Morgantown, W. Va. - Maxxis/Yoshimura’s Chris Borich is not just the defending champion heading into this weekend’s season opener of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series at Westgate River Ranch in River Ranch, Florida. After three consecutive titles, Borich is paving his way into the GNCC record books, one race-win at a time, which means the 2012 tour could help paint an even bigger picture for the Pennsylvania native.
Since his first championship in 2009, Borich has won a staggering 30 out of 39 races in the XC1 ATV Pro class, leaving little room for his competition to shine. But domination is not new to this field. The previous GNCC ATV King, Bill Ballance, still holds the record with nine-straight titles and before Ballance, Barry Hawk won seven straight. So while Borich has a long way to go to match history, he’s ready to make some more of his own as the 2012 season gets underway.
“I’m feeling really prepared for the opening round after spending some time down here in Florida getting my program dialed in,” Borich said. “I feel good and the bike feels good so the only thing left to do is get to racing!”
He’ll face stiff competition this year with a full field of talent around him. West Virginia’s Adam McGill has completely switched around his program for 2012, now backed by Precision/Moto Xperts/ITP/Lone Star/RG Honda. McGill was a fierce competitor in 2011, finishing a close second behind Borich with consistent podium finishes and even taking two race-wins, but it’s tough to say whether McGill has fully adjusted to his new machine against a field of seasoned veterans returning on familiar programs.
Pennsylvania’s Chris Bithell heads the Motoworks/Can-Am team once again this year aboard the DS450, after finishing fourth in last year’s standings. Ballance Racing Yamaha’s Taylor Kiser edged Bithell out for the third position, and both of these riders can be players in the championship run this season.
Ohio’s Brian Wolf made a statement during his 2011 rookie season with two race-wins and a handful of podium finishes and could serve as Borich’s biggest threat this season. Speed is not a problem for Wolf, and he thrives in the most unfavorable track conditions, which could be beneficial in taking home a championship.
But big buzz surrounds Ballance Racing Yamaha’s Walker Fowler, who will make his debut to the Premier class this weekend in Florida. The Ohio rider took two overall wins last year on adjusted time, while also snagging the 2011 XC2 Pro Am Championship with an undefeated season in his class. He also finished the season with number five overall, making him a possible game-changer in this year’s XC1 division. The humble rookie doesn’t expect a championship just yet, but knows he can run with the veterans.
“My main goal for this season is to just ride smart and consistent for 13 races,” said Fowler. “I’m not coming in expecting to take home a championship right away. I’m hoping for some wins and if a championship comes along, I’m definitely not going to push it away but I’d like to run the pace of the top guys and just be consistent.”
The XC1 and XC2 classes will race for two hours on a demanding, whooped-out sand track at the Westgate River Ranch. The race begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, kicking off the Daytona Bike Week schedule. Classes are also available for a full roster of amateur and youth riders.
Spectator passes are $20 for Saturday and Sunday (ATV), and $20 for Monday and Tuesday (bike). Children five and under are admitted free. On both Sunday and Tuesday, youth riders race at 8 a.m., amateurs race at 10 a.m., and the top amateurs and the pros race at 1 p.m.
The track is located at the Westgate River Ranch in Lake Wales, Fla. From U.S. 27, go south to S.R. 60 (Lake Wales Exit), make a left and head east for approximately 25 miles. River Ranch is on the right.
The 2012 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series kicks off this weekend, in conjunction with Daytona Bike Week. ATV practice will take place on Saturday and racing on Sunday. For more information, visit www.gnccracing.com.