Taddy Blazusiak (Factory KTM): “It was pretty good to watch, I guess? I am really happy about the holeshot. I’m a guy with a Trials background so all the practice I did on the starts on the motocross tracks is working. As far as the race goes, I had my pace, I wasn’t pushing too hard and wanted to be at the front controlling everything. But I lost concentration because I wanted to see how big of a gap was between me and Ricky and I missed the timing in the water. I lose the traction at the back wheel and I tried to save it and make it through as fast as I could. I went over the bars and just had to get going again. It was great though, it’s a nice feeling to win, you know?”
The stage was set for an epic start of the 2009 AMA Geico Endurocross season. The Orleans Arena had a perfectly groomed and insanely difficult course prepped and ready to give the top off-road riders in the world all they could handle. Defending champion Ricky Dietrich was primed and ready to show the world his number one plate was well deserved. Taddy Blazusiak had his Red Bull KTM dialed-in perfectly and on top of the qualifying time sheets earlier in the day. The only thing missing was about 1/3 of the fans who historically attend the most entertaining race in the Northern hemisphere.
First off, our friend and regular MotoUSA off-road test rider Todd Sciacqua managed to eek-out a win in his Vet 35 Class main event. He crashed and lost the lead on the second lap then tracked down and claimed the win with two turns to spare. How could it get any better than that? Well, it turns out the Pro Heat and Semis were action-packed smash-fests and racing extravaganzas that had the crowd on their feet and screaming for their favorite riders throughout the 4-hour long program.
The first heat race featured KTM riders Taddy Blazusiak, Geoff Aaron and Mike Brown as well as Monster Kawasaki’s Damon Huffman and Colton Hakker. Right away Taddy established himself as a force by man-handling his 2-stroke KTM around the track, finishing ahead of Huffman after a nice battle that included Brown leading early on only to crash out three times in one lap as he frantically tried to keep Blazusiak and Huffman at bay.
Heat two featured number one plate holder Ricky Dietrich and his Monster Kawasaki teammate Destry Abbott, as well as Kawasaki rider Jamie Lanza and Husky’s trials rider Antoine Meo. It was a melee up front, with Meo and Abbott battling bar-to-bar, whipping the fans into a frenzy while Ricky battled upstart Lanza for the win. The start of the race had all three Monster riders in the lead with Abbott up front, Lanza leaping over the tire wall and Dietrich watching from third. Then Destry Abbott piled on the rock turn and handed the lead to Lanza. Ricky subsequently tracked Lanza down and ultimately pressured him into a crash on the way to the win. Meo got the better of Abbott but both will meet again later in the Semi.
The third heat was about everyone else in the stadium on a bike including Johnny Campbell Racing teammates Nick Borzovich and multi-time Baja winner Kendall Norman. Nick grabbed the early lead and wins over a hard charging Kyle Redmond on the Yamaha WR. In the end the JCR team was impressive while taking the win but the real story was how difficult the track is. Off-road legends Jason Raines finished last, crashing, struggling and hating life on the way to bringing up the rear of the pack and Baja-ace Kendall Norman didn’t fare much better and would have to survive the Semis if he hoped to make the Main.
In the first Semi it was a wild and crazy battle that ended up with Mike Brown taking the win after a back-and-forth crash fest that left Geoff Aaron and Colton Hakker heading to the LCQ despite Brown crashing in the water trap on the final lap and nearly handing the win to Aaron. He managed to get going right in front of Aaron who was battling to stay ahead of Hakker for what seemed like the entire event. The next Semi was claimed by Monster Kawasaki’s Destry Abbott after he held off KTM’s Bobby Prochnau and his new Husqvarna-backed rival Meo for ten grueling minutes.
The final Heat race summed up the pain of racing this event. JCR Honda’s Kendall Norman had a huge lead with one lap to go and as he crested the 8-foot tire wall, he crashed on the landing and got trapped under the bike. He ultimately lost Graffunder who nips Yamaha’s Jason Raines at the finish line. Raines clearly didn’t realize he was so close. Bummer for him and the boys in blue.
When the dust settled, the LCQ win went to Trials superstar Geoff Aaron, who managed to take the win over Hakker after the Kawasaki pilot got hung up in the Matrix section. At least Aaron made the star-studded Main Event.
The Big Show
The anticipation built as Ricky Dietrich, Taddy Blazusiak, Ryan Huffman, Geoff Aaron, Destry Abbott, Hakker, Brown and Brosovich lined up at the gate, all eager to earn the $500 Holeshot award and with a little luck, a win to start the season off on the right foot. Taddy grabbed the lead and the cash early with Dietrich and Abbott rounding out the top three. Ricky and Taddy battled early on as Abbott started having troubles through the rocky section that seemed to plague him all night. About that time, Dietrich forced his way past Blazusiak only to get stuck in the Matrix. It got uglier from that point on.
The Rock Pile started collecting victims and soon after, Damon Huffman’s bike is upside down on the side of it. He still managed to get his bike started but he was out of contention at that point. Things were just heating up in the battle for the win. Taddy follows his program and also gets stuck in the rock section which allowed Dietrich to reel him in for the first time. The crowd went wild as they banged and battled for position. Then the turning point, as the two tangled and crashed in the 180-degree left-hand turn just after the Water Hole. As they tried in vain to get their bikes untangled, Mike Brown grabbed the lead and proceeds to pull a gap on the field. He should have kept the pressure on but at one point seemed to wear down which left the door open for the hard-charging pair of Blazusiak and Dietrich who were determined to chase him down.
Dietrich eventually made the pass only to tip over on a small single log crossing at the start of the second-to-last lap. This allowed Blazusiak to take back over the lead again and forced Ricky to go on the chase. Turn by turn the Kawasaki rider made up ground and as the two approached the finish line, he put what might have been the winning move on the KTM ace as they leapt across the finish line tire jump side-by-side. The crowd went wild for the apparent photo finish but as it turned out, it was Blazusiak who crossed the line first, taking the win and setting the stage for an epic Endurocross season.
“That was one of my most spectacular races to date,” said defending champion Ricky Dietrich. “That was intense you know, I got a good start out there and it shaped up into the “Me and Taddy show” out there. Me and him were running away with it and it was a battle to the end. We were both riding with a lot of heart and it basically came down to who made the least amount of mistakes and I made the last one. It was tough and I really went for it. It was a last ditch effort at the end there as I pinned it to the finish and it was the closest finish to a race I have been a part of, ever. It doesn’t matter who won tonight, it was basically a tie and it really looks like it is going to be me and Taddy for the rest of the season.”
Round 1 Results:
1. Taddy Blazusiak (KTM)
2. Ricky Dietrich (Kawasaki)
3. Mike Brown (KTM)
4. Geoff Aaron (KTM)
5. Colton Hakker (Kawasaki)
6. Kyle Redmond (Yamaha)
7. Corey Graffunder (KTM)
8. Jamie Lanza (Kawasaki)
9. Damon Huffman (Kawasaki)
10. Destry Abbott (Kawasaki)
Endurocross Round 2 will be Aug 15th at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie Okla.