Randy Hawkins operates the Am-Pro Yamaha team and volunteered his squad of top-level racers to coach at the GNCC University.
When was the last time you heard of James Stewart or Chad Reed giving personal instructions to an everyday rider? Ever see Ryan Villopoto pick up a beginner’s bike after a crash and explain where they went wrong? Probably not. There are top-level pros out there providing hands-on coaching, even during the race season, but you won’t find them in a Supercross stadium. The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country series features some of America’s best off-road racers. Knowing this, they wanted to share their valuable resource with people like you and me, so they created the GNCC University to do just that.
Neither GNCC Racing nor Snowshoe Mountain had hosted an instructional motorcycle course before, so the event was new and exciting for both parties. The Snowshoe facility offers such a unique opportunity for the race fans and participants with on-site lodging and restaurants, the GNCC team wanted to bolster this particular round as much as possible with other reasons for people to come visit the resort. After watching the smiling faces of a capacity turnout, the University was certainly well-received.
Be sure to watch the Snowshoe GNCC University – Riding School video to see the Yamaha instructors in action and willing students trying to master their craft.
“We were blown away, absolutely blown away,” says Racer Productions’ GNCC front man, Tim Cotter. “Our goal was to field a class of 30 riders in each the bike and ATV and we sold it out the day of… The seven instructors and their team members were amazing. It was sort of a shot in the dark for all of us.”
They say you never stop learning and that seemed to be the case with a wide variety of riders from youth beginners to teen experts and vet intermediates. Riders from all walks came to learn from the best. Everything started out Wednesday night where the 60 riders were able to meet the Yamaha champions who would be coaching them for the next two days. Once the pleasantries were over, class was in session bright and early the next day after eating a quality breakfast at the Shavers Center, one of Snowshoe’s many facilities. From there it was into the saddle and out to the staging area where the on-bike training would call base camp. Randy Hawkins of Am-Pro Yamaha was gracious enough to let us tag along for the experience, and Jason Raines coughed up his practice bike, a Yamaha YZ250, to see if our Off-Road Editor could learn a few tricks.
Obviously, the ATVs and bikes were split into separate groups, but the division went further in order to keep things safe and interesting for all. Experts, intermediates and beginners each started at one of three different stations and dedicated an entire riding session to each before moving on. The primary courses were a wooded, rocky section, a hillclimb and a short grass track. Instructors covered techniques for different aspects of each and riders would go through the section one at a time to receive personal tips. It wasn’t as simple as a few passes either. Riders repeated the techniques until the coaches were satisfied that it was performed correctly.
For some, the University was a family affair. Tom Jaudas drove all the way from Florida to participate with his nephew, Ethan. Both were very happy with the outcome, and even though Tom is a 44-year-old beginner and Ethan a 14-year-old expert, they each learned valuable skills to apply towards their personal programs.
“It was a great day yesterday and a great day today,” says Tom, “I’ll definitely come back.”
“I think it was really fun and I would rather do this than school any day,” adds another rider, 9-year-old Nicholas Mason.
After the first day of instruction, riders and coaches convened in the Shavers Center for a well-deserved dinner and roundtable discussion. Again divided into their groups, each Yamaha professional rotated through the room to speak about a specific topic of their specialty. Renowned physical trainer and five-time AMA Hare Scramble champion, Jason Raines, answered questions and offered advice about how to get the most from their bodies with off-bike training and nutrition. Relative newcomer to the pro ranks is Thad DuVall, and the 19-year-old, three-time GNCC champion lectured about the transition from racing as a hobby to a profession. Am-Pro Yamaha’s leader Randy Hawkins, shared knowledge about proper sponsorship management, professional focus and team ownership gained from years of professional experience while compiling seven National Enduro titles.
Youth riders threw out some of the more standard kid questions like, “how long can you ride a wheelie?” but the Yamaha teams were gracious, professional and accommodating to all inquiries. Though classroom education was a critical part of the University curriculum, On-bike was by far the most enjoyable for everyone. Having a school of his own, Raines was well-versed in coaching amateur racers, and his skill as a mentor was noted by several as being particularly exceptional.
“One school isn’t going to make you a pro rider,” admits Raines. “It’s baby steps and you take your weaknesses and you build on them week after week. The biggest thing is that everybody made improvements.”
“It makes me feel really good that they put their trust in me and I can teach them how to do it,” says eight-time GNCC champ, Barry Hawk. “Hopefully they get something out of it, I had a great time. As for all the other teachers, we were a little unsure coming into this what we were getting into. Was it going to be fun or if we were going to be kicking ourselves in the butt for doing it? We really didn’t know but I know that everybody had a great time.”
Snowshoe President Bill Rock made an appearance at the dinner to welcome and thank all the participants. In further conversations with him it was clear that he is sincere about Snowshoe’s enthusiasm about working with GNCC and MotorcycleUSA.com to make this a premier event. With everyone thoroughly pleased with the outcome, it’s not a bad idea to mark your calendar for next season and keep an eye out for the entry form when it becomes available.
“We’re already planning for next year,” confirms Cotter, “and think we can make this an annual event.”
We sure hope so.
Check out the Am-Pro Yamaha website for more information about their dirt bike racing program.