The following is a press release from Racer Productions regarding the Palaska GNCC race that finished under protest by Suzuki, KTM and Kawasaki.
Morgantown, WV - Racer Productions, Inc., producers of the AMA Grand National Cross County Racing Series (GNCC Racing), announces that due to a failure to remove a course marker at The Hurricane GNCC on March 4, 2003 in Palatka, Florida, and the resulting effect on the race's outcome, that there will be one throw-away score added to the 2003 GNCC Pro Bike Overall Championship. A rider's best 12 of 13 races will now count towards the 2003 GNCC Overall Pro Championship.
Weather conditions for the inaugural Hurricane GNCC were severe, as heavy rains throughout the week covered the course in deep water and mud. In an effort to provide Tuesday afternoon's bike race with fresh woods, a new trail section had been precut and pre-marked with arrows before the event. Wrong Way ("W") markers were then placed over top of the course arrows on this new section for the morning race. The "W" markers were then removed before the afternoon race, leaving the course arrows. In previewing the course, one "W" marker was overlooked at the trail-head. As a result, two of the leaders in the pro class, KTM's Mike Lafferty and FMF Suzuki's Rodney Smith, missed the new section and took the longer morning course, losing nearly one and a half minutes to the competition in the process.
"We regret this unfortunate situation," said Jeff Russell, GNCC Trail Boss. "And I take full responsibility. The rest of the riders followed the markers into the new section, but for Mike and Rodney, I am sure that it was confusing."
Both Lafferty and Smith eventually failed to finish the race due to other circumstances. "Had they finished the race, we could have adjusted their time to make up for the error," said Russell. "Since they did not, we determined the proper decision was to add the throw away score. As a result of this decision, the best 12 of 13 scores will now count towards the 2003 GNCC Overall Pro Championship, rather than all 13 events."
Over 1000 racers competed in The Hurricane GNCC. "These riders competed under the worst weather conditions I can recall in recent GNCC history, and we are proud of their accomplishments," said Rita Coombs, President of Racer Productions. "But for one overlooked marker, The Hurricane was an exceptional event and we congratulate Yamaha's Barry Hawk, the Hurricane Overall Motorcycle Champion, and Klotz's Brandon Ballance, the Hurricane Overall ATV Champion."
GNCC Racers will compete next this weekend at The General GNCC in Washington, Georgia.