FMF Makita Suzuki’s Josh Strang rode to his third straight win by taking the victory at the Acerbis Loretta Lynn GNCC, round five of the 2009 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, April 19. Strang’s win came after a dynamic six laps of racing that saw riders battling muddy hills and bike problems. The 20-year-old Australian finished around two minutes ahead of GEICO/JG Racing Monster Kawasaki’s Jimmy Jarrett and his Suzuki teammate Charlie Mullins, and he also fended off challenges from a pair of XC2 Pro Lites class riders: Jarrett’s teammate Scotty Watkins, and Shock Doctor KTM’s Kailub Russell.
“There’s still a long way to go,” Strang said, careful not to get too excited about his three-race win streak. “This was a tough race and I’m happy to be up here in first. This is where I knew I could be.”
Loretta Lynn Ranch saw heavy rains all morning, but by the PM race for the pro riders, the rain had stopped and the sun started to shine. Lieutenant GNCC Trail Boss Buren Hamrick said this track “was back like the old Loretta Lynn track,” with a muddy hill, mud hole or water bar waiting around every turn.
Shock Doctor KTM’s Kurt Caselli was the first off the line, but bike problems would eventually take him out of the race, along with his teammate Nate Kanney and Kawasaki’s Paul Whibley. Am-Pro Yamaha’s Thad DuVall looked ready to take his first XC1 victory before losing his fuel line, leaving Mullins, Strang and Jarrett to battle for the lead.
Strang took the win followed by Jarrett and Mullins hung on for third. Barry Hawk scored a season-best fourth-place finish with Husqvarna’s Glenn Kearney rounding out the top-five (also a season-best). Dustin Gibson came in sixth on his Husaberg followed by Whibley in seventh and Jesse Robinson in eighth. Ryan Gainey and South African Kenny Gilbert rounded out the top 10.
“It got pretty crazy out there,” Jarrett said. “It was actually fun out there today. It was good racing with a bunch of guys you don’t normally get to race with.”
In XC2, Watkins held on to nab first place. While Russell lost considerable time in the pits cleaning out his eyes, and then struggled with vision for the rest of the race, Monster Energy/Andrew’s Yamaha’s Jason Thomas was mounting a come-from-behind charge.
“I just chose good lines,” Thomas said. “I came over here from another country to do this, and I’m all alone except the team, not like the other guys with their families, so I guess that makes me a little more determined than the rest.”
Russell, who had a great start, finished third.
“It was pretty tough,” Russell said. “I don’t like to lose it.”
“I think I ride a little bit better when it’s muddy and nasty,” Watkins said. “The conditions really went with my talent.”
The battle for the GNCC title remains tight as two points separate the top-three riders. The series continues on May 2-3 with the Weekend Warrior Titan GNCC in Lafayette, Tennessee.