SMITH WINS FIRST GNCC–FEB 2
Gilmer, TX – The first-ever Lone Star GNCC in Texas may have featured the deepest pro field in off-road racing history. But when the smoke cleared from a fantastic three-hour battle, veteran four-time AMA Grand National Cross Country Champion Rodney Smith emerged the winner. His teammate Mike Kiedrowski was third, and defending GNCC Champion Barry Hawk third.
‘Everyone rode really well today, and the fans were out there cheering us on,’ said Smith. ‘Mike let me into the lead with a lap and a half to go, and we kept plugging away and trying to hold it. Then with a few miles to go I heard Barry coming, and I had to time the lappers on the up hills to make sure I didn’t get taken down. We seem to have a lot of fans here in Texas. It was a great day.’
The Lone Star marked the first GNCC ever held west of the Mississippi River, and nearly 1000 riders competed throughout the weekend. A huge pack of pros wanted to win the overall. Steve Hatch marked the debut of his new Throttlehead.com Kawasaki Team Green squad by leading several laps, with Kiedrowski and Smith racing with him. Motocross contender Ryan Hughes was also in the hunt, as was Hawk and his teammate Jason Raines, returning five-time GNCC Champion Scott Summers, National Enduro Champion Mike Lafferty and former series champions Shane Watts and Fred Andrews.
At one point seven riders ran wheel-to-wheel battling for the lead, with Smith, Hatch and Kiedrowski sharing the front spot for most of the day. Other contenders began to drop, as Raines crashed and injured his shoulder, Lafferty fell back with suspension problems, and Watts smashed his pipe.
This set up a furious last-lap battle between former teammates Hatch, Smith and Kiedrowski, and then Hawk put on one of his famous last-lap charges to launch into contention. Lappers took Hatch down, and Hawk tried a last-ditch effort to get the lead by leaping up a rocky stair-stepped uphill.
‘I knew I would either make a pass or crash on that hill,’ said Hawk. ‘I made the pass, but then I started to fall and Mike got back around me. I’m disappointed. I fell too far behind early and had to work too hard to catch those guys.’
Hatch held on for fourth, while Hughes made his GNCC debut with a top-five finish. ‘I’ll take a top five,’ said Hughes. ‘These guys have been doing this for ten years, and I’ve never done it before. All those rocks and roots made it tough. I tried to pass as many riders as I could in the open sections to get out of the dust, but I would just make stupid mistakes in the rocks. I learned as much as I could, and I had fun.’
Summers was also a contender in his return to full-time racing on his Parts Unlimited Honda 450. ‘I probably got the best start I’ve gotten in the last 15 years, but in the second corner someone threw a rock back at me and bent my front disc,’ said Summers. ‘So the first time I went to use the brake, it was gone. I had to ride the whole race like that. Then a vine grabbed me by the neck and just ripped me off the bike. Ripped me completely off at probably 40 miles an hour! So I’m glad I was just able to survive this one.’