GNCC Racing

Coastal Racing Husqvarna Team Finishes Atop the Podium at Big Buck GNCC Opener

Thursday, March 9, 2017 | 9:05 PM

The Husqvarna-backed Coastal Racing Team had a successful start to the 2017 Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series with all four of its riders landing atop the podium at the Big Buck GNCC season opener. Led by Ryan Sipes with 3rd overall, the team also saw success in the 250 class with Layne Michael and Craig DeLong grabbing 2nd and 3rd respectively, while Great Britain's offroad sensation Jack Edmondson captured the first-ever victory in the new XC3 125 Pro-Am class. 

Sipes lined up on the front row aboard his Husqvarna FX350 where he got a top-five jump off the start. The Kentucky native rounded the opening lap in the 6th place position but he quickly went to work to position himself in podium contention by lap two. After catching up to the lead battle of Steward Baylor and Kailub Russell, Sipes experienced a tip over that set him just out of reach of the front-runners for the remainder of the three-hour race. 

Sipes powered through illness to run up front for three brutal hours.
Sipes powered through illness to run up front for three brutal hours. Ken Hill

Despite tough track conditions and heavy lapped traffic, Sipes was able to finish atop the podium at the opening round, a good confidence booster after missing half of the 2016 season due to injury. 

"It was a pretty tough day, I was really sick and just kind of tried to get into the zone and tough it out," Sipes said. "I was able to make it work. I'm happy with the way my fitness is and the bike is really good so I'm looking forward to this season. I've got a new focus this year and I'm ready to stay up there on the podium - we're here to be on top!" 

Sipes began the season with a solid podium finish.
Sipes began the season with a solid podium finish. Ken Hill

Following a successful 2016 season, team riders Layne Michael and Craig DeLong are back to compete for an XC2 250 Pro (16-24) championship and both riders showed much promise at the opening round. Michael came into the season opener fresh off knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus sustained during a late-in-the-off-season practice crash. Despite being off the bike for nearly a month, Michael was able to put himself into a favorable position off the start as he jumped into 2nd place aboard his Husqvarna FX250 on the opening lap. DeLong wasn't able to grab the same holeshot however, as he came through the opening lap just outside the top ten. 

Michael overtook the XC2 lead on lap two and held the top position for almost one hour before dropping back to 2nd place on lap four. Meanwhile, DeLong powered his Husqvarna FX250 through the pack of lapped traffic to eventually reach 3rd place just after the halfway point. 

Layne Michael overcame an off-season injury to capture 2nd in XC2.
Layne Michael overcame an off-season injury to capture 2nd in XC2. Ken Hill

As the two-lap card came out, both Michael and DeLong were able to maintain their pace to ultimately earn 2nd and 3rd place podium finishes after three tough hours of racing. 

Michael commented, "Getting on the podium is never easy and we didn't have the greatest offseason but the important part is that we were able to be here at the first round. A couple weeks ago I didn't even think I was going to be racing, so to be on the podium is good. Honestly I was just looking for a good finish and not DNF or something silly so to end up here is just a bonus. It's a good start to the year and we'll take it on to Florida, that's going to be a really gnarly race I think so we just have to make it through that, get a little break, rest up and keep plugging away the rest of the year."

DeLong put forth an impressive charge to climb his way from 11th place on the opening lap to ultimately finish atop the podium with 3rd place.

Craig DeLong fought hard all afternoon to climb up to 3rd. 
Craig DeLong fought hard all afternoon to climb up to 3rd.  Ken Hill

"I was dead last going off the start and this was the worst place to get a bad start - fighting dust and passing people all day long," DeLong said. "I got into 3rd but these boys were checked out quite a bit so I just tried to reel them in but it wasn't working too well, so I did what I could. I'm happy to take a podium finish at the first round and looking forward to getting things into place this weekend in Florida."

For the first time in history the XC3 125 Pro-Am class was added to the GNCC lineup and Coastal Racing/Husqvarna's very own Jack Edmondson came away with the inaugural win. The 125cc World Enduro Champion proved his merit by leading five of the six laps of racing against former National Champions and many talented up-and-comers. Edmondson put his Husqvarna TC125 into a top five position off the start as he took his time settling into the lead position. From there, Edmondson rode his own race to capture a big victory over the competition, inheriting the early points lead in the new class.

Jack Edmondson kicked off his full-time GNCC career with a big victory.
Jack Edmondson kicked off his full-time GNCC career with a big victory. Ken Hill

"I got off to a good start sitting in 5th for half of the first lap and then made some passes to settle into 3rd behind Whibley and Thomas at the beginning of the race," Edmondson said. "I learned the track and knew the places where I could make the passes and by the 3rd lap I had the lead and started to pull out a good gap. From then on my race went really well and by the finish I had pulled a two-minute lead over Thomas in 2nd. I'm really happy with how my first race went and I hope to carry the flow into the second round in Florida." 

Next Event: GNCC Round 2 - March 12, 2017

Results from the Big Buck GNCC - Sunday, March

XC1 Open Pro Results

  1. Steward Baylor Jr.
  2. Kailub Russell
  3. Ryan Sipes (HQV)

XC2 250 Pro (16-24) Results

  1. Josh Toth
  2. Layne Michael (HQV)
  3. Craig DeLong (HQV)

FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am Results

  1. Jack Edmondson (HQV)
  2. Jason Thomas
  3. Paul Whibley