GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Chris Bithell

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | 12:00 AM

Let's put it simply: Chris Bithell is back. After a tough first season with the Warnert Racing Can-Am team, the young Pennsylvanian got back on track with a big overall ATV win at Unadilla over the weekend. To say the least, Chris is relieved. We called him today for an update.

Interview by Jason Weigandt
Photos by Jason Hooper

Chris before the race. Man what kind of a relief is it to finally be back on top?
Chris Bithell: It feels great, I got a lot of people giving me a call and telling me it was cool to see me back up there. And I want to thank the fans. They were really supportive, and this wouldn't be worth doing if it wasn't for them.

You went from not even finishing to getting a win. Did anything really change from the last race?
Uh, I think we just got a little bit of luck on our side. We broke a lot of stuff at the beginning of the year and I was pretty angry. But lately it was just stupid little stuff. Everything was good, and we knew eventually it was going to work out.

This race started badly for you. Did you get turned around like Borich and a bunch of those guys did in the first turn?
No, I was even further back than that! I was coming down the straight and Borich was starting to spin back around. He spun into me, so I was behind him when we headed into the woods. We hooked up together and got a good pace going. We got down to that famous railroad section that we did two years ago. Anyway, Borich got hung up and was blocking the trail. I didn't want to wait. I had never went off of the tracks before, but everyone kept telling me not to do it because you would get stuck. It looked dry, so I decided to give it a try. Sure enough, it was a swamp. I monster trucked my way through, just trying to keep my momentum up and not get stuck. By the time I got back on the trail, Borich was already gone, and I was back with Don Ockerman and a couple of the guys in XC2.

Where you thinking, “Oh, we just blew another race” ?
Pretty much. You do that and you start riding with the other guys, so you start thinking This is where I'm going to be the whole race. And Ockerman, he doesn't run too bad of a pace, so I thought I would just kind of be with him all day. But I decided that wasn't it. I was just going to go for it.

How the heck did you catch back up?
Well, a few of those guys going on the wrong track (note: William Yokley, Chris Jenks, Johnny Gallagher and Brandon Sommers went the wrong way on lap one and went way back) helped me, but I don't like to win that way. I want to race the guys heads up. It kind of confused me how I got up there that quickly, really.

Chris during the race.

I saw you on the motocross track, and you went past Borich. You were flying! You must have been feeling it.
Yeah, a little before that I was going with Cook and we were clipping along pretty good. I got around him, and then I got Kiser, and then Borich right after. It was probably 30 seconds and I passed all three of them. So that was pretty good right there.

Where did that speed come from?
I've been going to locals lately and I feel pretty fast. Sommers is usually the only one who comes to the locals, and I don't want to put him down or anything, but I'm usually able to put some good time on him. So I felt like I had good speed.

Is it more frustrating to know how well you do at the locals, or when you're practicing, and then it goes wrong at the GNCCs?
It does frustrate you a little bit. But I understand what's happening, the quad is new and I knew we would get it. We really didn't change too much. We've been trying to stick with this basic stock motor. The bike feels good underneath me. It's way different and way better than what I've been on before.

When we talked to you before the season began, you said “I will testify and go under the gun” that this quad will work. Does that all change once you actually get to the races?
It's a lot like that. People see the quad breaking down and they think what they want. Me and Chris Jenks, we've had problems, but we push a quad way more than just about anyone else would when we race it. It's a solid machine for just about anyone.

So can we expect to see you up there again at the last two?
You never know, especially with the luck coming in and out of play. I think we can do it again, though. The next race in Ohio is kind of close to me, and the track is a lot like what I ride at home. And the Ironman, that's a great track, too.

You and Adam McGill have gone back and forth in this series since your Pro-Am days. Was it tough to see him winning all of these races at the beginning of the year on his new quad while you were having a tough time?
It was for sure, but not because of me versus him. I just knew that everyone would look at Can-Am versus KTM. And because they were doing well, I was really starting to feel some pressure. It was really getting down on me. It had nothing to do with him, I don't mind seeing anyone do well. But I wanted our team to be the one with the success.

You said on Saturday that this win feels even better than getting your first win last year.
Yeah. After a year like this, doing this just puts you right back in the hunt. It refreshes everyone's memory.

Chris after the race.

Finally, what's it like on the last lap having Bill Ballance right behind you?
He rode me in there the last lap, and I'm sure he knows it. I was feeling it at the end. I hadn't finished a race in awhile, so the two hours at that pace was beginning to catch up to me. I had a good lead on him, and then he reeled me in on the last lap. He never did get in front of me, but he was right there.

And then you ran out of gas momentarily?
Well a little before the finish I heard it sputter. I knew what was going on. The third to the last turn was a u-turn, and it stalled. Luckily he was right behind me, and he came into the back of me and I hit my button and fired it up. Some fuel must have sloshed back over and it fired right up. Then the next thing I know, he wasn't right there.

Somebody else had the bad luck for once.
Yeah and he must have been bummed about that. That sucks after all that work. He was one turn from the finish. I'm glad I won, but he really earned second.

So how pumped are you for the next race?
Man, I can't even wait for the local race this weekend!

Okay I hope the good luck stays with you for the rest of the year.
Me too! Thanks.