We’ve been struggling lately keeping up-to-date with the 411 with all the traveling and such and I was really hoping to get this week’s edition posted up way earlier than this but I got the opportunity to tag along with Josh Strang to the Joe Gibbs Racing motocross track to film him putting in some laps with fellow Aussie Michael Byrne. Those sort of opportunities don’t come along to often so I had to jump at the chance!
If you didn’t know already, then I’m sure you’re guessing that since Strang is here in North Carolina that he’ll be racing his first GNCC of the 2012 season next weekend at the John Penton. There’s been a lot of changes for Strang since we last saw him on the East Coast—he’s now on a KTM 450-SXF as part of the FMF/RPM/KTM Team Maxxis effort and obviously he had the nasty leg injury at the final round of the 2011 season at Loretta Lynn’s. Strang is now fully healed and back up-to-speed as proven by his first podium and moto win of the 2012 WORCS season last weekend in Utah. If you didn’t already, check out Spenser Robert’s video from that WORCS round here.
How about the battles we saw at the Snowshoe GNCC? Rory Mead went into the event as the clear favorite to win, especially after his strong performances in every rocky race so far this year, but did anyone really see Kailub Russell coming in such a close second? At last year’s Snowshoe GNCC KR finished 7th overall, over 3-minutes behind race winner Strang and this year he was a mere 6-seconds off of Mead and actually had a shot at winning but a crash and a run-in with a lapper derailed any shot at a pass. KR has definitely made significant improvements in the areas he struggled in the past—the 3rd hour of the race and the gnarlier, rockier conditions—a combination that could lead to his first-ever XC1 Pro Championship.
The man standing in Russell’s way of a title is AmPro Yamaha’s Paul Whibley who kept his XC1 Podium streak alive by grabbing 3rd behind Mead and Russell and in the process clings to a 1-point lead over KR in the XC1 Pro Class standings. Paul’s consistency is pretty astounding and is what has kept him a championship contender the last few years.
If you noticed, which I’m hoping you did, Whibley did not finish 3rd-overall at Snowshoe as he was clipped in the adjusted time by .01 of a second by KR4 Performance’s Jason Thomas. This was the first win of the 2012 season for Thomas who has had an up and down season, which consisted of a much-talked-about departure from the FAR/Husqvarna team. Snowshoe is a track that Thomas really enjoys but it’s been a while since he’s been able to put in a solid result there and it was cool to see how happy he and his entire team were after the race. If you haven’t changed it out already, watch some of his GoPro footage from the first lap of the race here.
We reported a couple of weeks ago that FMF/KTM’s Charlie Mullins injured his elbow at the Loretta Lynn’s Regional Qualifier in Pell City, Alabama but couldn’t give too much info on Mullins’ injury other than that it was a possible fracture and dislocation. I spoke to Charlie last week at our Wednesday night Mountain Bike Series here in Charlotte (he wasn’t racing) and he gave me a bit of an update since his MRI. He had a minor elbow dislocation and a fractured radial head and some ligament damage, but nothing torn. For those of us who don’t really know much about that, here’s the main thing, Charlie will be out for at least 3-4 weeks and we’re not sure when we’ll see him return to racing, it more than likely won’t be until after the Summer break. It’s a bummer for sure for Charlie and it’s just another incident to add to the list of things that have derailed his 2012 racing season.
Keeping it on the Mullins’ struggles topic for a bit, Charlie did tell me that his mechanic was able to find out what happened to his bike at the Mountaineer Run GNCC and it turns out the bike didn’t blow up like was originally thought. It turns out that something (a stick, rock, etc.) flew up and hit the injector on Charlie’s bike damaging it which made the bike quit getting fuel and die. Charles Merchant, Mullins’ mechanic noticed the damaged injector and simply swapped it out and the bike ran fine with no issues. The end result doesn’t change, a DNF for Mullins and the KTM, but it does look a bit better as it was a freak accident and not something serious with the bike and its ability to finish a 3-hour event, similar to the loose subframe bolt that resulted in another DNF for Mullins at the round prior in Indiana.
One good thing for Mullins–and for the entire American ISDE effort–is Charlie was chosen for, and agreed to race on, this year’s ISDE team in Germany. Charlie will join Kurt Caselli, Taylor Robert, Bobby Garrison, Russell Bobbitt and Mike Brown on the Trophy team. That’s definitely one solid team there and we could be in for the best overall ISDE finish in quite some time for the red, white, and blue.
Our Junior Team is looking pretty darn solid as well with solid representation from the GNCC Series with Andrew DeLong, Steward Baylor, and Thad DuVall joining Travis Coy (who races Pro 2 in WORCS on the RPM KTM team with Josh Strang). This will be the first ISDE for Baylor and DuVall, but I’m sure they’ll show some great speed and represent us well. For more information on the team read the official AMA press release here.