KTM's Charlie Mullins starts 2014 AMA National Enduro Championship strong
March 03, 2014
Story and photo by Shan Moore
Charlie Mullins kicked off the 2014 season with a big way by taking a dominating win at the opening round of the Kenda AMA National Enduro Championship Series in Pelion, S.C., a race that saw a record 721 entries sign up for the event.
Mullins got off to his usual strong start, winning the first five tests on the tight and sandy South Carolina course, before cooling his jets and cruising home for the win in the final test. In the end, the FMF/KTM rider beat out second place finisher Jesse Groemm by one minute and 34 seconds.
“It feels good to start off the year with a win,” said Mullins, who is looking to claim his second straight, and third career national enduro title. “I took a pretty hard crash in the first test, but I was able to keep the bike running the get back on the gas fast enough to still win the test.”
In contrast, Groemm, who is riding Shane Watt’s Maxxis/Klim/Dirtwise KTM Race Team in 2014, got off to a slow start in the 10.5-mile opening test, but came on strong in the end, finishing up with the fastest time in the final test.
“I was tight and felt like I was riding horrible in the first test, but I picked it up after that and had a strong finish, which put me into the runner-up spot,” said Groemm.
Stu Baylor rounded out the podium in his first major race since suffering a wrist injury over a year ago. The FMF/KTM rider was sitting in fourth behind Mike Lafferty until the fifth test when Lafferty missed a marker and lost nearly two minutes trying to get back on course.
AirGroup Racing Husqvarna’s Nick Fahringer finished fourth, despite discovering afterwards that he had broken some internal fork components during the race, which he thought cost him some time.
Lafferty was fifth on his FMF/KTM, though disappointed at missing out on a podium due to his mishap in test five.
Sixth place went to Am Pro Yamaha’s Brad Bakken on a YZ250F.
Despite getting only a few hours on his new bike, Husqvarna’s Andrew DeLong finished the day in seventh.
Shane Hufford was eight on his KR4-backed KTM, while factory Beta’s Cory Buttrick and JCR Honda’s Chris Bach rounded out the top 10.
Russell Bobbitt pushed Mullins in the first two tests, finishing just seven seconds behind the defending champ in test one, however, a crash in test three sent the factory Husqvarna rider to the hospital with a suspected broken knee cap.
In the newly formed Rekluse Expert-AA Class, South Carolina rider Zach Hayes took the opening win of the season, beating out fellow KTM riders Tyler Trammell and Martin Howell.
Hayes won two of the six tests and finished 17th overall.
“I was a little tight in the first two tests, but I still rode pretty well,” said Hayes. “I got off to a good start and was fastest in tests one and two, and then I was able to hold on for the win. There were some sketchy areas in the clear-cut section and you had to be careful, but I was able to stay out of trouble and keep it on two wheels.”
Trammell won tests three and four en route to the runner-up finish, while Howell won the last test.
The Kenda AMA National Enduro Series returns to action on March 23rd in Blackwell, Texas, for the Concho Enduro, round two of the 10-round series. For more information go to www.nationalenduro.com.
Charlie Mullins (KTM)
Jesse Groemm (KTM)
Steward Baylor (KTM)
Nick Fahringer (Hsq)
Mike Lafferty (KTM)
Brad Bakken (Yam)
Andrew Delong (Hsq)
Shane Hufford (KTM)
Cory Buttrick (Beta)
Chris Bach (Hon)