Kanechewaa. We can not post photos because we are in Japan and i have not figured out how to get this computer to work right.Ã£Ã¢¬Ã¢¬Otherwise, Welcome to Quick Fill. You may have thought the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series went big last weekend in Indiana, but you have no idea.
As I write this week’s week-in-review column, I’m flying over the Pacific Ocean to Japan. Rodney Smith and his wife Lori are on my flight, Charlie Mullins and his girlfiend Rachel have already arrived, and Jason Raines will follow our path tomorrow (Jason didn’t want to travel on Halloween since he has to take his girl trick-or-treating). We’re all heading to the final round of the Japan National Cross Country Series, the JNCC Series, as international guests of the promoters. GNCC is really, really big nowadays. Not only did KTM send its two best talents over to the states to capture the series title for the last three years, but racers all over the world now grow up dreaming of racing in the American woods. For you folks who live in say, Ohio, or South Carolina, or Pennsylvania, it’s amazing to think you can just pack up the pickup and go race for a few hours and then go home, while others have moved halfway around the world just to do the same. Even bigger, the spotlight on the tour now shines so bright that people see it in other countries. Racer TV and the GNCC Series is now seen in 56 countries besides the U.S. The German Cross Country Series (GCC) has expressed interest in a partnership of sorts with us, and the JNCCs are flying in three American riders for their final round of the season.
They’re also sending a journalist (me) so we can spread the word on just how big our little series has become.
I’ll be here for a week, and the race is on Sunday. Stay tuned to my blog at www.blogandt.comfor updates and photos. This should be really, really fun. Last year Paul Whibley and Robbie Jenks competed in Japan and from what they tell me, they got the full Rockstar treatment””they were bigger in Japan then they are in the States! So this should be really fun, and the next time you see me sulking around at the races looking tired because I just put in another 80-hour week and haven’t had a weekend off in four months, remind me that racing provided me with a free trip to Japan. This is once-in-a-lifetime stuff.
Of course I will get some time off anyway since our Series is now closed for the season. What a finale we had in Indiana. We were playing so much of the Klotz Ironman GNCC by ear””we had no idea how the UTV race would go, how the titles would shape up, how the demo rides would come together, or how many people would show up, but it was a home run on all accounts and really a great way a celebrate a great season. A hearty tip of the Racer Productions visor to everyone who raced or watched with us this year. Collectively, we’ve made the series big enough to give the final round a really special feel, and now that we’re there, we want to run with it. We’ll keep piling on the activities at Ironman until we have to start parking people in Iowa.
The first question we were asked when we got home was “Are you going to race the UTVs next year?”Ã Luckily enthusiasm has not waned now that we have had a race, and it sounds like people want to do this next year really, really bad. We don’t have a definitive answer yet but obviously the Ironman proved UTV and GNCC is a doable combo, and man, that was just so much fun to watch. Jeff Russell even took me out for a lap of the track, and the 1991 AMA National Enduro Champion had his old look of determination on as he pulled tearoffs while blitzing through the mud wide-open in a Polaris RZR. That one lap of the track was the most fun I’ve had all year doing anything. Yes, anything. So how could we not want to do that? If we can find enough room at enough tracks, we’ll have to do it again a few times next year.
Jeff crossed the finish first in that race, but since he laid out the track and had Inronman land owner Ken Shaver in the passenger seat, it didn’t really count. To my eye the fastest team on the track was Bryan Baker. The factory Polaris ATV racer had a stock RZR and raced basically because he’s spent the last 10 years trying to explain to his wife what it felt like to race GNCC. “Now she’ll finally get to find out,”Ã he said, and he added that he’ll still have to be the one driving the rig back to Missouri when the racing was over. Bryan and his wife were flying out there and they looked prime to win the overall until his engine let go on the last lap. Racing these machines this hard on a muddy track did take its toll, but I’m sure people will figure it out before long. Meanwhile, Bryan’s wife said she had a great time and yes, she finally got to see what it was really like. How cool is that?
Other highlights included Donny Macan from KTM taking out Red Bull KTM’s prized Polaris Ranger, and stuffing the front wheel against a rock and breaking it off. When we found Donny stopped on the side of the trail, we could not figure out what rock he had hit, since there weren’t any big ones near him. Turns out he kept it pinned and got a few hundred feet up the track on three wheels! Later, after getting towed off of the track, he managed to three-wheel it back over to the KTM semi.
I also dug the guys in a Rhino wearing suits and blasting “Eye of the Tiger”Ã through the stereo system.
Probably the only people having more fun than the UTVers were all the Yamaha people who had come to watch Bill Ballance make history and become an eight-time ATV Champion (although it always strikes me as ironic that the rider who Ballance just took the all-time ATV title record from, Barry Hawk, is also a Yamaha rider). The blue crew had a pep rally on Friday with autographs from all their factory racers as well as popcorn for the families on hand, and they presented Traci Cecco and Ballance with beautiful trophies celebrating their accomplishments. As Steve Nessel, the Yamaha ATV Marketing Manager said on the podium: “When we launched the YFZ450, we knew we couldn’t just get any rider to ride this machine, we wanted to have the rider, and there was no other person to get except Bill Ballance, the greatest GNCC ATV racer there has ever been.”Ã
Hard to argue with that, although it did make it pretty fun to go over and rib Hawk a little bit the next day. Barry has plenty of laurels to rest on still, since he does have eight GNCC titles himself, with one on the bike, too. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t make it nine this year after he broke a chain on the second lap of Sunday’s race, which guaranteed that David Knight would take the championship.
Knight was really controlling his own destiny, anway. Only needing a 12th to win the title, no doubt he had visions off all the bad luck he’s had this season race through his mind””12th was hard to come by in Pennsylvania and Georgia, for example. So he raced cautiously at first, keeping the revs low on his 450XC until he got the news that Hawk was out. Then he went after Mullins and the two put on a great race, with Knight taking advantage of a few mistakes by Hot Rod to end the season with a win and the title.
For Knight, the question of him versus Juha Salminen will be discussed as long as the Hawk versus Ballance on ATV debate will go on on Saturdays. Hey, we’re not holding another race for five months, what else are we going to talk about?
Well, we can speculate on next year. The rumor mill finally spit out a fact and Charlie Mullins has indeed signed with FMF Suzuki for next year. This is a major power shift in the sport, as everyone knows how capable Mullins is and with some seasoning, it always seems inevitable that he will be winning GNCC titles. Could even happen next year””when things were right this season, he battled Knight hardest for the wins. Hot Rod’s Yamaha deal expired on October 31, which means he will make his Suzuki debut this weekend at the JNCC! I will be sure to get a picture of him on his new ride. Next year he’ll be riding an RM250 in the GNCCs alongside Jimmy “#4!”Ã Jarrett, while Josh Strang is moving to an RM-Z450. Suzuki will have another 450 rider next year, too, but I think it’s just a shade too early to say who it is. How about this for a hint: I mentioned him earlier in Quick Fill for racing the JNCC event last year, and it’s not Robbie Jenks.
Speaking of Jenks, he doesn’t know what his plans are for 2008 yet. He won’t be returning to KTM, though. KTM has a new signee to put under their tent alongside Knighter and XC2 Champion Justin Williamson, and again I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say who it is right now so I’ll just throw out another ridiculous hint and say that he rode very, very well at last year’s Ironman race.
How did BMW’s big debut go? Terribly. Simo Kirrsi cross-rutted on the first lap and went down, injuring his collarbone and ending the day very early. So unfortunately, the Germans didn’t get the R and D they were hoping for, as they repeated over and over that their main goal was to just finish the race. Well, if you saw the white bike on the stand in the pits during the race, for sure know that it’s not because the bike quit running. As for Simo, we feel bad for the guy because he did the same thing the last time he raced GNCC, back in March in Georgia!
There was another BMW out there and it did finish. Dirt Rider editor Jimmy Lewis raced the morning race on one of those monster 1200cc twin cylinder beasts, and he finished! Jimmy, though, can do anything, and he said he was really only held back by the street/dirt tire on the back of the bike. His big Beemer had a 17-inch rear wheel so there weren’t many options out there for knobbies unless you find a time machine to 1975;
My apologies to a few Youth bike racers. On Sunday morning I was working the podium and did a terrible job with my math. Turns out Chris Meadows pulled off his amazing comeback to win the 85cc 12-13 Title by closing the season with five wins, which gives him the win on a tie-breaker of Layne Michael. Also, Aaron Plessinger is your 7-11 85cc Champion. For a list of all the Youth Class winners, and every other champion from every other class, check out the results page on this site (click the upper right).
The Youth Overall Champion for the season is Walker Fowler. Walker is also a two-time Youth ATV Overall Champion, but as the stakes get higher as he climbs the ranks, it looks like he’s getting some pressure to pick a side in the next year or two. Will Walker go to two wheels or four? The choice isn’t so easy nowadays since there’s factory help on both sides (back in Hawk’s day the choice was make a living on the bike or do it as a hobby on an ATV). And now Walker could stay in the KTM family no matter what he decides to do. Should be interesting.
Hey, if you’ve been wondering where Shane Watts has been lately, he’s putting together his Dirt Wise riding schools with Cole Calkins. I just got this letter:
I attended the Shane Watts school in Elkins, WV last weekend and it was
awesome. Shane & Cole are great instructors. Shane starts building on the
basics of proper positioning on the bike, braking, accelerating, cornering ,
and lots more. After you have a handle on the basics, they cover some
advanced techniques; such as how to pick better riding lines through the
woods, how to attack obstacles, and techniques for better hill
climbing and dealing with creeks. You will have lots of skill drills that
you can take home and practice in your own back yard that will help you
continue developing your riding ability.
Shane & Cole spend a lot of one on one time working with you on you skills.
Its a two day course pack with lots of learning, riding and fun. The Dirt Wise
video is good too!
Our buddy Billy Ursic next door at Racer X check out the GNCC lap times this week in depth:
The Ironman gathered great coverage all weekend in the Crawfordsville Journal Review. Friday’s paper included interviews with Bill Ballance and Taylor Kiser, and Tim Tuttle, a veteran of just about every Motorsports event you can imagine, put together this post-race coverage on Sunday. http://www.journalreview.com/articles/2007/10/28/sports/01ironman.txt
We have a winner! A winner of just about every pro jersey in GNCC Racing!
2007 PRO JERSEY RAFFLE
ISDE FUND RAISER FOR JIMMY JARRETT, DENNIS DECKER & MANDI MASTIN
Dave Hall from Alexandria, Ohio
***Long time GNCC Racing Family***
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the riders that donated jerseys. Without their help and support this fund raiser would not have been possible. Along with that we would like to send a BIG THANK YOU to Racer Productions for giving us the idea and resources to do the fund raiser. A special thanks to Donna and Carrie Jo for their extra time and donations throughout the last couple of weeks.
For all the supporters that purchased tickets”Ã¦THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Whether you purchased tickets just because you wanted a chance to win the jerseys or because you wanted to help fund raise for the 2007 ISDE in Chile this year, we appreciate your contribution.
Awesome. So we’ve got GNCC racers headed to Chile, and GNCC Racers headed to Japan. And hopefully a lot of you headed to Mars in a few weeks for our GNCC banquets (that’s Mars, Pennsylvania). You’ll find the banquet forms on the main page. That’s it for now, the plane is about to land in Tokyo and my girlfriend and I have been on it for nerly 11 hours. And you folks complain when we held a race Missouri last year!
Just kidding. Enjoy your off-season folks. And be sure to keep checking the blog for the latest from the land of the rising sun.