The top stars of off-road racing hit the sandy, whooped out trails of the West Gate River Ranch today in their final tune-up before tomorrow’s Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series season opener. The riders looked fast and confident in anticipation of tomorrow’s race, including Nathan Kanney and Kurt Caselli (Shock Doctor KTM), Barry Hawk and Thad DuVall (Am-Pro FMF Yamaha), and Paul Whibley and Jimmy Jarrett (GEICO Monster Kawasaki). In addition, Shock Doctor KTM has a ringer in 2001 AMA 125 Motocross Champion Mike Brown, no stranger to going fast on sand.
“I want to try going for this GNCC championship in a few years, so I want to do well tomorrow to show what I can do,” said Brown, who leads the standings in this years WORCS tour.
A few teams marked their debut today, including the GEICO Monster Kawasaki squad with Whibley, Jarrett and Scott Watkins, as well as new entrants from Husaberg, with Dustin Gibson, Aprilia with Ryan Echols, and Gas Gas with Justin Williamson. In all, it makes up the widest variety of equipment ever on the starting line of a GNCC race.
The field will get even deeper tomorrow when FMF Suzuki pilots Charlie Mullins and Josh Strang hit the scene. Also, 2000 GNCC Champion Shane Watts practiced today and will compete tomorrow. Watts won the Florida GNCC in 2007.
The race gained additional international presence when eight riders from the Japan National Cross Country (JNCC) tour signed up to race, led by All-Japan Motocross Champion Takeshi Koikeda.
Thad DuVall has jumped up to the 450 class (XC1) after winning the XC2 title last year on his WR250F. He is still aboard Yamahas with the Am-Pro team.
Lap times were not kept during practice, as the practice track does not share any mileage with tomorrow’s actual racecourse. Tomorrow, fans can watch the lap times live by clicking on the LIVE LAP TIMES link at at www.gnccracing.com. The true test comes tomorrow, when riders will read terrain on the first lap and begin the wide-open fight for the GNCC Championship.
Tickets cost $15, and children under the age of six are free. Youth racing begins at 8 a.m., the morning race takes off at 10 a.m., and the pro riders race at 1 p.m. For more information on the event, check out www.gnccracing.com.