved a few things for the main, so hopefully I can get a good start and do it again. It is a challenging track.”
The second qualifier looked more like a demolition derby than a race. The firewood pit and the rocks took out the early leaders, and most of the field got tangled up on the first lap. Two riders who missed most of the action were Logan Karnow and Christopher Robertson.
“My bike took about seven kicks to start,” said Karnow. “I got a terrible start.”
Robertson also trailed the field early on.
“I got anxious on the start and killed it right there,” Robertson admitted. “I knew it was eight laps, and I knew the guys in the heat, so I thought I could get up to fourth.”
With nearly the entire field tangled up in wrecks, Utopia Goggles/ Stiff MX-backed Honda rider Logan Karnow slipped through to take the lead, and he checked out.
“This is the first one of these I have ridden,” Karnow said.
Jason Thomas, who originally hails from England, was also going fast after making a few mistakes in the beginning.
“I got a bad start, then had a problem in the logs over there,” Thomas said. “It is good to get that out of the way. I went down. Then I went down again.”
Thomas quickly recovered on the Dirtwise Academy/ KTM-Parts.com/ Maxxis-backed KTM 125.
“It was fun,” Thomas said. “I just picked up the bike on the way here, and I haven’t ridden a 125 since I was 16, but the track is getting better every lap.”
Karnow and Thomas put in smooth laps, with Justin Sode in tow, but once again the race was for the fourth and final transfer spot. Wheelsports/ KTM-backed Josh Gaitten is one of the state’s best Enduro riders, and he liked the course.
“It is a flowing track, for as technical as it is,” Gaitten said.
After the early chaos, Gaitten seemed to have things in hand, but Christopher Robertson, on the Robertson Motorfreight/ JD Performance/ Twin Air-backed Yamaha YZ250, was charging through the field.
“I caught Josh on the fifth or sixth lap,” Robertson recounted. “I was riding with a little more momentum, and I could tell he was getting tired. I just tried to find a good line to get by.”
Robertson made his move in the firewood pit. They ran into the pit side by side, but Robertson was a little stronger coming out, and he pounded over the log-filled tabletop and through the rocks to take fourth for a direct transfer to the main.
“There are so many fast guys here, I am really happy to make the main,” Robertson said.
“I have to get in better shape to ride these; because of my work, I haven’t been able to train enough, and the intensity is a lot higher here,” Gaitten said as he prepared for the LCQ.
Karnow was fired up by the win.
“This is awesome!” he enthused. “I guess I was one of the only riders to stay upright. A holeshot in the main would be great!”
With a trip to the main on the line, Sam Evans put the Team Hardcore Racing/ Appalachian Off Road MC/ Fly Racing-backed KTM out front early.
“I got clear track in front of me, and it went a lot better,” Evans reported. “The first two laps, I went fast. Then I tried to pace myself. If I can do that in the main, I think I can get a top-five finish.”
However, Cary Eberts from Jackson, Ohio, was able to edge Gaitten to make the main, and the 10-rider field was set.
“I struggled with fitness today,” Gaitten admitted after the race. “I am exhausted.”
Rachel Gutish competes in the National Enduro Series as well as GNCC races and international races similar to Moto Enduro, and she quickly took the lead in the Women’s Pro class. Gutish and Mandi Mastin led the field, and after turns taking the “Gambler Lane,” Gutish seemed to have a solid lead on the Obermeyer Yamaha/ Raines Riding University/ OffroadViking.com Yamaha. Then she got hung up in the firewood pit.
“The firewood is so tricky, because there is never a consistent line through it,” she noted. “Every time it is different, especially since it is so slippery.”
Gutish got caught in the firewood and fell trying to get her bike out, and Mastin took the lead. Gutish caught back up a lap later, and when Mastin made a small bobble, Gutish retook the lead and continued on her way to the win.
“This is a really good track,” she said. “It was a lot of fun today.”
Though the Pro riders were dialed in to the course, KB and Drew Wolfe had something special saved for the final. The start would be a dead-engine, Le Mans-style start, in which the riders would run to their bikes, fire them up, and take off.
“I am horrible at running; I have bad knees,” said Duvall.
The Pro riders would also have to make two laps using the Gambler Lane. At the end of the back-grandstand straight, the designers added about 20 feet, and then the course turns left. Two of the temporary concrete dividers, similar to those used on Ohio’s highways, had been laid on their sides to make two more obstacles, and then another left turn would lead the riders to the firewood pit. “The Gambler line for two laps will mix things up,” Duvall said. “If you take it in the beginning and a bunch of people don’t, you will be stuck behind traffic. It will be a game changer.”
Sam Evans has experience in Le Mans starts, and he got the jump on Jason Thomas to lead heading into the first turn. The slippery left-hander gave Evans problems, though, and Thomas took the lead, which he held until he crashed in the firewood pit. Thad Duvall took over the top spot, and on the next lap he peeled off for the Gambler Lane, and Thomas stayed with him.
“I knew Thad was one of the faster guys, so I followed him,” Thomas said.
Nathan Skaggs took over the point.
“Running to the bikes helped me out on the start, since my bike only has electric start, and it starts slow,” said Skaggs, who led the next lap on the Motorsports.com/ SpineChillers Race Team/ Rekluse/ Mika Metals/ DT1-backed KTM and then ducked into the Gambler section for his two laps. “I figured I better hit the Gambler while there was no traffic.”
With Duvall, Thomas and Skaggs all in the Gambler Lane, the other riders started following them, and for a few laps it was hard to see who held the lead. Kevin Brown and the Action Sports staff watered the course all night long, and every rider was covered in mud after a lap or two.
By lap four, things had sorted out, and Duvall had the lead. The TLD-backed Duvall began to pound out laps. Then he pulled out one of his moves in the firewood section.
“I told myself after practice that I would not try to jump over the firewood pit,” Duvall confided. “Then, in the race, I just started jumping it.”
Duvall would hit the log bordering the firewood pit and sail all the way over it, barely making the left-hand turn after the pit. Thomas was not able to match that move.
“My 125 did not have enough grunt,” Thomas said. “I could hang with Thad, but I couldn’t push it as hard as he could.”
Duvall wasn’t able to gap Thomas, though.
“I think I had an advantage launching off of the single into the log there, and in the middle technical stuff, I may have been a little more aggressive than Thad,” Thomas said.
Back in third, Skaggs was riding flawlessly.
“I had no clue where I was at, because I never got passed the whole race,” Skaggs said. “I figured I was doing pretty good. When I popped out of the Gambler, there wasn’t anyone really close.”
Layne Michael also had an excellent race, riding smoothly and, in his words, “just staying focused and hitting all of my lines.”
Rory Mead again had problems early on, but he was blasting up toward the front. “It is hard to pass out there,” said Mead, who was really fast through the rock section. “There are a couple of lines through there, but the rocks keep getting kicked around, especially coming out of the section.”
Most of the rocks were football-sized, and they got more slippery every lap.
Duvall made two big mistakes near the end of the race.
“I fell off over the logs on the tabletop,” he said. “I hit one, and I felt the bike slipping down, so I was ready for it and got right back up.”
Thomas closed in, but Duvall gapped him a little. Then, with two laps to go, Duvall jumped the firewood pit and his front wheel landed on a piece of firewood that had been knocked into the next turn. Duvall is one of the fastest, most talented woods riders in the United States, and he managed to stay on two wheels. When the checkered flag fell, he had a small gap over Thomas, with Skaggs in third. Layne Michael and Rory Mead were next, making it four KTMs in the top five. Evans and Robertson could not crack the top five after early crashes.
“I was worried about Thomas getting away,” Duvall said. “I didn’t get a great start, but I was able to catch him and get by. Then I made a huge mistake and fell in the logs and almost crashed in the firewood, but I held on for the win.”
Thomas was happy with his first race on a 125 in 13 years.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I couldn’t catch Duvall, so I laid back and got second. I made enough money tonight.”
Skaggs was also satisfied with his evening.
“I just rode the race, kept trying to go forward,” Skaggs said. “I think if I had my bike set up better, I would have gotten over the logs and rocks better, but overall everything worked out pretty well.”
For future racing information, go to kbenduro.com.
The next event at Actions Sports will be a Grand Prix on Sunday, October 20, 2013. Call 740/594-MOTO (6686) or go to actionsportsracing.com for more information.
Athens County Fair Moto Enduro
Results: August 7, 2013
PRO: 1. Thad Duvall (Hon); 2. Jason Thomas (KTM); 3. Nathan Skaggs (KTM); 4. Layne Michael (KTM); 5. Rory Mead (KTM); 6. Sam Evans (KTM); 7. Chris Robertson (Yam); 8. Justin Sode (Bet); 9. Logan Karnow (Hon); 10. Cary Eberts (KTM).
85: 1. Brayden Coler (Hon); 2. Blayke Coler (KTM).
TRIALS: 1. Nathan Thornhill (Shc).
ENDURO A: 1. Triston Landrum (KTM); 2. Zach Dotson (KTM); 3. Nathan Thornhill (Shc); 4. Cody Meeks (KTM); 5. Jeff Husted (KTM).
ENDURO B: 1. Chad Campbell (Yam); 2. Ethan Wolfe (Yam); 3. Chris Bartone (KTM); 4. Ryan Stalter (Yam); 5. Justin Klingensmith (KTM).
ENDURO C: 1. Jacob Walburn (KTM); 2. Austin Evans (KTM); 3. Brent Windland (Suz); 4. David Sams (KTM); 5. Kris Reeves (KTM); 6. Jamie Walker (KTM); 7. Braden Ballentine (KTM); 8. Nick Walsh (KTM); 9. Kyle Jolly (KTM).
WOMEN A: 1. Rachel Gutish (Yam); 2. Mandi Mastin (KTM); 3. Lindsay Morgan (Hon); 4. Nicole Hays (Yam).
SCHOOLBOY: 1. Triston Landrum (KTM); 2. Brayden Coler (Hon); 3. Braden Ballentine (KTM); 4. Blayke Coler (KTM); 5. Dalton Houser (Hon).
16-24: 1. Zach Dotson (KTM); 2. Chad Campbell (Yam); 3. Nathan Morgan (KTM).
25+: 1. Cory Atwood (Bet); 2. Cary Eberts (KTM).
35+: 1. Jeff Husted (KTM); 2. Cory Atwood (Bet).