GNCC Racing

Quick Fill #44: This Week in GNCC

Quick Fill #44: This Week in GNCC

Thursday, November 12, 2015 | 2:15 PM
Thursday, November 12, 2015 | 2:15 PM

Welcome to Quick Fill.

The off-season is officially in full-swing and before long we’re going to see a ton of info coming in as to who will be riding what and for what teams in 2016. Overall, it’s been a little bit on the quiet side and I wouldn’t expect very many big shake-ups. However, I have heard of several deals on the rise, including a couple of new teams that will be announced soon, so stay tuned as that info will definitely be coming out in the next few weeks.

Last week I mentioned that Chris Bach, Josh Strang and myself were in Japan for the Japan National Cross Country finale. I’ve got all the details on the race, and the experience as a whole coming up a little later in this week’s edition of Quick Fill, so keep reading on because it was a pretty cool and interesting trip.

As the off-season kicks off, keep in mind that the banquet is just around the corner so make sure to get registered, get your hotel rooms squared away and come join us for a weekend of fun and celebration. It’s not only a great weekend to celebrate all the top finishers in each class, it’s also a great time to get together and enjoy some bench racing with the riders you competed against all season.

From left to right, Hannah, Kaleb, Jerri and Tyler raised over $1400 for Team Faith at this year's Rich Mackey Charity Ride this past weekend!
From left to right, Hannah, Kaleb, Jerri and Tyler raised over $1400 for Team Faith at this year's Rich Mackey Charity Ride this past weekend! Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

Weekly Updates (Chelsea Taylor)

It’s starting to officially set in that race season is over, but somehow the office is busier than ever trying to get ready for the 2016 season! It’s bittersweet for the season to be over, but thankfully I was able to sneak in some riding in this weekend. On Saturday myself, Nick and a couple of the Racer X guys headed out to the 2nd Annual Rich Mackey Charity Ride. Jerri, Tyler and Kaleb raised over $1400 in support of Team Faith! Probably the best part about the whole day was when a few of the youth GNCC racers led me around the track, it was just an awesome experience to be out there with the kids we watch race at every round.

Don’t forget about the banquet for ATVs on Friday, December 18, and bikes on Saturday, December 19. In order to reserve your seats click on either link. Also, don’t forget to reserve your hotel room by December 4 to receive the group discount. Either call 1-866-782-9974 to reserve your room by saying, “2015 Night of Champions” or go online and use the code 282101.

Register now for the banquet! Hotel room group rates end December 4th, so make your reservations now!
Register now for the banquet! Hotel room group rates end December 4th, so make your reservations now! Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

The Hometown Hero Program was started at the Limestone 100, and continued throughout the rest of the season. The initiative was planned to allow local racers to participate in the grassroots of marketing in exchange for a free race fee. Click HERE for all the details, and to see the full list of the 2015 GNCC Hometown Heroes. We are looking forward to continuing in 2016!  

That’s all for me this week, I’m going to keep it short because Bolton has an excellent piece on his trip Japan with Chris Bach!

The 4x4 Pro class offered up some of the best racing of the 2015 season!
The 4x4 Pro class offered up some of the best racing of the 2015 season! Photo: Ken Hill

The Loud Quiet Warriors (Rodney Tomblin)

The rarely mentioned 4x4 Pro class may not be as much the hype as the XC1 Pro class but don’t think that they don’t bring the show. On occasion they have gotten been mentioned but honestly they do not get the attention they deserve. First off 4x4 Pro is a very unique class. It features machines up to 800cc with 4-wheel drive. The machines are loud and the riders are quiet but they battle like warriors, which make them the Loud Quiet Warriors of GNCC.

Several times this season it was mentioned about the intense battles and close finishes. Riders battling and finishing within a second or two of each other and often times the final moments not reflecting the battle that took place. The story told on the faces and in the eyes of the competitors. Joy, anguish, heartbreak and exhaustion were recognized after every race. In the end it came down to the final race and only one was left standing in the end.

When the season started Bryan Buckhannon came in with possibly one of the biggest bulls-eyes on his back he has ever worn. Not necessarily the total dominator but very strong, capable of wins and most importantly consistent to the bitter end. Buckhannon only claimed three wins this season but rode with the consistency that ultimately won him yet another championship. He never finished of the podium in class the entire season. It perhaps has been one of the most calculated championships he has ridden pulling the trigger when it was most necessary.

Kevin Trantham started the season seemingly on fire. He won three of the first six rounds but if he wasn’t on he seemed off. Buckhannon won two of those first six but was more consistent and it seemed these two may be in for a torrent battle to the end. Trantham was determined and even after his two worst finishes of the year at rounds seven and eight, he won Snowshoe and came back from summer break with another big win at Unadilla. Trantham biggest obstacle though was his off weekends that put him nearly out of contention.

The big spoiler and possibly surprise was Michael Swift. Swift is well known and more than capable of taking wins but consistency has traditionally been his biggest enemy. He started the season with a second in Florida but a couple of bad finishes seemed as though it may take him out of contention. This was not the case though. Swift seemed more determined than ever and a win at round five was the turning point that put him on course to title contention. He was able to accumulate a total of five wins and finished less than second only once with a seventh that may have actually been the final decider for the championship.

Rolling into the final round the points were tight between Swift and Buckhannon. Trantham still had an outside shot if both the others had bad days. So ultimately it came down to a winner take all shootout between the two point leaders. A win for Swift would tie the points but he would win on the tiebreaker with the most amount of wins. Buckhannon only had two wins heading into Ironman and Swift had all the momentum, or so it appeared.

The final round could have not been scripted any better. The hero and longtime dominator of the 4x4 division was against the ropes and if you followed the race it looked like a new champion was going to be crowned. Swift gained the lead on lap one with Buckhannon 0.8 of a second behind and only 2.2 seconds behind him was Trantham. These three would battle like this the entire race and the phrase, “You could throw a blanket over the top three!” was a literal statement. The entire race the top three were within four seconds of each other running nearly nose to tail. Swift had maintained the lead through nearly the entire race until on the final lap when Buckhannon made the perfect move at the perfect time to not only steal the lead away but to capture the win and the 2015 4x4 Pro title.

The ferocity of these three all season warranted a definite bit of attention. It is honestly too bad that this battle really never caught the attention of the masses. But even though the masses may not have known, there were a select few that rode this wave of excitement all season long. They were all treated to one of the most exciting championship the class has ever known. It may have ranked up there with some of the old Borich versus Ballance and recent Fowler versus Borich battles the GNCC fans have been treated to over the years. And if you happened to be a fan anywhere near the track during these battles it was hard not to eventually recognize three loud four wheelers rolling through the trails, quietly on their way to history.  

Josh Strang flies high over the optional natural terrain jump at the JNCC finale! Read ahead to learn the catch about the jump!
Josh Strang flies high over the optional natural terrain jump at the JNCC finale! Read ahead to learn the catch about the jump! Photo: Jared Bolton

JNCC Finale (Jared Bolton)

As I mentioned earlier, last week saw the Japan National Cross Country finale taking place at the Jiigatake Ski Resort in Omachi City, Nagano, Japan. It has become a tradition for GNCC racers to compete in the final JNCC round, while JNCC riders make their way to the USA to compete in a GNCC event each year. This year, GNCC Racing selected Chris Bach, and Josh Strang also put together a deal to make his way over to the event.

I was lucky enough to tag along and got to experience everything first hand, and it was one of the greatest trips I’ve ever been able to take. I typically stay through Monday afternoon at a GNCC event to clean everything up, but with the Japan trip on the horizon, I left Ironman Sunday night to make the trip back to Morgantown. I basically had enough time to wash clothes, re-pack my bags and head to the Pittsburgh airport. From there I spent the night in Los Angeles and met up with Chris Bach and his mechanic, Eric Siraton at LAX the next day for the flight to Tokyo.

Now, as much as I travel, I had only ever flown one time previous, so the flights from Pittsburgh to LA were only my 2nd ever experience flying. It takes about 12-hours to fly from LA to Tokyo, so my 5th time being on a plane results in a 12 hour flight. Luckily I got an isle seat, and watched about 6 different movies because I had spent $40 on a set of new headphones at LAX, so I wasn’t letting those go to waste. Once we made it to Japan and into customs, there was a space where you were supposed to note where you were staying in Japan, or who you were travelling with. It was at that point that I realized I hadn’t been given exact details on what was happening once I got there, I just knew I was taken care of.

Well, once Chris, Eric and I made it through customs, we were making our way out of the international terminal when Takeshi Koikeda’s wife, Ayako, flagged us down. Chris and Eric also met up with their buddy, Hide (Hee-day), who is a Honda Engineer that actually lives in California but is originally from Japan. So, they went with Hide, and Ayako showed me to my hotel for the night. The next day, we made our way back to the airport to meet up with Josh Strang and his girlfriend Cameron, plus Randy Hawkins and his family, as well as the folks who we would be travelling with the rest of the trip. JNCC President Masami Hoshino, and our guide for the week, Yoshi Kawana.

From there, we made our way to spend the night at Gaia, which is a former All-Japan National Motocross venue. After closing, Masami actually purchased the property and it now serves as a test track complete with a bunkhouse where we stayed. The next day, Friday, we went and toured the famous Matsumoto Castle. Hands down, that was one of the coolest places I’ve ever been too. The castle dates back to the 1600s, so it’s seen it’s fair share of action over the years. We then made our way back to Gaia for some bike testing, then stopped by the track on the way to the hotel.

Japan's famous Matsumoto Castle
Japan's famous Matsumoto Castle Photo: Jared Bolton

Saturday saw a team relay race, which was really cool. Randy and Josh both had teams full of Japanese regulars, but one of the coolest things about the race was the optional jump. It was a decent size natural terrain jump that was only open for the 4th and 5th riders on each time (fastest guys). You had the option of jumping, or going around. However, the catch was that you had to jump a certain distance, past a white painted line, or you would be held for 20 seconds. Randy and Josh’s teams may not have won, but everyone definitely had loads of fun.

Sunday was race day, and what would an off-road race be without a little rain? It rained a bit Saturday night, then drizzled a little on and off throughout the day Sunday. JNCC follows a format pretty similar to GNCC with amateur riders in the morning, while Pro and top amateurs ride in the afternoon. Randy Hawkins would ride the morning “Fun-A” class, which is essentially like Sportsman A. Randy admitted that it had been a while since he had really raced, but once things were off and rolling, you’d never know it. Randy would come away with the Fun-A and morning overall win!

The afternoon race saw a pretty good race as well. With a couple of track changes from the morning, the PM course had a couple of spots that proved to be a bit challenging and technical. Josh Strang would jump out to the early lead with Chris Bach and Australian rider Kye Anderson in tow. Anderson would run into some mechanical issues that would end up taking him out of podium contention but Strang and Bach continued to pull away from the rest of the pack.

With a limited amount of woods, the course was filled with a lot of grass track sections, which sat out in the open and took the bulk of the rain, making it a slick and tough race. Japanese riders aren’t very used to these kinds of conditions, so it made it tough to keep pace with Strang and Bach. However, it never kept any of them from having fun as most every rider I saw had a huge smile on their face, and quite a few rode by giving thumbs up.

The course was rocky, technical and the rain made it pretty slick as well!
The course was rocky, technical and the rain made it pretty slick as well! Photo: Jared Bolton

When it was all said and done, Strang would come away with the win over Bach with defending JNCC champion, Watanabe Manabu in 3rd, which would be good enough to once again give him the 2015 JNCC championship. After the race, I also got a little bit of a history lesson on the event, and JNCC as a whole from the man himself, Randy Hawkins. Randy originally met Masami when he first started working with MSR, as Masami used to be the Tucker Rocky importer in Japan, and also had been organizing races. Randy said that his first time coming to the event, the race was known as the “Hurricane AAGP”, which was named in honor of Bob “Hurricane” Hannah. When the JNCC series first started, the races were around 4 hours long. After discussions with Randy, Masami would then drop the length down to 3-hours, just like a GNCC afternoon bike race. From there, the JNCC series has continued to grow each year and they even had to cap their entries at around 700 for this year’s Jiigatake AAGP.

Monday we would spend the day shopping and travelling back to Tokyo before making our way back to the US on Tuesday. The travel part was tough coming back. Luckily we got a strong tailwind coming back, so the Tokyo to LA flight was just under 10 hours, as opposed to 12 going there. However, instead of staying, I waited around a bit, hopped on another plane to Minneapolis, then to Pittsburgh, which kept me awake for around 30 hours total. 

Overall, it was definitely one of the most fun and interesting trips I’ve ever taken in my life, and Masami even told me he’d let me race his bike if I come again, so hopefully I have the opportunity to go again. I took lots of photos and videos, and if you want to check out the photos, you can see them HERE, and video will be coming soon. I learned quite a bit, and noticed a lot of things. For one, they don’t use very many arrows. Actually, there are almost no arrows at all. They line the course with track tape, and you can go wherever you want as long as you stay within the confines of the tape. No matter what, the riders stay between the tape and don’t cut the course. That alone blew my mind! Plus, there’s around 13 million people who live in the main part of Tokyo. That’s about 5 million MORE people than the entire state of California. The streets are very clean and have basically zero trash even though you don’t see very many trashcans. Amazing!

I can’t thank Racer Productions enough for giving me the opportunity to go experience the JNCC event. It was definitely one of the coolest events I’ve ever attended and I hope I get the opportunity to go again. Big thanks go out to everyone involved in the JNCC series for making the race happen and of course huge thanks to Masami for having us, and of course our Japanese tour guides Yoshi and Ayako for all their help along the way. Can’t wait to see you all at a GNCC in 2016! Once again, to see some photos from the race and the entire Japan experience, check out the JNCC photo gallery HERE.

The JNCC staff with GNCC racers, family and staff at the JNCC finale!
The JNCC staff with GNCC racers, family and staff at the JNCC finale! Photo: Jared Bolton


Stolen Bikes at Ironman GNCC

GNCC Hometown Hero Program Excels in Its Inaugural Year

KTM Video: The Kurt Caselli Foundation 24 Hours of Glen Helen

DP Brakes ATV/UTV Year End GNCC Report

2015 JNCC Finale Photo Gallery

What's New on

Be sure to relive all the memories from the 2015 AMSOIL GNCC Series presented by Maxxis by heading to and watching all of our archived videos! Lives races, as well as highlight videos and NBCSN episodes are archived on the site right now! 

The JNCC staff with GNCC racers, family and staff at the JNCC finale!
The JNCC staff with GNCC racers, family and staff at the JNCC finale! Photo: Jared Bolton

News from GNCC, Riders and Sponsors

As we head into the off-season and start looking towards the 2016 race season, rider support and sponsorship is important to start planning. Click HERE to learn more about the companies that not only support GNCC Racing, but the dedicated racers that compete! 

Photo: Jared Bolton

Tireblocks is now accepting applications thru 12/5/15. Riders can email their resumes to [email protected].