The MSR Wisp GNCC at Deep Creek Mountain Resort provides scenery and terrain unlike any other event on the GNCC tour. But while the event has a unique atmosphere to it, the results were quite similar to most of the 2003 GNCCs. Am Pro Yamaha's Barry Hawk (6) rode strong again and came out the winner for the fourth time this season.
"I wanted to win this race as bad as any other I've raced in this year," said the Am Pro/Morgantown Yamaha/MSR/Bridgestone/FMF-backed Hawk. "It paid off for me. I live close to here and I had a lot of people cheering for me. It helps."
He needed the help, because Hawk dealt with a tremendous challenge from his teammate Jason Raines (5), who broke his leg at the Wisp last year, and FMF Suzuki's Rodney Smith (1), who won last year's race. The three riders battled hard for three hours, passing back and forth over the lush ski slopes and in rocky woods sections. Raines ended up second, while Smith was third.
"Out of all the races this year, this is the one I wanted to win after what happened here last year," Raines said. "I was happy today. We battled all day. I went from first to fourth at one point, then I would go back to second and then into the lead. We had fun."
Smith, who has DNFed the last four GNCC races, thought a win was coming. "I had it, I thought I was riding well," said the veteran, "but I had a stick jam my rear brake and I highsided. I hyper-extended my elbow. I caught up to them again, but I could barely hang on."
"I might not have been the fastest guy out there today, but sometimes the fastest guy doesn't win," said Hawk.
The duel for the win highlighted a memorable race weekend that began with Friday's first-annual GNCC golf tournament presented by Parts Unlimited. The event teamed the top GNCC stars with fans to help raise money for the U.S. Trophy Team at this year's ISDE.
After ATV and minicycle racing on Saturday, the pro bikes took to the course Sunday. Hawk, Raines and Smith immediately jumped into the lead positions. They were joined by KTM's National Enduro Champion Mike Lafferty, and all four dueled atop Wisp mountain and then back down through the rocky woods. Lafferty lost ground late in the race when a bolt connecting his clutch cable broke, which left Hawk to race with Smith and Raines all the way to the finish. He bested his teammate by just seconds at the line.
Retired five-time GNCC Champion Scott Summers surprised everyone when he entered the Vet A class on a Honda XR650R. Riding like the Summers of old, he finished seventh overall despite overheating his brakes on the first lap. "I like this facility so much I would race here no matter what the track was like," he said. "This place is so nice; it's like Lake Tahoe with some of the houses and scenery around here."
Hawk now holds a 55-point lead over Raines in the MSR/Klotz/Wiseco/Maxxis/Dunlop/FMF/Yamaha GNCC standings.
The Wisp GNCC also counted for points in the AMA National Hare Scrambles series. Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Fred Andrews, the defending champion of that series, finished fourth. Fifth went to FMF Suzuki's Steve Hatch, followed by Lafferty and Summers.
The AMA Grand National Cross Country Series begins a two-month summer break after the Wisp, and the series resumes September 6 and 7 with the Mathews Farm GNCC in Taylortown, Pennsylvania.
The AMA Grand National Cross Country series is America's premier off-road racing series. One of the most physically demanding sports in the world, the nearly three-hour-long cross-country races lead as many as 1300 riders through tracks ranging from eight to 12 miles in length. With varied terrain including hills, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC races are tests of both survival and speed. GNCC featured sponsors include MSR, Yamaha, Dunlop, Wiseco, Maxxis, FMF, Klotz, and ITP, and riders compete for over $500,000 in series prizes and contingency money. The 13-round series will air on cable television later in the year. Associate sponsors include Ohlins, Cometic, Scott, Sidi, Boyesen, Twin Air, Pro Armor, Outerwears, Laeger's, Silent Sport and Morgantown Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and KTM.
O/A: 1. Barry Hawk (Yam); 2. Jason Raines (Yam); 3. Rodney Smith (Suz); 4. Fred Andrews (Kaw); 5. Steve Hatch (Suz); 6. Mike Lafferty (KTM); 7. Scott Summers (Hon); 8. Randy Hawkins (Yam); 9. Doug Blackwell (Hon); 10. Robbie Jenks (Yam).
AMA GRAND NATIONAL CROSS COUNTRY SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 9 of 13 rounds): 1. Barry Hawk, Jr. (223/4 wins); 2. Jason Raines (168); 3. Michael Lafferty (165/1 win); 4. Fred Andrews (150/1 win); 5. Robbie Jenks (128); 6. Randy Hawkins (122); 7. Steve Hatch (116); 8. Rodney Smith (93/1 win). 9. Chuck Woodford (85/2 wins); 10. Mike Kiedrowski (64).