Kailub Russell claimed the overall at the second round of the GNCC Series in Georgia. Photography by Ken Hill
Heavy rainfall made things treacherous at the second round of the AMSOIL AMA Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Maxxis at the Aonia Pass MX Park in Washington, Georgia, March 16, creating extreme conditions for the pro race. But when things got tough, the defending champ, Kailub Russell, got going and emerged victorious after battling it out for the overall lead with defending XC2 Pro Lites Champion Grant Baylor in the final moments of the race.
Russell wasn't out front for most of the race, but the Factory/FMF/KTM rider pulled it together in the end to secure the overall win to gain 30 points towards the championship chase. It wasn't without a fight from his KTM teammate and XC2 Pro Lites rider Grant Baylor, who quickly joined the overall battle on adjusted time. Since the second row takes off approximately one minute behind the XC1 class, perhaps Baylor had an advantage in making his way through the pack.
"Last night I was hoping it would hit us hard with the rain because I was looking forward to a mud race," Russell said. "We changed some things on the bike and it worked out because got some points on Charlie," Russell said.
Before the 1 p.m. race began, the GNCC Course Marshalls decided that the race would be shortened to a minimum of two hours due to the heavy rainfall throughout the day. With the leader coming in at 2:17:54, Sunday's race was just short of a typical three-hour GNCC.
Rocky Mountain ATV/MC's Josh Strang grabbed yet another $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Holeshot Award with his AmPro Yamaha teammates Paul Whibley and Jordan Ashburn close behind. It didn't take long for guys like Factory FMF/KTM's Charlie Mullins and the XC2 front-runners of Baylor and Maxxis/KLIM/DirtWise KTM Race Team's Rory Mead to join the Yamaha riders in the lead battle, where a chaotic chain of events unfolded until the end.
It was Russell who held strong in the final moments, where he laid down his fastest lap of the day on lap five with a 26:59.7. For that, Russell took home an extra $150 with the KR4 Performance Fastest Lap Award en route to his first win of the season.
Despite a valiant effort from the second row, Grant Baylor missed the overall victory by only four seconds after time adjustment.
Ashburn put himself into podium contention right away as he latched onto the lead pack on the opening lap. Ashburn showed his strength in the tough conditions, moving up to the second place position just after the halfway mark. Although Baylor finished ahead of Ashburn in the overall, the Tennessee native took second place in the XC1 class, finishing less than one minute behind Russell, and third overall for the day.
Whibley came in for fourth overall just six seconds behind his teammate Ashburn, while Strang captured fifth overall for the day.
Round-one winner, Mullins finished sixth overall to salvage points and maintain the lead after two rounds of racing.
Factory FMF/KTM's Steward Baylor secured sixth place in XC1 and eighth place overall for the day despite running into issues with his vision. Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda's Chris Bach took seventh in the class and ninth overall, while Rockstar Energy/WMR/KTM's Ryan Sipes finished eighth in the class and fourteenth overall for the day.
The XC2 Pro Lites class saw a second unique winner in two rounds as the Reigning XC2 Champion Baylor topped the field with an impressive ride from the second row.
Maxxis/KLIM/DirtWise KTM Race Team's Rory Mead finished second and XC2 rookie Trevor Bollinger taking third.
Factory FMF/KTM's Kacy Martinez grabbed her second consecutive victory in the WXC Premier Women's class, while N-Fab/AmPro Yamaha's Becca Sheets and teammate Jessica Patterson rounded out the WXC podium.
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Jordan Ashburn (YAM)
3. Paul Whibley (YAM)
4. Josh Strang (YAM)
5. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
6. Steward Baylor (KTM)
7. Chris Bach (HON)
8. Ryan Sipes (KTM)
9. Takeshi Koikeda (HON)
10. Adam Bonneur (HON)
XC2 PRO LITES
1. Grant Baylor (KTM)
2. Rory Mead (KTM)
3. Trevor Bollinger (HON)
4. Ricky Russell (YAM)
5. Shane Hufford Jr (KTM)
6. Layne Michael (HON)
7. Sam Evans (YAM)
8. Callan May (YAM)
9. Zach Love (KTM)
10. Steven Squire (YAM)