It took a little longer than expected, but Red Bull KTM's David Knight is finally on track in the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series. He scored a dominant win at round four of the tour, the Pirelli Big Buck GNCC in South Carolina, coming from a bad start to track down the leaders and take his first career GNCC win. He's the fourth winner in four rounds this season.
"I had to be patient with it; this is just completely different," said Knight, of the Isle of Man, who struggled with a hand injury and then small bike problems through the first three rounds of the season. "I've been riding enduros since 1998, and this is as different as motocross is from enduro. It does take your confidence down a bit as you wonder if you maybe have something wrong with you. But at the last race, I ran the pace, so I felt good about it. You have people beating you down, and it's good to find out it's not true. Hopefully this will be the first of many."
Knight started poorly, while Am Pro Yamaha's Charlie Mullins grabbed the Racer X Holeshot Award and pulled a big, early lead. Knight eventually caught him, and the race was on.
"It was a fun race," Mullins said. "I made a few mistakes, and that let Knight catch me. He got by me and I just kind of followed him all day. I was on him until the two-lap card. At the second check I made a mistake and fell over, and then in the back I made another mistake. I didn't get tired, but I just made too many mistakes."
Mullins teammate Barry Hawk ended up third. After a bad start, Hawk worked his way to the front, but Knight had an even worse start and was coming through the pack with him.
"I got into the woods and everyone was going single file, so I just charged, and I was passing two or three guys at a time," Hawk said. "Before I knew it, I was in third or fourth place. Knight went by me, and I stuck with him for a little while. I got behind a couple of guys, and Knight pulled away from me a little bit. I just couldn't make up those last twenty seconds or so on Knight. I was in that zone where he would go around the lappers, and they would just be pulling back onto the track. I would hear him in front of me and it seemed like every time I would just be getting to him, something would happen."
A fierce battle broke out for fourth between a slew of riders, but Parts Unlimited/Moose Honda's Paul Whibley dug down deep to get the spot. "I had a good battle there with Glenn (Kearney)," said Whibley. "We passed back and fourth on the last lap."
Kearney finished fifth. The FMF Suzuki rider was happy with his top five after exhausting himself trying to win the last race in North Carolina. "I said all day I would have been happy with a top five," said Kearney. "I didn't get to train or ride much for the last few weeks, I've just been resting trying to get better."
The big news before the race surrounded Australia's Shane Watts, who made the switch from KTMs to a Yamaha YZ250 before the race. Watts said he was comfortable on the bike, but he rode too conservatively and ended up losing a few positions and finishing eighth. "I just wasn't aggressive enough, because I was worried about the conditions being worse than they turned out to be," said Watts. "When I guy would go past me, I just didn't have that tiny fraction of a percent I needed to go stay with them. It's okay though. Who would have thought that after four races, two privateers would be leading the points standings."
Eighth overall went to the winner of the XC2 Lites class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Scott Watkins. "I couldn't be happier," said Watkins. "I told myself that winners never quit, so I rode my heart out." Watkins got a terrible start but fought his way into a big battle for the win between about five riders. Am Pro Yamaha's Thad DuVall led several laps before dropping back with brake problems, and FMF Suzuki veteran Rodney Smith held the lead on the last lap before throwing it away with a rare mistake. Watkins made clutch moves to get the lead back and win it.
Second in the class went to fully unsponsored privateer Yamaha rider Josh Weisenfels, and third went to KTM/Powersport GrafX rider Dustin Gibson.
The Can-Am GNCC Series continues in two weeks with the Acerbis Loretta Lynn's GNCC in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. For more information, check out www.gnccracing.com.
Results: Pirelli Big Buck GNCC
April 15, 2007
Top Ten Overall
1. David Knight Isle of Mann (Red Bull/KTM)
2. Charles Mullins Hamilton, OH (Am Pro Yamaha)
3. Barry Hawk Smithfield, PA (Am Pro Yamaha)
4. Paul Whibley New Zealand (Parts Unlimited/Moose Honda)
5. Glenn Kearney Australia (FMF Suzuki)
6. Jimmy Jarrett Beloit, OH (FMF Suzuki)
7. Garrett Edmisten Vero Beach, FL (Kawasaki)
8. Shane Watts (Fun Mart Yamaha)
9. Scott Watkins OH (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki)
10. Josh Wiesenfels AR (Yamaha)
2007 Can-Am GNCC Overall Series Standings (After 4 of 13 rounds)
1. Garrett Edmisten 78
2. Shane Watts 76/ 1 win
3. David Knight 71/ 1 win
4. Charlie Mullins 68/
5. Barry Hawk 64/ 1 win
6. Paul Whibley 61/ 1 win
7. Glenn Kearney 56
8. Jimmy Jarrett 44
9. Jesse Robinson 41
10. Robbie Jenks 38