Off road racing is considered a year round sport, but the major National series’ take a break during the hottest months of the year, turning summer into as much of an off season as it gets.We thought this break in the season would be a good time for a recap, and to see where each series is at heading as the GNCC, WORCS, Hare & Hound and National Enduro series’ approach the tail end of 2005.GNCC Series
The talk this year has been about 10-time World Champion Juha Salminen – and rightfully so. In his freshman year of racing GNCC, he has given the rest of the field a serious spanking. From the first round he looked unstoppable, winning by a landslide and hardly breaking a sweat. In probably his most-impressive feat of the season, Salminen came from last place to first—in only one lap!—after crashing off the start at Loretta Lynn’s. For a while it looked as though Salminen was going to run away with the entire series. But he has since shown that he’s not entirely untouchable.2004 GNCC Champion Barry Hawk is desperately seeking redemption: “I hate losing. I just hate it and it’s burning me up,” said Hawk in anger on the podium at the Mountaineer after relinquishing the lead to Salminen on the last lap. After starting off to a rough season and a DNF in the first round, the reigning champ is pulling it together and seeking to turn the series around. Hawk was finally able to put together a nearly flawless ride on the brutal course of the Wisp, the last race before the GNCC’s summer hiatus.”It feels so good, like I just won my first race,” said Hawk after dominating the entire field, including Juha Salminen who uncharacteristically crashed several times throughout the day. It marked Hawk’s second victory of the season and moved him into second place over Australian Glenn Kearney, another new face in the GNCC series.Kearney, a two-time Australian Enduro Champion, is former GNCC Champion Rodney Smith’s protégé. He’s been a steady top three contender in the series, and one of the only other riders giving Juha a run for his money. He was running a strong second in points until having to sit out The Wisp with a broken leg. Kearney reportedly crashed at a local Hare Scrambles and suffered a compound fractured tibia and fibia. He has since undergone surgery to plate the broken bones, but there is no word yet on whether the young Australian will be back in time for the next round (September 10).Ironically, it seems Kearney has switched places with his mentor, Rodney Smith, who was out for the beginning of the series with a broken leg. Smith has yet to officially rejoin the series, but was riding the three hour afternoon race at The Wisp with a helmet camera. It made for some great race footage, and if you haven’t seen this year’s GNCC coverage on OLN, you’re missing out!Also on the injured list is Jason Raines. The Am Pro Yamaha rider has certainly had his ups and downs this this year, but he was starting to pull it all together with consistent top five finishes. But he now unfortunately ends his season on a down note after suffered a broken leg during practice last week (Click here for details
). Word is he’ll be out for the remainder of 2005.Mike Lafferty had a strong start to his season, landing a few podium positions, but was then out for several rounds with a broken collarbone. Lafferty is making a strong rebound, however, and returned to race The Wisp to take fourth overall.Another amazing performance in this year’s GNCC series comes from Am Pro Yamaha’s young amateur rider Charlie Mullins. The 250A rider has consistently finished in the top ten of the pro class, and almost made the podium at Loretta Lynn’s. He currently sits sixth overall in points-only two points behind Steve Hatch (and consider that his row starts 30 seconds behind the pros)!The GNCC Series resumes on September 10-11 at the Yadkin Valley Stomp in North Carolina.WORCS
Zip-Ty Racing’s Nathan Woods brought home his first #1 World Off Road Championship Series plate last year and is looking to repeat his performance in the ’05 series. Although a handful of riders have enjoyed victories in the series thus far (Kiedrowski, Woods, Caselli and Davis), Woods is the only rider able to boast multiple wins.After round seven in Washougal, the Yamaha rider maintains a 32 point lead as the series headed into summer hiatus. The timing proved lucky for Woods who promptly spent a few weeks recovering from a broken nose and fractured cheekbones. A high-speed crash while racing The Wisp (GNCC) sent him face-first into a rock, shattering the front of his helmet. Aside from being a mouth-breather for a few weeks, Woods is expected to make a full recovery well before the series resumes on September 2.Suzuki’s Mike Kiedrowski took a convincing win at round one of the series aboard the spanking new RM-Z450. It was a triumphant return for the two-time former WORCS champion who has spent the last few years racing the Eastern-based GNCC series. His dominant win made it look like he could run away with the series, but that was the only win the “MX Kied” so far. After round one, his season took a turn for the worse when he dislocated his elbow in Mesquite. He hasn’t seemed to find his rhythm since then.KTM’s Kurt Caselli finally scored his first season win, which was well-deserved considering how many times he’s come so close. At round two in Mesquite, Caselli was leading before hitting a mud puddle which sent him over the bars and let Nathan Woods take over the lead. Amazingly, Kurt caught and passed Woods once again, but this time with a mechanical problem causing his 450 MXC to consume more fuel than normal. On the last lap he ran dry and had to push his bike across the finish line to take second.At the following round in San Antonio, Texas, Caselli was again in the lead. But this time it was his KTM teammate and training partner Juha Salminen who relieved him of his lead, again, in the last minutes of the race.It was in the mud of Washougal aboard a 250 MXC that Caselli at last took his first win. The tables turned, and this time it was he who stole the lead on the white flag lap. Woods threw his chain on a gnarly uphill, allowing Caselli and Kawasaki’s Lance Smail to sneak by. Caselli spent the last two laps holding off Smail for his long awaited first win.Caselli currently sits in a strong second place in points ahead of Mike Kiedrowski and Lance Smail. Destry Abbott rounds out the top five followed by Montclair Yamaha riders Ty Davis and Russell Pearson.Crossing Over
Many off road racers take advantage of their off weekends to race in other series’. A handful of WORCS racers such as Kurt Caselli and Nathan Woods have contested several rounds of the GNCC series this year. Current GNCC series leader Juha Salminen dropped by for a WORCS race, helping himself to the overall victory at round three ahead of his good buddy Kurt.Motocross riders have even made a few cameos in the off road series’, most noteably Doug Henry who won the Orange Crush GNCC. Henry wound up racing the event almost purley by happenstance. He was aboard a clapped-out ’04 CRF450R practice bike with duct tape number plates and a borrowed gas tank, but nonetheless rode to victory in front of the seemingly unstoppable Juha Salminen.”That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said an exuasted Henry on the podium (before being carted off in the ambulence for an IV), “That made two motos at Southwick seem easy; I wouldn’t have believed that!”His win in the first GNCC he ever entered was certainly a highlight of his career, and also of the 2005 GNCC series.Another motocrosser-gone-offroad is Supercross rider Tim Wiegand. He showed up to round one of the WORC series in Arizona, the morning after racing the Phoenix Supercross, and earned an impressive fourth place. Even more impressive was his second place at round four in Lake Havasu.In Other Series…Hare & Hound
Montclair Yamaha’s Russ Pearson is one race away from reclaiming his number one plate in the National Hare & Hound Series from Kawasaki’s Destry Abbott. After swapping the points lead with Abbott through the first four rounds, Pearson took control of the series with his third victory at round five. Abbott fell even further in points after a mechanical failure caused him a DNF.
The last round of the Hare & Hound series takes place October 23 in California’s Lucerne Valley.National EnduroMike Lafferty is back to his winning ways on the National Enduro scene. His season started a little rough with a second followed by a third place before he scored his first win at round three. Since then, however, he’s been on a winning streak, even while suffering a broken collarbone in April. He had the bone plated and was back in time for round five in Missouri, and continued to extend his series lead over Steve Hatch and Matt Stavish, in second and third, respectively.Lafferty now looks to wrap up the 2005 title at round 8 in Ohio this weekend (August 28). If he wins, he’ll have the National Enduro Championship is in the bag with one round to spare.As the off-road series’ return from summer hiatus, look for results, photos and points standings on Dirtrider.com. To be sure you don’t miss a thing, check out our year-long race and event calendar at www.dirtrider.com/features/calendar2005