The 2007 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series kicked off at a new venue today, and when all was said and done, two new riders made the podium, including one familiar face that hasn’t been seen on the top step in GNCC racing in four years “ Shane Watts (pictured). He was flanked by first-time GNCC podium visitors David Knight and local hero Garrett Edmisten.
Watts shocked everyone by pretty much dominating the three-hour race on the flat, whooped-out and rather technical race course. A full-on privateer, Watts put his Fun Mart/Maxxis/KTMHutt-backed KTM 250 XC two-stroke into an early lead in what is now called the XC1 Pro class and opened up a minute-plus lead before the first 12-mile lap was over. But Edmisten quickly put his Kawasaki KX450 into second and started tracking down Watts. The local favorite eventually caught and passed Watts, at which time they started to battle back and forth. By the third lap, however, Edmisten stalled his bike and then crashed right after that, giving Watts another big lead.
Knight took over second when Edmisten went down, but the Kawasaki rider caught back up and duked it out with Knight for a while before Edmisten started to tire late in the race.
But neither rider could put a dent in Watt’s minute-and-a-half lead. Watts rode flawlessly, looking like the Watts of old. The 2000 GNCC champ went on to take his first GNCC win in four years.
Knight, aboard a Red Bull KTM 250 XC, crossed the finish line in second about two minutes behind Watts with a hand full of blisters. Four weeks earlier, the World Enduro Champion broke a bone in the hand, which was still giving him some grief in the Florida sand, and he was forced to grip the handlebars a little differently than usual, causing the hand to blister up badly. Still, Knight admitted after the race that, broken bone or blisters or not, he probably would not have caught the rejuvenated Watts.
Edmisten finished about 40 seconds behind Knight, making it two privateers and one factory rider on the podium.
Fourth place went to Am-Pro Yamaha’s Charles Mullins, on another two-stroke, who fought with both Knight and Edmisten for much of the race. Fifth overall went to KTM’s Kurt Caselli, riding a 250 XC-F, who won the new XC2 Pro class, designated for 250cc four-strokes. Caselli had a remarkable ride, considering he started on the second row and at times laying down the quickest lap time of the day.
KTM rider Justin Williamson finished six minutes behind Caselli to take second in class, while Kawasaki Team Green’s Cole Calkins finished third about 25 seconds behind Williamson. Suzuki’s Rodney Smith, who is riding a limited schedule in ‘07, competed in the XC2 Pro class and finished fifth, behind KTM rider John Barber.
(KTM’s Kurt Caselli won the new XC2 Pro class.)
Suzuki’s Jimmy Jarrett finished sixth overall, followed by German rider Simo Kirssi (Kawasaki), Am-Pro Yamaha’s Barry Hawk, Kawasaki’s Jesse Robinson and Suzuki’s Mike Kiedrowski.
In the morning race, former GNCC champ Scott Plessinger took the overall win, followed by former GNCC regular Duane Conner and Yamaha’s Kevin Foley. Fourth went to KTM rider Doug Blackwell. Yamaha rider Bobby Moriarty rounded out the top five overall.