It's all over for 2007, and the history books must now be re-written. Bill Ballance is the all-time King of Quads in the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series. The Yamaha rider went out and won the season-finale Kloz Ironman GNCC to make sure the championship was his, and now he has won the GNCC crown for the eighth-straight time, an all-time record.
Ballance is the eight-time champion!
"It hasn't even hardly sunk in yet," said Ballance, clearly getting emotional on the podium. "When I first started this years ago, I was just hoping to be a top ten rider. To win eight in a row, I can't even believe it. I'm just so happy, we weren't even trying to win this one, we were trying to take it easy and make sure we didn't have problems with the bike, and things started happening and we ended up in the lead."
Twenty seven entries in XC1, and Chris Borich had the inside line to the holeshot
Ballance's rival Chris Borich looked like he could win the Ironman, although Ballance still would have only needed to finish 12th to win the crown anyway. Borich took the ITP Holeshot Award and battled with Ballance most of the day, but ran into trouble on the rugged track with two laps to go and dropped to fifth. “There was a bottle neck and I tried to climb a hill, and it was all blown out, just deep ruts everywhere,”Ã said Borich. “So I got stuck there and lost some time, went to the back. I came back up and got stuck again on the last lap, that was about it.”Ã
With Borich experiencing those problems, Ballance was assured of the championship. But the Ironman race win wouldn’t be as easy to get, because Adam McGill was charging hard after his first win. In third at one point and battling with new XC2 Champion Brandon Sommers and veteran Matt Smiley, McGill put on a strong charge late in the race to nearly pass the champ. “I remember Bill telling me before the day, he said save everything for the last lap,”Ã said McGill. “So I did, I just followed him for a while and we started dicing it up a little bit and taking a little bit of chances. Brandon Sommers got in front me and I’ll tell you one thing””that kid can move. Hats off to him, he ran me hard today. I guess I came out on top. I tried to give it everything I had about the last two miles. Bill and I came out to this last field section, I took the line wide and he took it tight, and when we got into the next turn, he swung it wide and I was right up under his grab bar. If he would have slowed down just a little bit more, I would have been up on his seat saying hey, what’s up to him. Hats off to him””eight times””I don’t think anybody’s going to beat it.”Ã
It may seem odd that Ballance would offer McGill advice that could lead to his own defeat, but McGill has faith. “People say to be old and wise you have to be young and stupid first,”Ã said McGill. “I look up to Bill and what all these guys have to say. All these guys are real good friends to me, and I don’t think they’d steer me wrong.”Ã
The XC1 podium celebration
Smiley was happy to end the season with another podium. He started nearly last but worked his way forward. “I picked my way up through the field pretty quickly,”Ã said Smiley. “The next thing you know I was pulling up to the leaders. They all pitted and I kept going and took the lead over. I picked a bad line on one of the hills and dropped back. I lost my seat so it got a little rough on the last mile. I’m just real happy with the way things worked out today.”Ã
Fourth went to Sommers, matching the finish of his XC1 pro debut at the previous GNCC in Ohio. After the race, Sommers collected the first-ever green number-one plate as the 2007 XC2 Pro Am Champion.
Sommers and the rest of the field would surely like to collect their first GNCC XC1 Overall title, but Ballance plans on returning to win number nine in 2008. “We’re coming back again next year,”Ã said Ballance. “We have a contract with Yamaha, and just take it one year at a time. We’re having fun with it, and things are good, so just ride the boat while it’s sailing, I guess.”Ã
Don Ockerman won XC2 on this day, and the season-long class contender was happy with that result. “I got the lead on the second lap and let it hang out; I didn’t want anybody catching me,”Ã said Ockerman. “Everything went perfect today””awesome track. I learned quite a bit over the summer and took that home, worked with it a little bit.”Ã
Ockerman took his first win of the season in Indiana
Second in XC2 went to Kevin Yoho, his third podium of the season. “I got a bad start,”Ã said Yoho. “I wrecked a couple times and just finally got going there towards the end. The start’s pretty big because I’m pretty wore out by the time I get to the last lap.”Ã
Third in XC2 went to Brian Wolf, his first podium of the season. “We had bad luck all year,”Ã said Wolf. “I got fifth off the line and just went up there. It’s awesome. I never thought I’d be up here.”Ã
Brian Wolf [left] scored his first champagne celebration
It was a banner day altogether for Yamaha, who not only celebrated Ballance's eighth crown, but also won the overall in the morning race with Traci Cecco, who started in the fourth row in the Women's class but still managed to win the race--a fitting end to a championship season. “I had it in my mind today; I was going to give it all I got today,”Ã said Cecco. “The course is just awesome right now. You can really hook up and it’s tacky. It’s just basically having momentum to make it up all those hill climbs out there. I had it my mind off the starting line, just pass one at a time, and pass as fast and as soon as I could and that’s what I did. It feels really good.”Ã
Cecco was followed by a pair of happy class winners in the morning race, as Scott Kilby won the Open 4x4 class and Mike Benson took U2.
Also, the UTVs had their way with the Ironman track and it was one of the most fun events races the series had ever seen, with about 30 machines (and 30 passengers) battling through mud, water, hills and rocks. It was very fun to watch--there's a good chance you'll see more of these races in the future.
But the future, the present and the past belongs to Ballance. "We got so many fast guys out there riding these days, and factory support and everything is coming, everyone is taking it so seriously now, and spending so much time riding and training. Things like bike setup are a lot closer than they used to be."
Close, but once again not quite enough to knock off the King of Quads.
The 2007 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series concludes with the annual Awards Banquet on Friday, November 23.
Klotz Ironman GNCC
October 27, 2007
1. Bill Ballance (Yam)
2. Adam McGill (Hon)
3. Matt Smiley (Hon)
4. Brandon Sommers (Yam)
5. Chris Borich (Hon)
6. Duane Johnson (Hon)
7. Bryan Cook (Hon)
8. Johnny Gallagher (Suz)
9. Craig Reed (Hon)
10. Jeffrey Pickens (Hon)
11. William Yokley (Kaw)
12. Donald Ockerman (Hon)
13. Michael Burrows (Hon)
14. Bryan Baker (Pol)
15. Chris Jenks (Hon)
16. Michael Houston (Yam)
17. Brian Wolf (Hon)
18. Kevin Yoho (Yam)
19. Adam Reed (Hon)
20. Ryan Lane (Hon)
Final GNCC Overall Point Standings
1. Bill Ballance 347/6 wins
2. Chris Borich 311/6 wins
3. Chris Bithell 237/1 win
4. Matt Smiley 203
5. Adam McGill 185
6. Brandon Sommers 175
7. Taylor Kiser 154
8. Bryan Cook 133
9. Duane Johnson 132
10. Chris Jenks 116
About GNCC Racing:
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country series is America’s premier off-road racing series. The 13-round championship series began in 1973 and is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. 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 twelve miles in length. GNCC Racing airs weekly television shows on the Versus network every Saturday at 3 PM and Thursday at 4 PM. With varied terrain including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed. GNCC featured sponsors include BRP Can-Am, Parts Unlimited, Moose, Maxxis, Pirelli, Wiseco, Acerbis, Elka, Geico, Klotz, FMF, ITP and Weekend Warrior, and riders compete for over $3 million in series prizes and contingency money. Associate sponsors include Alpinestars, Cometic, HiPer Technology, Laegers, Moose Utility Division, The National Guard, Powersport Grafx, REM, Scott, Thor, Tire Balls, Twin Air, and MotoTee’s. Media Sponsors include Racer X Illustrated, ATV Rider, ATV Sport, ATVRiders.com, Quadzone.com, Dirt Rider and ATV Insider. For more information log on to http://www.gnccracing.com/.