The Trials Training Center in Sequatchie, Tennessee will host the fifth annual KENDA Tennessee Knockout on the weekend of August 15-16, 2015. The event has quickly become one of the premier off-road motorcycles races, attracting some of the best racers in the world.
Tennessee’s Mike Brown won the first two KENDA Tennessee Knockout events and Cody Webb took the title in 2013 and 2014. You can expect that these two riders will be joined by a large group of top off road racers looking to conquer the tough conditions at the TKO.
The 2015 event will take place just one week prior to the GEICO AMA EnduroCross event in nearby Atlanta. So it is expected that more of the top EnduroCross riders from the west will be able to make the long trip to the east coast to compete in both events. The expert riders will again be competing for a $10,000 purse.
The top off-road racers from around the world will be invited to compete and amateur riders can race on Saturday with the top finishers earning the opportunity to move on to the Sunday Expert Knockout rounds. On Sunday, the riders will compete in a very tough and spectator-friendly multi-round format.
Check out the video highlights of some of the previous TKO events below:
The third time was the charm for Cody Webb to conquer the KENDA Tennessee Knockout. After finishing second to Mike Brown the previous two years, Webb dominated the multi round event to take the largest portion of the $10,000 purse. Monster Kawasaki’s Taylor Robert won a multi rider battle for second during his first visit to the TKO while Husqvarna’s Cory Graffunder finished a close third.
Mother Nature combined with the tough trails at the Trials Training Center helped the event live up to its billing as an American Extreme Enduro. Heavy rain the night before forced a few course changes but there were still several hill climbs and creek sections that proved to be challenging for even the most talented riders.
The day started with a hot lap around a mile long “short course”. Cody Webb set the standard with a time of 2:57 and was followed by Brown (3:12), Kyle Redmond (3:13), Graffunder (3:14) and Nick Fahringer (3:21).
Next up was the first Knock Out round on the 13 mile “long course”. The 39 riders were sent out in 30 second intervals and the top 25 times would earn a spot in the next round. Webb again set the pace with a time of 54:02 followed by Fahringer (58:40), Brown (58:58), Redmond (1:00:41) and Graffunder (1:03:22). The extremely technical loop proved to be difficult and only and only 22 riders finished in time to start the next Knockout round.
TKO round two placed the riders into five groups of 4-5 riders and only the top three in each group would earn a spot in the 15 rider main event. Webb won group one over Fabien Planet, the multi-time French Enduro Champion and Enduro World Championship competitor. Max Gerston, the young Arizona rider won an intense battle with Russell Bobbitt to take the final spot from group one. Fahringer won group two over Jordan Ashburn and Grant Baylor. In group three, Wally Palmer used his two-wheel drive Christini to beat Brown and Quinn Wentzel, a top Trials rider. Robert won group four over Redmond and Loic Leonard, the French Canadian that had earned a spot from the Saturday qualifiers. Graffunder won group five over Zach Love and Bryan Roper.
Fahringer took the lead on the start of the 8 lap main event and looked determined as he attacked the slippery rock sections. But the aggression proved a little too much as he lost control and hit a tree, which allowed Webb to take the lead. Once in the lead, Webb slowly pulled away from a multi rider battle for second. The lead was a minute and 25 seconds at the halfway point and grew to nearly three minutes at the finish. “I guess I like this Extreme stuff, even though you wonder why when you are out there struggling.” Webb said. “I learned a lot from getting second the past two years so it was great to get the win”.
Fahringer held second at the end of the first lap but further problems would eventually take him out of contention and he finished two laps down in eighth. Brown took over second but had Redmond on his tail and would take over the spot just before the halfway point but then broke his clutch lever with a tip over and allowed Brown back by. But then Robert, the current WORCS champion and Graffunder were in close formation and both pushed past. On lap seven of eight, Brown pulled out of the event after losing another position to Gerston. “I was just too tired and struggling all day” Brown said. “I have been in Mexico doing Baja testing and it took a lot out of me.”
Robert and Graffunder continued to battle for second all the way to the finish and would be the only two riders to remain on the lead lap with Webb. “I got better and gained confidence as the day went on” Robert said”. We have a lot of rocks in Arizona but they are like sand paper and these rocks have slime on them so I am happy I was able to do well”. Gerston was an impressive fourth place ahead of Planet who said “This was one of the toughest races I have ever done, especially the first long test”.
Redmond, Brown, Fahringer, Ashburn and Baylor rounded out the top ten.
Mike Brown repeated as the winner of the second annual KENDA Tennessee Knockout, presented by Monster Energy but it was far from easy. During the third Knockout round, it appeared that Brown was going to be eliminated from the event. He was hopelessly stuck in one of the special test sections and had his helmet off and steam spewing from his KTM as he tried to find a way up a wet and rocky creak. He needed to finish in the top three in his group and more importantly, finish the loop in time to start the main event.
With the hillsides filled with screaming fans, Brown finally found a way to get through the section and finished out the loop in a qualifying position for the main event. He then took the lead away from Beta’s Cody Webb on the first lap of the 10 lap main event and withstood steady pressure for over thirty minutes before edging away over the last few laps to take the win.
“I thought the race was over for me when I was stuck up in that Creek and I was physically overheating” Brown said after the main event. “But then I realized that most of the other riders were also stuck in the same section so I kept pushing and pulling my bike up the ledges that were slick from the rain that hit just before the start of that third round. The main event was really tough but I managed to keep from making any big mistakes.”
The TKO format automatically qualifies riders from all of the major off road racing series into the Sunday Knockout rounds and there are open slots for non-qualified riders to qualify from Saturday. Forty Four riders started the Sunday program that began with a single hot lap around the “short course”, which took Webb just over three minutes and fifteen seconds to complete. Brown, Kyle Redmond and Colton Haaker were all very close with 3:27, 3:28 and 3:29 runs. Husqvarna’s Andrew Delong was fifth with a 3:36.
The second round would have the riders ride another lap against the clock but this time on the 13.5 mile “long course”. The riders started in 15 second intervals and Brown caught Webb and the two exchanged the lead several times and crossed the finish line with Brown just ahead physically, which meant he beat out Webb by 16 seconds with a time of 44:28. Bobbitt, Fahringer, Delong, Jordan Ashburn, Whibley, Haaker, Brad Bakken, Redmond, Max Gerston, Zach Love rounded out the top ten. Only the top 25 riders would move on and now be placed into groups of five for a head to head race for another lap around the long course but with a few additional “challenge” sections added.
An intense thunder shower hit just at the end of the second round, which made it very difficult for some of the last riders on the loop and would make round three much more challenging. For each group of five riders, only the top three would move on to the 15 rider final. This was the round that would prove extremely difficult as the rain combined with the new challenge sections increased the time to just over fifty minutes for Webb, who set the fastest time to win his group. Haaker, Whibley, Fahringer and Delong each won their groups to take the front row spots for the main.
Brown, Ashburn, Bobbitt and Alex Bedley each finished second in their groups to earn second row starts (no other riders finished from Delong’s group). Hawaii’s Aaron McKnight, Zach Love and Dustin Gibson were the final three qualifiers, which meant that only twelve riders had made it to the final round. Husqvarna’s Redmond dropped out in spectacular fashion after he cleared the most difficult section with the crowd cheering; leaves that had collected in the bottom of the skid plate caught fire and burned through a radiator hose to create a smoky conclusion to his day.
Since Webb and Haaker seemed pretty fresh after the first three rounds, they appeared to have the upper hand going into the final and jumped out to the early lead. Brown started from row three and quickly got into second when several riders got hung up in the EnduroCross section. Webb got stuck attempting the most difficult line up a steep hill, which allowed Brown to take the lead. Webb and Haaker were close behind and with a ten lap main on the short course, it was expected to take about 40 minutes and fitness was going to play a role in the extremely humid conditions.
Haaker stayed close to the leaders for the first three laps before he began to lose touch but was still safely ahead of the intense battle between Bobbitt, Whibley and Fahringer, who all exchanged positions several times. Delong pulled off due to physical exhaustion at the midway point and joined Love, Gibson and Bedley on the sidelines. Haaker pulled over on lap seven when the heat and humidity had him seeing stars. Webb stayed very close to Brown for the first seven laps but then he was the next to crack, which allowed Brown to open up a fifteen second gap that he held to the finish. Bobbit finished just a few seconds ahead of Whibley to take the final podium spot and Fahringer took fifth ahead of Ashburn.
The race featured riders from several different disciplines and in the end, Brown, the 2012 X Games Enduro X gold medalist took the win over fellow EnduroCross regular and former AMA Trials Champion Cody Webb. Russell Bobbit, the multi time National Enduro Champion took third ahead of current GNCC point’s leader Paul Whibley. Nick Fahringer, another Enduro regular, rounded out the top five.
2012 AMA Tennessee Knockout, fueled by Monster Energy results:
Mike Brown, KTM
Cody Webb, Beta
Russell Bobbitt, KTM
Paul Whibley, Yamaha
Nick Fahringer, Husaberg
Jordan Ashburn, Yamaha
Colton Haaker, Kawasaki
Aaron McKnight, KTM
Andrew Delong, Husqvarna
Zach Love, KTM
Dustin Gibson, KTM
Alex Bedley, Kawasaki
The Trials Training Center staff would like to thank KENDA Tires, Monster Energy and Moose Racing for their support of the AMA Tennessee Knockout event.