FMF/KTM’s Cody Webb becomes the only three-time Klim King of the Motos winner in the history of the event.
Story and Photos By Mark Kariya
Although it was billed as the toughest edition yet, the top Pros made the 5th Annual Klim King of the Motos extreme enduro look relatively easy in the manner they conquered all sorts of technical, rocky and sandy desert ugliness at the east end of the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area near Landers, California, Sunday.
And while it may not have been that difficult for the supremely gifted, this year’s Kong of the Motos proved to be the most competitive yet with at least five riders taking a turn up front. When it was all over, FMF/KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Cody Webb pulled off his third King of the Motos victory, but he acknowledged that it was, indeed a tough event.
“This was the toughest it’s ever been for me to win an extreme enduro,” Webb said. “I felt like I really put the charge on all day and just couldn’t gap those guys. I held the gap, so that’s all that matters!”
The day started with a sort of qualifying race–a prologue, if you will, where Sportsman racers tackled a 24-mile-long course 10 minutes ahead of the Pros, who would join that course after taking a more difficult opening section that added three more miles of ugliness. The qualifier only determined gate picks for the main event in the afternoon, so there wasn’t a lot of incentive to go all-out, although event creator Jimmy Lewis offered at least one: a free entry in next year’s Pro class to any Sportsman rider who beat the Pros.
That and the head start was apparently enough for Don Bospflug as he overalled the morning race comfortably over fellow Sportsman racer Garrett Carlson. FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team teammates Taylor Robert and Webb were the next two finishers and first two Pros respectively, a portent of things to come.
“It was actually pretty fun, like intense battling, but nothing was really going on,” Webb said, and Robert added, “We weren’t pushing real hard because we knew there was no point to do so, and this was just for gate pick. So, we just cruised down the last canyon and got onto the lake bed and cruised it back all the way around to [the finish].”
But things would get serious in the main event a few hours later, of course.
To make this year’s King of the Motos more spectator-friendly, Lewis designed a nine-mile-long figure-eight course with multiple viewing points (especially important for the live streaming). Whoever went the farthest in 3 hours would be the winner; anyone lapped by the leaders would be eliminated though they’d be an official finisher as long as they got that lap in the books. Of the 90 who started in the morning, 67 earned finisher status.
GPS navigation (but no road book) is required to follow the course at King of the Motos, just as in many of Europe’s extreme enduros, but with a multiple-lap race, it became less important after the first lap, as most riders could simply follow the burned in trail. Thus, the first lap saw a large lead pack with five riders taking turns at the front before missing a turn or going the wrong way. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Colton Haaker, the defending King of the Motos champion, spent quite a bit of time in first and led the parade as they completed the first lap far faster than Lewis had envisioned–32 minutes instead of a guesstimated 50!
And then the pace picked up.
Defending champ Haaker noted, “I felt like no one really had a clear-cut advantage. I thought I was pretty aggressive on most everything in-between, like I was jumping stuff and just on the gas, just taking a little more risk at anything that had an option for open room once I knew where I was going. It paid off for me in the beginning until I hit a rock that I didn’t see.”
Haaker crashed hard and had to sit for a while to collect himself. No one passed him, though he knew he had obviously yielded a lot of time to his pursuers. Shortly thereafter, Webb went by with Haaker shaking off the crash enough to give chase and even re-pass Webb. The two men battled back and forth until Haaker chose the wrong line around a group of lappers and got stuck badly, losing an estimated 5 minutes before he was able to get going. That miscue effectively put an end to his chances to defend his 2015 King of the Motos title as Webb seemed to have all his lines dialed.
“From there I just hammered down,” Webb said. “I just really wanted to put some ground between us so he [Haaker] couldn’t follow my lines and stuff.”
As the race progressed, Robert mounted a charge that got him into second place and within sight of his teammate, but would end up 1 minute and 27 seconds behind at the finish after completing six laps (instead of the three or four that promoter Lewis thought it’d take). Haaker was just 17 seconds behind Robert for third place followed by SRT KTM’s Cory Graffunder, American Beta teammates Kyle Redmond and Max Gerston and KTM-mounted Noah Kepple, with Kepple last rider to complete six laps.
“This course was much more challenging than in the years past,” three-time King of the Motos champion Webb said. “It was shorter and more technical, which meant we had to encounter lappers sooner than we normally would. We actually passed all the way up to seventh place, which made it a little stressful. But overall, after the rain went away, the course was really good and I had a fun day.”
2016 Klim King of the Motos
Johnson Valley OHV Park
Johnson Valley, California
Results: January 31, 2018
1. Cody Webb-KTM
2. Taylor Robert-KTM
3. Colton Haaker-Hus
4. Cory Graffunder-KTM
5. Kyle Redmond-Bet
6. Max Gerston-Bet
7. Noah Kepple-KTM
8. Mitch Carvolth-KTM
9. Ty Tremaine-KTM
10. Bryan Roper-Hus