FMF KTM Factory Racing Team’s Kailub Russell earned his 43rd career-victory in a hard-fought battle on Sunday for Round 4 of the 2017 Grand National Cross Country Series (GNCC) in Morganton, North Carolina. KTM-Supported rider Steward Baylor Jr. joined Russell atop the overall podium once again with a solid 3rd place finish after coming through the pack from a bad start.
Consistency has earned Russell and Baylor the top two running positions in the Overall Championship Standings as they remain the only two riders to finish on the podium through the first four rounds of racing.
Off the start, FMF KTM Factory Racing teammates Kailub Russell and Russell Bobbitt put themselves into a favorable position early on as they filed into top three positions right away, each aboard a KTM 250 XC-F. Russell began making moves right away as he jumped into the lead before the end of lap one, while Bobbitt settled into the 3rd place position.
With the exception of a few short times early on, Russell was able to maintain the lead position for all seven laps despite heavy pressure by the 2nd place rider of Thad DuVall. The front-runners put on an exciting show for the North Carolina crowd as they raced wheel-to-wheel for a majority of the three-hour race. However, Russell it up a notch as he checked in for the white flag and from there he began his last-lap push to lose DuVall from his rear wheel.
Russell finished strong, capitalizing on a late-in-the-race crash by DuVall, to ultimately finish 18 seconds ahead of 2nd place to claim his third victory of the season. With that, the North Carolina resident notched career-victory No. 43 in front of a home-state crowd to put him within striking distance of Scott Summer’s all-time record of 46 overall wins.
Russell: “It was a tough day, it wasn’t what I was expecting out there as the track developed. I thought it was going to have a lot more moisture than it did - it was quite dry, square edged and pretty choppy. It was hard to get into the flow there at the beginning and I was kind of a little timid with the traction because some places you would have good traction and other places you’d just go away so it was kind of unfamiliar territory on the first lap. But then we got into a good groove and I felt comfortable and laid down a pace that I knew was going to be really fast. I felt really good and solid on the bike. I made a few mistakes, nothing major, but I’m happy to come away with the win.”
With one win behind him, SRT/KTM’s Steward Baylor Jr. continued his streak of consistency with a third consecutive 3rd place finish. Baylor didn’t get the best start but the South Carolina native was able to quickly push his KTM 350 XC-F into a top five position. From there, Baylor fought hard to eventually make the pass for a podium position on the final lap.
Baylor: “It was a tough day. I was coming in here to salvage points because I tweaked my wrist last weekend and have been struggling. I was trying to avoid the bumps but this is a hard place to do it - there is no smooth line. I was able to make it out and still finish somewhat strong so I’m happy with the day. I’m proud to get 3rd on a day like today and keep it consistent.”
Bobbitt began strong in the 3rd place position but a crash early on caused him to drop back to 10th place. Bobbitt was a bit slow to recover from his crash and lost even more time after making an impromptu pit stop to regain his composure. The multi-time AMA National Enduro Champion finally got back into his stride for the second half of the race and began making passes.
Bobbitt made up substantial ground in the final hour as he climbed his way back up to 8th on the final lap, where he ultimately finished in the XC1 Pro class and 9th overall for the day.
Bobbitt: “Although the results don’t look great on paper, I’m pretty happy with my riding. The track was really rough and unpredictable so it took me a while to get comfortable after I crashed. Things started clicking in the last hour and I was able to get a few guys back before the end.”
Next Event: GNCC Round 5 – April 23, 2017
Overall Results (XC1 Open Pro and XC2 250 Pro Combined)
- Kailub Russell (KTM)
- Thad DuVall
- Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
- Trevor Bollinger
- Josh Strang
9. Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
11. Mike Witkowski (KTM)
19. Jesse Groemm (KTM)
Overall Point Standings
- Kailub Russell (115)
- Steward Baylor Jr. (93)
- Thad DuVall (75)
- Josh Toth (61)
- Ricky Russell (57)
7. Russell Bobbitt (43)
9. Mike Witkowski (40)
11. Chris Bach (38)