St. Clairsville, OH (October 9, 2011) – Making it look all too easy, FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell claimed his first-ever XC1-class victory with a dominating performance at the ITP Powerline GNCC in St. Clairsville, Ohio – round 12 of the 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Series.
On a day when most of the focus centered on the two main contenders for the 2011 title, Russell put in a statement ride that served notice to the competition that his intention is to be a regular visitor to the center step of the podium. In his first season of XC1 competition, Russell has landed himself on the podium several times this year – finally getting a win over his veteran competition.
On a fast and slippery course – one that also had its share of treacherous mud holes and unforgiving hills – Russell passed FMF/KTM teammate Charlie Mullins on the opening lap when Mullins stalled his bike. After that, the two-time XC2 champ put the hammer down and began building a lead that stood at over a minute by the end of the three-hour race.
The victory not only marked the first-ever win for Russell in the XC1 class, but it was also the first win for the new KTM 350 XC-F, which Russell has been riding all year.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work here lately, and I just want to win,” Russell said after the race. “I’m pretty disappointed with how the beginning of the year went, but I’ve turned it around and I want to finish off the season winning.”
Second went to Mullins, who helped his championship hopes immensely with the finish – especially since his main rival, Josh Strang, finished fifth. After settling into a safe second behind Russell, Mullins maintained a healthy lead over a raging battle for third, featuring Strang and AmPro Racing Yamaha riders Paul Whibley and Thad DuVall, the three swapped positions throughout the three hour race.
On lap four, Mullins lost considerable ground when he got stuck on a nasty hill, but he managed to get going without losing a position and made it to the finish with a little over 10 seconds to spare to grab the runner-up finish.
“I made a few mistakes after the gas stop but I felt I rode pretty good overall,” said Mullins. “Kailub rode a good race and I didn’t really have much for him. I just did the best I could to keep it on two wheels, and luckily I did what I had to and finished ahead of the people I needed to.”
DuVall rounded out the podium, after fending off a last-turn pass attempt by Whibley. The West Virginia rider has steadily improved since the summer break and was extremely strong over the final lap of the race.
Whibley, who took the $250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award at the start of the race, held on for fourth, but collapsed after crossing the finish line, obviously in pain from the collision he had with DuVall at the finish.
Fifth place went to Strang, the FMF/Makita Suzuki rider losing valuable points to Mullins in the championship battle, and with only three races remaining on the schedule, the defending series champ sits a full 26 points behind Mullins.