Deep field of ATV contenders hits the Buckeye State
By Jason Weigandt
Millfield, Ohio (May 8, 2008) -- Rarely do three different racers each feel like the man to beat halfway through a championship season, but that’s the story for the 2008 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series. Heading into this weekend’s Wiseco John Penton GNCC in Southern Ohio, FRE KTM’s Adam McGill, Yamaha’s Bill Ballance and Rockstar/Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Borich each feel like they can seize control of the GNCC Title.
Ballance and Borich draw confidence from their past dominance and 1-2 finish at the previous GNCC at Loretta Lynn’s. Ballance won the race to put himself back on track, with Borich a close second. McGill, though, already owns three wins this year and feels that he would have triumphed again at Loretta’s if his engine hadn’t quit on the last lap.
“I feel like I gave it right away,”Ã says McGill. “I had a line picked out and I knew I could make the pass (on Ballance), because I had passed him there before. I just feel bad like I let everyone down. And you know why I’m bummed? Millfield is my local track, and I wanted to come in with a four-race win streak so I could say it’s the drive for five. It’s my local race and I’m going to have so many people there. I can’t wait.”Ã
McGill is still full of confidence heading into this weekend. But can he stop a confident Ballance and Borich?
Jason Hooper photo
Ballance believes McGill will be right in the title hunt all year, but he doesn’t expect a runaway. “I think it’s going to be just like it was with me and Chris, but now we’ll have a third guy in there with Adam,”Ã says Ballance. “He’s riding well. After winning eight titles, it’s not winning that keeps it going anymore, it’s those battles.”Ã
Borich opened the year with a win but missed the podium for the next three races. “People were asking what was wrong, but there is nothing wrong,”Ã said Borich. “They were just muddy races and anything can happen. Once we get out on dry tracks, I think I can start clicking off some more wins.”Ã
All three stars expect a win this weekend in Ohio, but a deep field of contenders will pressure them at every turn. Team Excell Motorsports Bryan Cook sits second in points after scoring three podiums this year, and the North Carolina veteran has finished strong even when he starts at the back of the pack.
Bryan Cook didn't start the year with the hype of all the factory guys,
but he's been the most consistent rider this season.
The GT Thunder Yamaha tandemn of rookie Brandon Sommers and veteran Johnny Gallagher hail from the area and expect big finishes. Sommers phenomenal rookie season includes two podium finishes, while Gallagher expects to be in the hunt this weekend, especially if it rains, which is a strong possibility.
McGill’s KTM teammate Taylor Kiser would be right in the points battle if not for two moments of bad luck -- a broken chain at one round and the same electrical troubles that struck McGill last weekend.
Veteran privateer riders Matt Smiley (Safari Motorsports) and William Yokley (National Guard) are also podium players this year, but both yearn for a win. Also, the new Can-Am DS450 effort looks to rebound, with Chris Bithell and Chris Jenks (Warnert Racing) and Duane Johnson and Brent Sturdivant (LTERacing.com) looking for their first podiums of the season.
The John Penton GNCC features a full weekend of racing. Saturday's ATV show begins at 8 a.m. with a one-hour youth race, and continues at 10 a.m. with the morning race. Yamaha's Traci Cecco and Tom Clark Motorsports' Angel Atwell are locked in a battle for the Women's Championship and have won every morning race overall this season. In addition, the fast guns of the 4x4 and utility divisions will battle at the same time.
Sunday's bike battle features Red Bull KTM's David Knight and the best off-road motorcycle racers in the world.
What: The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series (GNCC), America's Largest Off Road Racing Series. Cross-country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The nearly three-hour long GNCC races lead as many as 1,800 riders through tracks ranging from eight to 12 miles in length. With varied terrain including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed.
When: May 10 and 11, 2008
Where: The race takes place at Sunday Creek Raceway. From Athens: Take Rt. 33 W. 1 mile to 13N (Chauncey Exit). Go 3 miles into Chauncey. Turn right””staying on Route 13 North. Continue for 10 miles to Jacksonville. Go right on Sixth St. for 2 miles, then turn left.
Who: The Can-Am GNCC Series pits the best of the best in off-road racing against each other. More than 1,500 amateur racers are expected to compete on custom-built dirt bikes and four-wheeled ATVs. Top pro motorcycle riders include David Knight, Barry Hawk, Jr., Charles Mullins, Jimmy Jarrett and Shane Watts. ATV pro riders include Bill Ballance, Chris Borich, Chris Bithell, Matt Smiley and Adam McGill.