GNCC Racing

FMF KTM's Ben Kelley Off to a Strong GNCC Title Defense With Round 1 Victory in South Carolina

FMF KTM's Ben Kelley Off to a Strong GNCC Title Defense With Round 1 Victory in South Carolina

Monday, February 21, 2022 | 10:25 AM
Monday, February 21, 2022 | 10:25 AM


UNION, S.C. – FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Ben Kelley got off to a strong title defense in the 2022 AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series as he captured a dominant flag-to-flag victory at Sunday’s Big Buck season opener in Union, South Carolina. Teammate Josh Toth held tough in second for most of the three-hour race, ultimately finishing just off the podium in fourth. Additionally, Spanish FIM EnduroGP World Championship sensation Josep Garcia (KTM) earned a respectable eighth-place finish in the premier XC1 Pro class for his first-ever GNCC appearance.

Clinching an incredibly close XC1 Open Pro Championship in 2021, Kelley put in the work over the off-season and he came in READY TO RACE with the number one plate aboard his KTM 350 XC-F. With a fourth-place start, Kelley charged his way to the front where he engaged in battle with his teammate, Toth, early on. By the end of lap two, Kelley had managed to create a 33-second gap over Toth and he maintained a comfortable lead into the final laps. Crossing the finish 39 seconds ahead of the second-place rider, the defending champ brought it home for an impressive Round 1 victory in South Carolina. 

Ben Kelley GNCC RD 1 Win
Ben Kelley GNCC RD 1 Win Mack Faint

Ben Kelley:“I was excited coming into this race and I had a solid off-season – it had its ups and downs but I trusted the process and put in the work. I got off to a good start, I was confident because I rode really good here last year and I let it slip through my fingers with getting stuck and a bunch of crashes, so I knew if I just played it smart and stayed off the ground, I’d be good. I had one pretty hard crash getting caught up in a tree but other than that, it was a smooth race and I felt super good. It just feels good to put in a solid result and get the win.”

 Toth, also racing aboard the KTM 350 XC-F, had a great start alongside Kelley and the two riders battled for the lead on the opening lap. Settling into second early on, Toth maintained a steady pace about 30 seconds behind Kelley for most of the race. With two laps to go, Toth was joined by a pair of hard-charging riders and he wasn’t able to hold them off before the checkers, ultimately finishing fourth overall on the day. 

Josh Toth: “Overall, it was a really good day. I got a great start inside the top-three and worked my way into the lead by the end of the lap. It was me and Ben leading the race and I just took a wide line – I was getting pumped up at that point – and I kind of paced off of him and rode with him for a while. The last lap and a half, a couple riders put on a charge and ran me down but I was able to salvage a fourth and just ride my own race and stay safe, so I’m happy with it. Good first round.”

Josh Toth GNCC RD 1
Josh Toth GNCC RD 1 Mack Faint

Racing alongside the FMF KTM Factory Racing Team for the first three rounds,  Garcia held his own off the start but the 2021 ISDE Overall winner suffered a crash early on that placed him dead-last on the opening lap. With his work cut out, the 25-year-old charged up to 10th within the first hour but a series of crashes had him yo-yoing back-and-forth in the first four laps. Settling into a more consistent pace through the third hour, Garcia turned his third-fastest laptime on the final lap as he charged his way to an eighth-place finish in the class and ninth-overall in his first-ever U.S. cross-country race.

Josep Garcia:“First race done here in GNCC and it was a cool experience. The start went pretty good but I had a big crash in the beginning of the race and I was dead last. I tried to come back to the front group and I catch them but I had another crash. I pushed hard again in the second lap to find a groove but the first three laps were horrible about crashing and then I lost them for all the race. I figured out how to just find a good pace and in the last two laps I felt really good so, it’s a new thing for me. I have to learn many things but the most important thing is that I enjoy it.”
Garcia added, “I have a lot of fun because since I was a kid, I don’t race between the other riders – in Europe we race just you and the clock. You are alone in the test and they are quite faster but it’s fun, I can’t wait to keep working and be better every day.”

Josep Garcia GNCC RD 1 01
Josep Garcia GNCC RD 1 01 Mack Faint

Next Race: Palatka, Florida – March 6, 2022

XC1 Open Pro Results – Big Buck GNCC
1. Ben Kelley, KTM, 02:55:27.619
2. Josh Strang, KAW, +39.547
3. Jordan Ashburn, HQV, +01.913
4. Josh Toth, KTM, +40.739
8. Josep Garcia, KTM

Overall Championship Standings
1. Ben Kelley, 30 points
2. Josh Strang, 25
3. Jordan Ashburn, 21
4. Josh Toth, 18
9. Josep Garcia, 12