2023 GNCC results: Kelley the comeback kid wins Wild Boar
2023 Grand National Cross Country series round two hit the Florida sand for the Wild Boar GNCC and saw Ben Kelley back to his best with the win from Steward Baylor – the pair are now joint points leaders.
It’s taken just two rounds for the FMF KTM’s Ben Kelley to get back to the top of GNCC Racing. After a bad leg break (while comfortably leading the series) in 2022, the FMF KTM rider has been out of competition, but you wouldn’t know it as Kelley stacked up the win in the brutal Florida sand at just his second race back.
“It was like, alright let’s go to work and see who was going to crack first,” Said Kelley after the race which saw him come from mid-pack top battle with his teammate Johnny Girroir and eventually pass Craig Delong for the lead on lap four. The most impressive part about the win was his relentless pace when out front, extending the lead to the flag while still riding in pain from that leg injury.
“I didn’t have the best start, got up to sixth pretty quick and tried to ride the first two laps just saving energy. It was dusty and it was hard to not make mistakes. I just did what I could and got to the lead, Johnny was right behind me and it was like, alright let’s go to work and see who was going to crack first. I was on the verge, but stayed strong and hit my marks, didn’t make mistakes and next thing I know I had a good lead and just rode her in.”
It was hot out there...
Baylor joint points leader
Steward Baylor made hard work of the three hours for after running at the back of the pack off the front row start. But the Rocky Mountain Tely Energy KTM Racing rider clicked off the positions to get to the front, taking Craig DeLong in the final laps to step up to second on the podium.
Kelley and Baylor have now traded 1-2 race positions in the opening two rounds and jointly lead the series standings.
“I was on the struggle bus out there.” Admitted Stew after bike set-up in the sand plus a few crashes made his race harder than it already is. “With it all being so new and my hand injury in the winter, we’re testing as we are racing and the bike was awesome at Big Buck but different here in the sand. We’ve got to get some stuff hammered out.
“But in the last three years here I’ve had so much go wrong it feels good to get it done. I had to dig deep but I’ll take that.”
Craig Delong says he was “happy” with third, despite letting the lead get away from him in Florida and admitting he didn’t have the outright pace of the leaders. “I went out and led some laps, that was my goal and we did that. I struggled there through the race when Ben [Kelley], Johnny [Girroir] and Ricky [Russell] caught me – they were going faster than I was and I wasn’t comfortable running that pace. I kind of got shuffled back, then regrouped and got moving again.”
A number of riders got shuffled around after good starts including AmPro Yamaha’s Ricky Russell who ran in second at the start, and briefly held the lead on the third lap before coming home in fourth. Magna1 Motorsports Husqvarna’s Jordan Ashburn would put in a good ride as he rounded out the top five in the XC1 Open Pro class.
Johnny Girroir and Thad Duvall were among the potential podium finishers suffering bike failures during the tough sandy race.
2023 Wild Boar GNCC results:
Second straight win for Lafferty
Chris Canning earned himself the $250 Steel City Men’s Clinic XC2 250 Pro Holeshot Award but Coastal GASGAS Factory Racing’s Ryder Lafferty wasn’t long to make the pass for the lead. After a battle with Jonathan Johnson, Lafferty was out front from the second lap until the flag, earning his second-straight win of the season.
“This one was hard, I earned this one,” Said Ryder. “I led for a long time. I owned it and won straight up. It was tough and gnarly so I’m pretty excited to get out the sand and get back to the dirt.”
AmPro Yamaha’s Liam Draper would make his way into second with just two laps remaining after starting back in the fourth place. The defending champion, Babbitt’s Online Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Lyndon Snodgrass rounded out the podium after a bad start (caught out in a turn one pile-up) which put him way back from the leaders at the beginning of the race.
Check the video highlights for that startline pile-up! Wild Boar GNCC video highlights – Rnd 2 in the brutal Florida sand
In the WXC class it was Trail Jesters KTM Racing’s Korie Steede getting the early lead and earning herself the $100 Trail Jesters WXC Holeshot Award.
Steede continued to lead in the sandy terrain as AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer and GASGAS/Over and Out /RG Factory Racing’s Rachel Gutish would make their way into second and third for the opening laps.
But it was Korie all the way, leading for the duration of the race, crossing the line with over a minute ahead of the pack. Archer come through second overall and Gutish took that final podium position.
Wild Boar AM race results:
GNCC Round 3 is next weekend at Aonia Pass MX in Washington, Georgia.
Photo Credit: Mack Faint + Ken Hill