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Charlie Mullins started the 2010 season as a privateer and ended it with at least two major teams fighting over his services for the 2011 season. A GNCC mainstay for the last few years, "Hotrod" rode the opening round of this year's Rekluse/AMA National Enduro Series as a warmup for the first GNCC round in Florida. Riding a privateer bike provided by Keith Obermeyer at Obermeyer Yamaha, Mullins ended up surprising the enduro series regulars by taking the win. Urged on by enduro great Randy Hawkins, Mullins decided to ride the entire enduro series and ended up finishing off the year with six wins and the national title.
In the GNCC series, the Ohio born rider finished the 13-round schedule with three wins and second overall in the final standings. With his ability to excel in two different series, Mullins instantly became one of the most sought after properties in off-road. In the end, KTM won the battle for Mullins' services and Cycle News spoke with him about the deal just after he returned from the Tecate Enduro.
How was Tecate?
I still don't know how I finished, something with the scoring, but it was fun and I think I did well. They laid out about 95 miles of trail and it was almost all single-track, which was great. I only had one crash but other than that it was a pretty smooth day.
You're riding the KTM 350 SXF; how much time did it take you to convert from the YZ450F to the 350 KTM?
It was a pretty smooth transition. The big difference was moving from a 450 to a 350, but the more I ride it the more comfortable I get. Right now I feel pretty comfortable on it.
Lets go back and talk about how did your deal with Obermeyer Yamaha come about.
I found out around Thanksgiving that things with Suzuki weren't going to work out the way we planned. I just started searching around and I finally got a call from Jason Raines and he gave me Keith Obermeyer's number. I started talking to him and luckily he and Randy (Hawkins) and Donnie Luce were able to work out a deal for me. It was basically just for the GNCC series, but there were two national enduros at the start of the year that I was going to use as a warm up. I did pretty well in those races and Randy asked me if I would like to ride the rest of the enduro series. I like riding both series so it worked out well for me.
How did that deal work between Obermeyer and Randy's team, Am-Pro Yamaha?
Basically, I got my bikes from Obermeyer and Randy supplied me with all his other sponsors: suspension, pipe, tires, stuff like that. Randy also supplied a mechanic.
You elected to ride a 2009 YZ450F all year when you had the opportunity to ride the 2010.
Yeah, I bought two bikes at the beginning of the year - my dad bought one of them. And when we started the season we looked at the 2010 YZ and IMS didn't have a big tank ready to go for it. I knew the '09 was a proven bike for off-road and I knew it was reliable, so we started the year with that. Once I got the setup the way I wanted it I just thought there was no reason to jump to the ‘10 in the middle of the year when everything was working so well with the '09.
You rode the GNCCs and the Enduro series with the same bike and the same setup, is that right?
Yeah, everything was the same except I started out the beginning of the year using the YZ transmission for the GNCC series and the WR for the Enduro series. But the last of the year, for the last four GNCC races, I used the WR transmission for both series.
You were basically a rookie to the Enduro series, having only ridden one other event prior to this year, so you surprised a lot of people by the way you adapted to the series so quickly.
Well, with the new format that the Enduro series has it attracted a lot of new riders, just because it is pretty easy to ride now. I just used the first two as a warmup for the GNCC series and I had pretty decent results and just decided to do the rest of them. I like tight trees and tight woods - that's what I grew up riding - so think it worked in my favor.
Why do you think you were so dominate?
I really don't know. I just went out each race and each test the best I could. I guess it was just one of those years where everything clicked and I was able to stay healthy.
What was the turning point of the year for you?
I DNFed at the Alligator Enduro, which was the third round in Florida, but I worked hard to get through that and I was able to bounce back. Being able to come back and win gave me some confidence at the enduro series.
The only race you struggled in was the race in Maine. What was happening at that race?
A lot of people said it was the pressure of the championship, but it wasn't that. I just came into that event unprepared. We got there late and the terrain wasn't what I was told it was going to be and we just weren't prepared. I just had a bad day and struggled to put tests together. I would definitely do things different if I had it to do over again.
Talk about the GNCC series.
In the GNCC series, it's been kind of a roller-coaster ride this year. I've had some good moments and then I would have a bad race. Overall, it's been a tough year, but hopefully it works out for next year.
There's quite a bit of difference between the two types of racing - GNCC and Enduro.
The format is quite a bit different and the type of terrain is different. It's just two different types of riding, in my opnion. The most difficult prat is at the Enduros, in the beginning to go in and out of race pace, because you sprint through a test and then you coast through the transfer areas and I kind of struggle with that just trying to stay in race mode for the entire day. But I've kind of got that figured out where I'm able to stay focused the whole day and be strong for the last test. I know there were a few Enduros at the start of the year were I was real strong in the first tests and then dropped off in the last few tests. But I've worked on that and now I feel I'm strong in all six tests.
Why do you think you've been able to be so successful at two totally different series?
I just think I am able to adapt really well to different terrain and different conditions.
What's your plan for the off-season?
The first race is the first round of the Enduro series in February, and between now and then I'll just work hard like I did last year during the off-season and put in my time. I will stay down in Florida during the next few months and I will split my time between lifting weights, bicycling, running and riding. I will also be putting in a lot of time on the bike, making sure everything is ready to go.