For the second year in a row, FMF KTM Factory Racing backed Trystan Hart topped the Red Bull Tennessee Knockout (TKO). This was Hart’s third TKO win in the last four years and the Canadian dominated the 2023 event with wins in three of the four rounds of racing on the rocky and hilly Trials Training Center terrain. The win also earned Hart the AMA Grand Championship for Extreme Off-Road racing to go along with his US Hard Enduro Series championship.
Husqvarna Factory Racing backed Billy Bolt was closest to Hart in the main event and finished twenty-three seconds back.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Mani Lettenbichler rounded out the podium.
The pro racing kicked off on Saturday afternoon with a Hot-Lap on the approximately two-mile “short course” and Rockstar Husqvarna’s Ryder LeBlond set the fastest time of five minutes and fifty-two seconds. Trystan Hart finished second, a little over six seconds behind. Lettenbichler finished third, just a second behind Hart. FactoryONE Sherco’s Cody Webb was fourth and Bolt rounded out the top five.
The top sixteen pro riders wrapped up the Saturday racing with a Straight Rhythm bracket-race prologue to entertain the fans and Bolt topped Lettenbichler for the win while Hart beat out Beta’s Jonny Walker to finish third.
Sunday’s format consisted of three rounds of racing for the fifty-six riders that earned a spot and it started with Knockout round one on the eleven mile “long course”. Hart set the fastest time with a time of forty-seven minutes and seventeen seconds. The relatively dry conditions provided a lot more traction than normal on the rocks and that contributed to quicker times than normal. 2022 GNCC Champion Jordan Ashburn turned some heads with a second-place time of forty-eight minutes and twenty-nine seconds on his Magna 1 Husqvarna to finish second. Lettenbichler was third in a time of forty-eight minutes and fifty-four seconds. RPM KTM rider Will Riordan put in a strong ride to finish fourth with a time of forty-nine minutes and two seconds. Cody Webb rounded out the top five with a time of forty-nine minutes and thirteen seconds. Bolt, LeBlond, South Africa’s Matthew Green, Walker and Alfredo Gomez finished sixth through tenth respectively.
There was a last-chance qualification race on the straight rhythm course among the four riders that just missed the top thirty and pro Hillclimb racer Logan Cipala took that spot to be the last rider to make it to the second round.
The second-round changes format to place the thirty-one riders into five groups that race head-to-head. Four of those groups include six riders while the fifth group has seven riders including the LCQ winner. The riders take on the long loop with another mile of extremely difficult sections added. The top four finishers from each group earn spots in the twenty-rider main event with the winners of each group earning front row starting positions.
Hart won group one over Bolt after a back forth battle. Fourteen-time US Trials Champion Pat Smage and James Flynn finished third and fourth to get into the main event.
LeBlond won group two in a tight battle with Ashburn. Colton Haaker and Gauge Logan-Key also earned tickets to the main.
Lettenbichler dominated group three. Green finished second and Rieju’s Quinn Wentzel and Beta’s Tim Apolle finished third and fourth respectively.
Group four was won by the UK’s Walker. Riordan finished second. Sherco rider Logan Bolopue and Beta’s Daniel Lewis took the last two spots in this group.
Webb won group four over Spain’s Gomez. Multi-time Erzberg winner David Knight finished third and Mason George earned the final spot in the main event in his first ever TKO. George was the only rider from the thirty riders that qualified into the Sunday program via the Saturday races to qualify for the main event.
The main event moves back to the short course for a 35-minute plus one lap race, which ended up taking forty-four minutes and thirty-four seconds for Hart to complete. Lettenbichler took the lead heading into the woods with Hart and Bolt close behind. Hart and Bolt found a way past Lettenbichler before hitting the critical Red Bull Ravine hill climb, which proved to be pivotal as Bolt lost momentum at the top and Lettenbichler hit his rear wheel and flipped over backwards. The German rider lost several positions when his bike tumbled down the hill. Hart made a quick break from the field and had a twelve second gap on Bolt as they started the second lap. The KTM rider methodically opened that up to as much as forty-five seconds before backing off on the final lap to win by twenty-four seconds.
Bolt held second place throughout the race but had pressure from Walker for several laps and then Lettenbichler, who recovered from his crash. Bolt, Lettenbichler and Walker started the final lap separated by less than ten seconds, which is not safe with the difficult obstacles but the order remained the same to the finish.
Webb had a strong ride to finish fifth. LeBlond got held up on the first lap behind the carnage of the Lettenbichler tumble on the hill climb but recovered for a sixth-place finish. Riordan was the last rider on the lead lap in seventh.
Gomez finished eighth on his Rieju. Ashburn finished ninth after recovering from a first turn crash with Green. Smage rounded out the top ten in his first Hard Enduro event of the season after wrapping up the US Trials championship.
Hart said, “On lap two, I threw my bike up the Kenda waterfall and luckily no one was behind me and I just picked up the bike and went on my way but that was a little scare. From that point on, I just chilled out and nailed the hill climb and water fall every lap and just cruised on and maintained the gap which was really good.”
Bolt said, “It’s awesome, the crowd was insane the whole way around the track and you could barely hear the bike out there so that was pretty sick to see so many people out here supporting the race. As far as the race went, it was a struggle, I felt the pressure from behind just about the whole race to be honest. Jonny and Mani were on my wheel and that made it hard to concentrate and not make any mistakes. Trystan was nearly mistake free and opened a gap early on and I could not make it back to him.”
Lettenbichler said, “Billy made a small mistake at the top of the hill climb on the first lap and I could not avoid him so I was back to sixth and had to work hard to move back to third, so I am really stocked on that. It was crazy good thanks to the fans cheering so loud in the woods and I didn’t expect that. Now I am glad that we are finished so we can get out of the heat.”
2023 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout Main Event Results
- Trystan Hart, KTM, Canada
- Billy Bolt, Husqvarna, Great Britain
- Manuel Lettenbichler, KTM, Germany
- Jonny Walker, Beta, Great Britain
- Cody Webb, Sherco, USA
- Ryder LeBlond, Husqvarna, USA
- Will Riordan, KTM, Australia
- Alfredo Gomez, Rieju, Spain
- Jordan Ashburn, Husqvarna, USA
- Pat Smage, Sherco, USA
- Matthew Green, KTM, South Africa
- Colton Haaker, Husqvarna, USA
- Logan Bolopue, Sherco, USA
- James Flynn, GasGas, USA
- Quinn Wentzel, Rieju, USA
- Tim Apolle, Beta, Germany
- Daniel Lewis, Beta, USA
- Gauge Logan-Key, GasGas, USA
- David Knight, KTM, Great Britain
- Mason George, Rieju, USA
The Women’s pro class competed along with the top amateurs on the more difficult Saturday race two and South Africa’s Kirsten Landman took the win riding a KTM over American Rachel Gutish, who was racing a GasGas. Nikki Russell rounded out the podium on a Husqvarna. Landman took the AMA Grand Championship number one plate and finished fortieth overall among all the amateur riders.
In addition to the pro racing, the Red Bull Tennessee Knockout crowned amateur champions in several classes. Saturday included two rounds of amateur racing with race two serving as the championship-deciding race. During that second race, Hawaii’s Kamakana Waiwaiole earned the number one spot with a winning time of forty-six minutes and forty-four seconds on his rented GasGas. Mason George finished just two seconds behind and Maverik Thaxton rounded out the top three. The top thirty riders also earned the opportunity to compete with the twenty-six pre-qualified pro riders, which kicked off their racing on Saturday afternoon followed by three rounds of racing on Sunday.
Other Saturday class winners among nearly 500 participants included Jared Kuehnhold in Amateur B, Leiber Adrian Ponce in Amateur C, Will Presson in Vet 40+, Travis Wilson in 45+ Vet and Coran Calvert in Youth Lites 12-15.
For the first time, the ECR eMoto class was recognized for an AMA Grand Championship and the riders completed three rounds of racing over three days. Thirty-four electric motorcycle racers took on the course and the top eleven earned a spot in the championship deciding Sunday final, which was on course with the pro riders. Seven riders completed the difficult course. Spenser Wilton took the ECR eMoto AMA Grand Championship number one plate riding an Electric Motion with a time of one-hour and four minutes. Joseph Van Roekel finished second on a KTM about twelve minutes behind and Bridger Greenman rounded out the podium riding another KTM about eighteen minutes behind the leader.
Detailed results for the 2023 TKO can be found here.
Keep an eye on MAVtv for two shows featuring the 2023 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout. The network will have one show featuring the Straight Rhythm Prologue event that took place on Saturday afternoon and a second show featuring the Sunday pro TKO racing.