Welcome to The Weekly Dirt, the place to go each Wednesday to catch up on the latest happenings in the realm of off-road motorcycling.
Most insiders agree it was only a matter of time before Kailub Russell got his first XC1 win in GNCC competition, and the KTM rider did just that at this weekend’s round at Powerline Park in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Perhaps the most surprising thing was the relative ease with which Russell dominated the race. Of course, runner-up finisher and early leader Charlie Mullins is protecting a championship points lead and no one could fault him if he was taking it easy, but Russell was considerably faster than the rest of the cream of the crop, as well: Josh Stang, Paul Whibley, Thad DuVall, etc. This appears to be one of those cases of where a young rider with a lot of talent and up side finally figures out the mental part of the equation. Look for a lot more wins from Mr. Russell.
Another rider starting to get the Big Picture is Thad DuVall, who turned in his best performance of the year at the Ohio GNCC with a third overall finish. DuVall is known as kind of a “Wild Child” for some time, kinda like Justin Barcia, but lately the West Virginia rider seems to be toning down his antics and seems to be figuring out how to go fast and under control at the same time. At the Powerline GNCC, DuVall was pushed hard on the final lap by Am Pro Yamaha teammate Paul Whibley, and the 2009 series champ tried to make a daring last-turn pass on young DuVall to steal third place. However, the kid held strong, while Whibs rode headlong into a tree. The result? DuVall third, Whibley fourth.
Not only is it silly season in motocross, but it’s silly season in off-road, as well. And the way it seems to work is that the money that’s left over after the OEMs sign the motocross guys gets trickled down to off-road. Right now there are lots of rumors floating around about where the top off-road guys will land in 2012, especially in the east. In realm of National Enduro and GNCC racing, so far only KTM riders Charlie Mullins, Kailub Russell and Cory Buttrick; Husaberg riders Michael Lafferty and Nick Fahringer; FAR Husqvarna’s Jason Thomas; and Am Pro Yamaha’s Paul Whibley, are signed and accounted for. This leaves newly crown enduro champ Russell Bobbitt, defending GNCC champ Josh Strang, Thad DuVall, and Nate Kanney (among others) still talking. You also have to consider up-and-coming riders who proved this past year that they are worthy of a ride. This list includes riders such as Andrew DeLong, Brad Bakken, Jesse Robinson, Shane Hufford Jr., and the list goes on. For sure, there are more worthy riders than there are spots available. I’ve been told that Yamaha plans on adding one or two more riders under their tent to complement Whibley, and FAR Husqvarna has plans to add a couple so they can contest both GNCC and Enduro. Suzuki is the big question mark, although, I’ve been told, “if their budget comes through,” they will add another XC1 rider to compliment Strang. All of this should shake out in the next few weeks Stay tuned!