Palatka, Fla. – The 2019 AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series kicked off on Sunday in conjunction with Daytona’s Bike Week festivities and KTM-mounted riders swept the center of the podium in the XC1, XC2 and XC3 divisions for a successful day in Palatka, Florida. KTM-Supported rider Steward Baylor Jr. came away with the overall victory after three grueling hours of battle in the hot Florida sands, while FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell raced his way to second overall in his first endurance race back since having shoulder surgery in October.
Defending XC2 250 Pro Champion and KTM-Supported rider, Ben Kelley, continued his winning ways at the season opener with a convincing victory in the class, while also earning an impressive fourth overall amidst a stacked field of XC1 riders. In the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class, KTM-Supported rider Jesse Ansley bested the competition by an eight-minute margin to establish a dominant start to the season.
XC1 Open Pro
Russell got off to a great jump aboard his KTM 350 XC-F but he got pinched off to almost last-place going through the second turn. Russell eventually climbed his way to the front of the pack by the end of the first lap, creating a 10-second gap over the second-place rider. Russell maintained control of the race for the first hour-and-a-half before engaging in battle with KTM-supported rider Steward Baylor. Baylor got around Russell just after the halfway mark and from there, Russell focused on keeping a consistent pace through the checkers, where he finished a solid second overall.
Russell: “I rode well today. I didn’t make any mistakes and didn’t fall, Stew just out-rode me today. It’s just one of those things – some days you have it and some days you don’t, but you can’t be mad when you know you’ve done well and given it your all. It was brutal out there and I’m glad to come away with only a five-point deficit in the championship after Round 1.”
Meanwhile, fresh off a recent injury himself, Tely Energy Racing’s Baylor put himself into a favorable third-place position off the start and he worked his way around Russell and into the lead by the halfway mark. Baylor upped the pace in the final hour to finish nearly two-minutes ahead of Russell to claim the first victory of the GNCC season.
FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Josh Toth made his XC1 Open Pro debut on Sunday, riding aboard the KTM 350 XC-F. Off the start, Toth got a good jump off the start but he went down in the second turn and began in dead last. He climbed his way up to seventh by the end of the opening lap and by lap two he sat fifth in the class. Toth battled inside the top-five for the remainder of the race where he experienced two big crashes on the final lap that cost him substantial time at the end of the race. After three hours, Toth finished fifth in XC1 and sixth overall for the day.
Toth: “All-in-all, I’m happy with how today went, especially considering that I just came out of arm pump surgery not too long ago. I wasn’t able to get in as much riding as we’d hoped for leading up to the first round but this week we’ll recover and come out swinging at Georgia.”
XC2 250 Pro
Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Ben Kelley had a nearly flawless start to the season as he led all five laps of the XC2 250 Pro race. Kelley shot off the line aboard his KTM 250 XC-F to secure the XC2 holeshot and early lead. He put on an early charge to gap the XC2 field by almost a minute on lap two, while also blazing his way through the overall running on time adjustment. He eventually settled into a comfortable pace that allowed him to secure the XC2 victory by over four minutes.
FMF/RPM/KTM Team Maxxis Racing’s Jesse Ansley led four out of five laps in the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class to capture the opening round victory by more than eight-and-a-half minutes over the second-place finisher.