Trail Jesters KTM Racing – Ironman GNCC Race Report
The 2019 GNCC season officially came to an end this past weekend as the Trail Jester KTM Racing team took on the Ironman GNCC in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Ben Kelley lined up again on the XC1 line looking to repeat his performance from two weeks ago where he took his first XC1 overall win. Rain pummeled the area all day Saturday making a mess out of track, but would come to an end leaving Sunday with sunny conditions and allowing the track to start to tack up with also many trouble spots throughout. As the green flag waved marking the start of the 3-hour race Ben Kelley found himself dead last off the line and with some ground to make up. Within the first lap he made quick work of getting into 5th place, where he engaged in a gnarly 5-person battle for the lead, “It was crazy. All of us were banging bars, smashing off each other, and crossing lines in one of the wide open field sections that was just layered in sloppy mud. Super exciting racing” Ben said. Making smart line choices and pushing himself to the limits, Kelley would check in at lap two in the lead and from there would consistently pull further and further from the competition. Kelley stated, “’I’m stoked I was able to get into the lead for good by the end of the second lap and put a gap on the rest of the field so I could avoid the carnage at the end of the race. And there was a lot of that. These conditions make for lots of aggressive hail Mary passes.” In just his third XC1 race of the season Ben Kelley would take the win finishing the year with back-to-back overall victories. When asked about his 2019 season Ben said, “It’s been a crazy successful year. Going to be hard to top next year. Definitely didn’t expect all this. I had high expectations for XC2 and felt I had a good chance of winning a lot but to actually win all the races I entered in that class is crazy. So much time out on the track for things to go wrong, I’m happy I put it together. As for XC1 it’s just the icing on the cake.”
Jesse Ansley took on the Ironman track in a new fashion as he lined up with the XC2 class switching out his 125 for a 250 XC-F. With never actually riding the bike prior to the race other than from the rig to the starting line, Jesse took the term “learning opportunity” to a whole new level. With all the extra power the KTM 250 XC-F has to offer, Jesse got off to a pretty good start, sitting in the top 10. The crazy conditions took him as a victim as he got stuck halfway through the first lap, which allowed his entire class to get in front of him, he said “The whole first lap I was way back and I just told myself I needed to stay calm and learn the class and the bike.” Heading into the second lap Jesse found a rhythm and started to feel the flow on the new bike, he put his head down and charged his way up to 6th place in XC2. Unfortunately, Jesse crashed not long after and injured his thumb. Not wanting to make this injury even worse he made the tough decision to end his race early. After getting a glimpse of what next season has in store Jesse said, “I’m excited and looking forward to moving to XC2 full time. I really enjoyed the 250 XC-F once I got comfortable on it toward the end of my running in the race.”
With a quick reaction on the line Simon Johnson got off the 250A line fast and headed into the woods 2nd in class. Johnson was enjoying the muddy conditions this track had to offer but would succumb to the conditions, logging in a couple of tip overs throughout the first lap causing him to lose sight of the lead. Sitting in 2nd for the first 3 laps, Simon was playing catch up and gaining time on the leader each lap. With the two lap board out Simon took over the lead and focused on staying consistent until the end, he said “I did my best not to get stuck, which was super challenging towards the end of the race.” Simon finished the last race of the season with the 16th overall, 1st Amateur Overall, and the 250A class win. His placement this race also secured him the 2019 GNCC Amateur Overall Championship. With two 2019 GNCC championships under his belt Johnson stated, “I’m really happy with how this year went, I feel like I checked off a lot of boxes. I’m happy to say I’ll be working with Steve Hatch again in order to prepare for my rookie XC2 season. All aspects will have to improve to be competitive next year. Thankfully, my team has blessed me with all the opportunities to do so.”
Brayden Nolette was another rider finding himself on a new bike and on a new line at the Ironman GNCC. Lining up for his first 3 hour race, he rolled up to the A200 line looking to get a taste of what next season will be like for him. As the flag waved marking the start of his race he said in a mid pack positions for the first few corners and out into the woods. Finding himself battling with some of the top contenders Brayden made efforts to stay in the top of his class. Tough conditions and a few poor line choices left Nolette stuck in the mud and allowed for his competition to get by. Nolette took this learning experience and finished his first afternoon race 6th in 200A. When asked about his move up to this class and his race he had this to say, “It wasn’t as bad as everyone made it sound. I think I definitely psych myself out for it to be brutal, but it wasn’t as bad.” Moving into the off season Nolette is already making plans to train and work on areas he feels he needs, “I am beginning to prepare with Steve Hatch’s training schedule and I also want to work on my mental side. KTM decided that I was going to race A200 instead of B, I am confident on the 2 stroke and it’s becoming more and more easy to ride.”
Thank you to our team sponsors: KTM, FMF Racing, Troy Lee Designs, Dunlop Tires, Motorex, Super B Batteries, Bullet Proof Designs, P3 Carbon, Motool, Squid Decals and Edelmann Sales for their continued support.
About Trail Jesters:
Trail Jesters Racing is a KTM support team established in January 2014. We race off-road motorcycles at the professional, amateur and youth level of national and regional series.