The following is a release from GNCC Racing -
The season-finale Klotz Ironman GNCC contains a mix of all of the terrain a Suzuki Grand National Cross Country rider will face. So it’s only fitting that the dominant series’ champion wins the race.
And that’s what Juha Salminen did, holding nearly a one-minute lead all the way to the finish. “It was a great track,” said Salminen, the 10-time World Enduro Champion. “I like all the tracks here, but this was fun. I had a good race early, but I was able to hold the gap. This year has been great. I had a lot of fun here and the fans were very nice.”
Barry Hawk battled through a torrid fight for the runner-up spot to take second. He out dueled Mike Lafferty, Glenn Kearney, Paul Edmondson and his teammate Charlie Mullins. “I had just a little arm-pump early on, not too much, but just enough to where I couldn’t charge really hard,” said Hawk. “It took like three laps to get it out, and I knew Juha was getting away. I know you can’t give him that kind of time.”
Mullins took third, the third podium in the last four rounds for the 19-year-old rookie pro. “This is better than I could have ever imagined,” said Mullins. “Everything has worked out great for me, winning the 250 A Championship and then getting three podiums in four races. I got a good start today, but then I don’t know what was wrong, I was just making so many mistakes I thought I wasn’t even going to finish in the top 10! Then I finally started flowing.”
Mullins climbed into second for a moment before getting his YZ250 stuck in a ravine, allowing a pack to get past him. England’s Paul “Fast Eddy” Edmondson was in that pack. After leaving the GNCCs in 2001, Edmondson made a solid return, running with Juha early and then holding on to fourth. Fifth went to Kearney on the FMF Suzuki, which was enough to clinch third in the final GNCC standings.
Salminen ends up with nine wins in 13 races, one of the most dominant seasons ever. “I will try to do the same thing next year,” said the friendly Finn on the podium. “If I was going to start to party, I would have started doing that seven years ago. This is my work. But now it’s back to the manhunt. I know it will be tough next year.”
FMF Suzuki’s Rodney Smith, the 2004 GNCC Champion, got the holeshot and ran with Juha early. But he bent his shift lever in a rut. “I passed him in the woods, but then I stalled it,” said Smith. “I was just charging trying to catch up and see him again, and I just got to that point. I wanted to ride with him. But I hit a rut and bent the shifter. I think I got a little bit overanxious there. But I felt good. Really good.”
Smith will be back in 2006, as will Hawk, a healthy Jason Raines, and Mullins, who has signed a pro contract with Yamaha. The season kicks off in Florida in March.
The Klotz Ironman GNCC was taped for an airing on the Outdoor Life Network. GNCC races air on OLN Tuesdays at 5 p.m., Thursdays at 11 a.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. EST. The 2005 Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series concludes with the annual GNCC Bike Banquet December 3rd at Lakeview Resort in Morgantown, West Virginia. For all the details on GNCC racing, check out the official website at GNCCRacing.com.