This story originally appeared in our December 2007 issue.
I am visiting with the easygoing, 6’4” world enduro champion between races at the Maxxis EnduroCross at Guthrie’s Lazy E Arena in early October. “There are so many logs. You have to get them all right. One mistake and it’s over.” Knight goes on to say that the course changes with every lap, which I surmise makes it nearly impossible to establish the kind of flow motorcycle racers count on to help pull their lap times down.
Compared to the much longer, extreme events like Austria’s Erzberg Enduro, touted as the toughest one-day race in the world (which incidentally he won in 2005 and 2006), or Knight’s favorite, the Red Bull Last Man Standing race, EnduroCross is a brief, all-out effort that takes no prisoners. Kinda like a street fight vs. a 10K run over a field of boulders. Tonight, David would show us perfection. Motivated by victory, King Arthur himself couldn’t have produced a more formidable champion to compete on this battlefield of debris. After winning at Denver last month, David is now the only rider with a shot at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute’s (MMI) $50,000 prize to any man who can win all three of the Maxxis EnduroCross events. With the bo-nus, winning all three would net the overall winner about $75,000. Not a bad payday for riding your dirt bike. The fi nal race will be in Las Vegas, November 17th.
He’s right about the little things it takes to win. EnduroCross is a cruel mixture of logs, head-high concrete culverts, limestone rip-rap strategically stacked to do the most damage, giant earth-mover tires, wet logs, deep water pits followed by diagonally placed logs… and more logs. A forest of telephone poles gave up their lives to build tonight’s track at the Lazy E Arena. This one differs from most other heads-up race courses in that only a small percentage of the general riding populace, even on their best day, could complete a single lap. And take a look at the range of bikes used to negotiate this heap of man-made trouble. Two-stroke 250’s race side-by-side against big-bore four-strokes, and trials bikes give up nothing to their fire-breathing cousins. Last month in Denver, Keith Wineland, who is currently fifth in the National Observed Trials standings and now third in the 2007 Maxxis EnduroCross, set the fastest single hot-lap time of 48.3 seconds, 0.7 seconds faster than Knight’s best of 49 fl at, and he did it on a Montesa! In fact, 60 per cent of the top five and half of the top 10 fastest hot laps were set on the skinny bikes with no seat! One of the secret weapons of these savvy warriors is to use trials tires on their MX and enduro bikes. The general consensus is that their sticky smear-ability trumps knobs on the rocks and wet log crossings, much like the gooey shoes climbers use to scale sheer rock faces. Where else can you run a trials bike against machines that would, in any other contest, blow you away before they hit third gear? But it takes a string of fast laps to win, and when the dust finally settled, tonight would be Knight’s night.
Big names like Guy Cooper, Ty Davis, Daman Huffman (Currently #2 behind Knight), Mike Lafferty, John Dowd and the up-and-coming youngster, Nick Brozovich, who won the last chance qualifi er and sits in the fourth spot for this series, would all take their best shots at Knight. The records of these men and their peers in Grand National Cross Country Racing Series (GNCC), World Off Road Championship Series (WORCS), Supercross and Enduro events prove them all capable of pulling off the win and ruining Knight’s chance at the $50,000 bonus prize.
Man’s inhumanity to man comes to mind as I consider the potential carnage in a race deliberately designed to compress the worst challenges of outdoor enduro racing into an area the size of a skating rink. As the evening wears on, some of the riders begin to show signs of abuse from the wrenching and bashing dealt by these obstacles, but nobody willingly gives up. Machinery breaks, as do bones now and then, but the spirit and conditioning of these seemingly bionic men keep them going over stuff I would recommend you never try at home.
Once the qualifying heat races are finished and the final players are through the gates, it is David Knight on his trials-shod KTM 450 in the lead with fellow KTM rider David Pearson (2007 AMA National Hare and Hound champion) challenging his position for the first few laps. But as I said earlier, tonight would be Knight’s night. The Knighter made it look easy as he did what he came here to do. Plying his trade like a heavyweight boxer, he pulverized the course and the competition into submission with his smooth, relentless style. But in Las Vegas, the boys will be back for another shot. If the stars line up just right, I hope to be there too, watching the action from the sidelines, where it’s safe.