2023 EnduroCross: Walker gets elbows out for the Rnd2 win in Prescott
Jonny Walker claims another perfect scorecard for the win at round two of the 2023 IRC Tire EnduroCross Series clashing with former champion Colton Haaker as the elbows come out.
12 months ago Jonny Walker claimed his maiden AMA EnduroCross crown with barely a win all season. The Beta and even the Leatt riding gear look the same but it is a very different story in 2023 as Walker ticks off another perfect night winning every moto for the overall for the second race of the season.
But it wasn’t without a fight in the Findlay Toyota Center as former champion Colton Haaker arrived in determined mood and it took some typical aggressive overtaking in the third moto to continue the perfect season.
The night’s action began with the Hot Laps which Walker also put in a repeat performance from round one, rocking to a fastest lap time a full two seconds quicker than anyone. Jonny continued the speed on teh night with fastest laps in each of the three motos.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker gave Walker a run for his money after grabbing the holeshot in the first moto and leading until he went down and Walker was able to make a pass to take the lead.
The second moto saw the reverse grid start with fastest riders taking a few laps to get through on a track which wasn’t the easiest for overtaking. Cody Webb put the Sherco two-stroke out front for a few laps but again Walker was able to pick riders off with faster lines in the rock section to take another win.
The third moto played out in similar fashion, with Haaker getting away first at the start, while Walker dogged the former EnduroCross champ. The rock section again proved the crucial section of the track with Walker able to gain time through there each lap. Near the end of the moto Haaker was getting wise to the move and the pair tangled.
The following lap Colton tried the block again but Jonny switched back lines to take the inside line for the following tight turn, pulling a block pass move Haaker would have be proud of to seal the 1-1-1 result on the night.
“The whole night was tough,” said Jonny. “The track was difficult to make time anywhere. Even if I did do a hot lap that was two seconds faster, it’s difficult to do that every lap, lap after lap. Colton was on fire. He rode really well tonight.
“In the final moto, he was in front and I knew the only way to pass him was to get aggressive with him. I was setting Colton up a few laps. I was only gaining on him in the rocks. I gained on him a few times, and then all of a sudden he dropped onto my line. So then I shot back to the inside. I thought, if I can get it inside in this corner… He went going from the outside back to the inside, so we made a bit of contact. But it was on the second-to-last lap. I knew I had to get away because I knew he’d be coming back hard at me. So happy to go 1-1-1 again.”
Check out Jonny’s vlog from Rnd2: 2023 AMA EnduroCross: Jonny Walker’s vlog from Rnd2 in Prescott
Jonny didn’t want me to win
Despite his run-ins with Walker, Colton Haaker went on to go 2-2-2 for second and perfroamcne fitting of the Colton we all know indoors. “I just wanted to try to get a win,” said Haaker. “Jonny didn’t want me to have one, apparently. We were a little dicey. I felt like I was good in mostly the whole track. It was just the rocks where I felt his pressure. I felt better the other motos, but then that last moto I felt like I just couldn’t quite figure out where I wanted to be and go.”
Haaker really excelled with his starts, grabbing two of the three holeshots: “I’m really confident in my starts right now,” said Colton. “I figured some stuff out there before the first round. I think altogether the package is there. I just obviously had a mistake that first moto that cost me the win. Then the last moto maybe just rode a little tight.”
No matrix section a surprise says Webb
FactoryOne Sherco’s Cody Webb seemed to be satisfied with a third overall finish after posting a 4-3-3 moto tally. “I’m happy to come away with a podium,” said Webb. “This track really wasn’t my forte. There were so many slams out there. I’m a little bit older and my wrist is so trashed. I took it easy this week. I was feeling a little under the weather. Only rode once since the weekend and took it easy to recover for this race.”
Webb went P3 overall with Sherco teammate Cooper Abbott P6 overall on the night. “The track wasn’t very difficult tonight honestly,” adds Webb. “Yes, for the amateurs and others it probably was, but for us pros, it was on the easy side. I was surprised to see no matrix this round. I think EnduroCross is famously known for its matrix on course. Even round one didn’t have a proper matrix. With that, I rode the best I could to get a result and keep myself in the championship hunt. I sit p2 in the overall and I am looking forward to the doubleheader coming up in Idaho Falls. I am going to do everything I can to stop Jonny’s (Walker) win streak,” concluded Webb.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Ryder LeBlond went 3-6-4 for P4 on the night: “Overall, I’m pretty happy,” said LeBlond. “This whole week I was a little under the weather. This year I did not let it affect me. Last year I got my podium and then I got 16th because I got sick. This year I was able to back it up with a fourth. Obviously, I want to be on that podium and work closer to that win, but honestly I’m happy to keep it consistent. We’re still in the points for everything and still good going into the next round.”
Blazusiak and Hart expecting more
FMF KTM’s Trystan Hart had a bad night by his standards with 5-4-7 for P5 overall and was not pleased after the race: “It’s round two of EnduroCross and it’s my third fifth place in a row,” said Hart. “It’s a first for me to be in a position like this. In the last five years this has never happened to me. So, it’s new. It’s frustrating. I know I’m a good rider, so eventually something is going to happen and I’ll be back. It just happens. It happens to Eli Tomac. It happens to the best. We’ll see what happens in the future.”
Sixth place went to the flamboyant factory GASGAS rider Taddy Blazusiak, who posted a 6-7-5 moto score after a crash in the first moto.
“The night went pretty good, to be honest,” said Blazusiak. “I felt I had good speed. The bike was working better than the first round. I didn’t do myself any favors with that first moto crash, with two corners to go. I got together with Ryder. I believe I was third or second, I don’t know. That cost me a lot tonight.
“Anyway, we are going in the right direction. I feel like my speed is good for where we are at in the season. We’re going to keep working. We still have a few more things that we’re going to test on Monday at the test track. I feel like we’re going in the right direction. I’ve been there already. So let’s keep working and it will click. All we’ve got to do is just keep going hard.”
Beta USA’s Cooper Abbott’s 9-5-6 was good enough for seventh overall. Cooper rode a four-stroke at the first round, but opted, like many this year it seems, for a two-stroke at Prescott.
Eighth was GasGas rider Max Gerston (8-10-8), while 10th went to Blazusiak’s compatriot Dominik Olszowy making his debut in EX and on the Rieju for a 11-9-10 score.
In the Women’s Pro final, Over and Out/GasGas’ Rachel Gutish came from behind to grab her second win of the season, while Melissa Harten (Beta) was second and Hailee Marks was third (Sherco).
2023 EnduroCross Rnd 3 overall top 10 results:
Words Credit: Shan Moore + Enduro21
Photo Credit: Shan Moore + Jack Jaxson