Morgan, Evans Top ISDE West Qualifier Round 2

Justin Morgan tops the LOI class while Ben Evans overalls round two of the ISDE West Qualifier, the SIDRA/OMC Sprint Enduro Qualifier.

Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Honda-mounted Justin Morgan likely earned a spot on the U.S. team headed to France for the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in France later this summer after taking the overall Letter of Intent (LOI)-class victory at the Southwestern Idaho Desert Racing Association (SIDRA)/Owyhee Motorcycle Club (OMC) Sprint Enduro Qualifier, round two of the AMA ISDE West Qualifier Regional Championship Series, Sunday.

Justin Morgan backed up his runner-up E2 finish and third overall at round one with the class win and first LOI overall in the Idaho ISDE West Qualifier. PHOTO BY MARK KARIYA.

Competing once again in the E2 class (for 250cc two-strokes/450cc four-strokes) on his CRF450X, Morgan dominated the category on Saturday at the OMC facility on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho, and was a close second overall LOI (but still first E2) on Sunday. Sunday’s overall LOI triumph went to E3 (500cc two-stroke/650cc four-stroke) winner Nick Stover who’d placed third overall LOI on Saturday, his total time for the weekend’s 16 special tests giving him second overall LOI for the weekend behind Morgan with Yamaha rider Anthonee Gibbs third overall and second E2.

But even the quickest LOI riders had to take a back seat to the first two A/AA finishers: Ben Evans and David Kamo.Though neither plans to go to France for the ISDE at the end of August, they wanted to see how they stacked up to that caliber of rider and discovered they matched up well. It probably shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise since both are Idaho natives and have turned many laps at OMC during their lifetimes, though they followed different racing paths. Evans became a competitive motocross/Supercross rider while Kamo gained fame as a desert racer with several SCORE Baja victories on his résumé.

Though he’s put in thousands of laps at OMC, this was the first time Ben Evans had tried a sprint enduro. He adapted quickly and set the weekend’s fastest time overall at the Idaho ISDE West Qualifier. PHOTO BY MARK KARIYA.

While Morgan’s time was a fine 39 minutes, 30.46 seconds followed by 40:10.62 for E2 runner-up Anthonee Gibbs and 40:18.70 for Stover, A/AA winner Evans eclipsed those times with his 37:50.09 followed by Kamo at 38:57.80. At first, though, everyone chased FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Cody Webb. The E3 winner and second overall at round one, Webb appeared to have gotten even faster since then and set the pace through the first three tests.

During the fourth one, however, Webb got out of shape in one slippery, hard-packed section on the mostly sandy course and hit the ground hard. He eventually hopped on one leg back to his 300 XC and completed the test, but after visiting the medics, he decided to call it a weekend, heal up and wait for round three. He’d strained his back, a knee and an ankle as well as getting a headache so this wasn’t surprising.

From there, Morgan controlled the rest of the day, at least among the LOIs, though it wasn’t the same story on Sunday. Running stiff suspension on his CRF450X for the expected whoops that develop in sand didn’t quite pan out as the San Felipe-spec settings were too stiff and tended to beat him up so he tried pushing even harder, but that too worked against him. Of course, Sunday seemed to be even more competitive, at least according to times. Stover posted a 38:14.26 for his eight tests while Morgan’s time was just five seconds slower and Gibbs another seven seconds back.

“A few tests I thought that I rode better than ever and then a couple I made some pretty costly mistakes and just wasn’t as consistent today,” Morgan said, agreeing he might’ve tried too hard on Sunday. “[That] and thinking too much!” he quipped. “But it’s just some days you’re on, some days not quite.”

Still, second for the day shouldn’t hurt Morgan’s chances of qualifying for the team; he notes, “I still think I’m looking pretty good with a second.”

Among the many SIDRA regulars who rode only Sunday, Rhiannon Kamo heads to the Women B victory while high in the hills above OMC with more picturesque vistas beyond. PHOTO BY MARK KARIYA.

A/AA (and overall) winner Evans went even faster on Sunday, obviously becoming more comfortable with his first foray into the sprint enduro format.

“The last couple years since I’ve been retired from Supercross, I’ve just been racing locally, regionally, having fun,” he said. “I did a couple desert races with my brother so I’m kind of sneaking into the off-road world a little bit just for fun. OMC’s kind of my hometown track, so it was kind of fun. It’s kind of a smaller area so we don’t get many big races here and it was fun to have a big race come here where I could shine. Honestly, we’ve been off all winter so I didn’t know how well I would do.”

His 36:11.59 indicates that the winter layoff didn’t hurt him as badly as he thought it might. Kamo, too, performed even better, posting a 37:39.38 while he contemplates switching to the AMA EnduroCross National Championship Series later this year.