Many of the world’s fastest off-road motorcycle racers will descend upon the Rodman Plantation in Palatka, Florida this Sunday, March 8, for the 41st running of the AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Maxxis, an AMA National Championship. Factory FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell leads the way in the XC1 Pro class as he looks to earn his third consecutive National Championship in 2015. With a host of previous champions and race winners lining up to contest this year’s championship, Russell will have his hands full all season long.
Located just an hour north of Daytona’s “Bike Week” festivities, the season-opening GNCC round typically attracts enthusiasts from all disciplines of racing as the event promises to bring an action filled day of motorcycle competition through the mud, sand and grueling obstacles that make the AMSOIL GNCC Series America’s premier off-road racing series.
While Russell’s two-year hot streak makes him a heavy favorite heading into round one, it’s interesting to note that the Ohio native has never won an overall at the season opener. While Russell hopes to land his first win of the season in Florida, 2010 GNCC Champion Josh Strang will look to continue his late-season success from 2014 into an early victory at round one. Strang, who is racing aboard an all-new Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Team, has experienced victory in the Florida sands so there’s no doubt the Australia native will put up a tough fight.
N-Fab/AmPro Yamaha’s Jordan Ashburn enters this season with a career-best national no. three rank. Ashburn proved to be one of the most consistently fast riders last season and the fact that he’s returning with the same program this season, the Tennessee native is sure to continue his success from 2014.
Pennsylvania’s Andrew Delong will return for his sophomore season in the XC1 Pro class aboard the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Team with national no. six, while JCR Honda’s Chris Bach lines up on the front row aboard his no. nine machine. West Virginia’s Thad DuVall will debut his Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KR4/FAR Husqvarna as no. 989 this season, while Australian rider Daniel Milner will put forth his first full season as a GNCC contender aboard the N-Fab/AmPro Yamaha team.
For the first time in recent history, the GNCC opener will be missing two major players in its lineup. The 2011 GNCC Champion Charlie Mullins, who sat out the second half of the season due to a double wrist injury, will remain sidelined for round one this weekend. Mullins underwent additional surgery during the off-season and the Factory FMF/KTM rider continues to focus on recovering. Two-time GNCC Champion Paul Whibley announced his retirement from GNCC in 2014 and will not be racing the series this season. With 19 career wins and two National titles (2009 and 2012) behind him, Whibley remains one of the most successful GNCC racers in the history of the sport.
Two-time XC2 Pro Lites Champion Grant Baylor will make his full-time XC1 Pro debut in 2015, holding a no. five rank from last season. Baylor made the switch to N-Fab/AmPro Yamaha this season.
The XC2 Pro Lites championship battle will be highly contested this season with a full crop of talent lining up in 2015. Raines Riding University/Atlas Yamaha/OffRoadViking.com’s Ricky Russell will return to action after missing the end of last season due to injury. Moto-Tech KTM’s Trevor Bollinger became a big contender at the end of last season, finishing second in the class behind Baylor.
Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KR4/FAR’s Nick Davis made consistent stops on the XC2 podium last season and looks to contest the championship this season. RideMPS.com/AMSOIL/Honda’s Layne Michael looks to be a contender this season, while DirtWise/Maxxis/KLIM rider Jason Thomas makes his return to XC2 in hopes of capturing a second championship in the class.
The weekend schedule begins on Friday, March 6 with ATV registration at 10 a.m. GNCC offers a practice session for all racers, excluding Micro 50cc classes, on Friday and Saturday before the event. Keep in mind, the practice course will be separate from the race course but it will incorporate a small preview of what riders can expect on race day. The cost is $20 per rider and there is a specific schedule according to discipline and race time.
On Friday, Youth ATV practice will begin at 1 p.m., followed by a 2 – 4 p.m. practice session for all other ATV racers, including 10 a.m. classes and 1 p.m. classes.
On Saturday, Youth Bike practice will begin at Noon, followed by a 1 – 4 p.m. practice session for all other Bike racers, including 10 a.m. classes and 1 p.m. classes.
For a complete schedule of the weekend’s activities, please visit the Wild Boar event page on the series website.