2023 Snowshoe GNCC results: Ben Kelley back to his best at Rnd 9
FMF KTM’s Ben Kelley looked back to his relentless best to take the annual epic Snowshoe GNCC race win, round nine of the 2023 GNCC Racing season – the win closes the championship right up with Baylor and Delong as the series heads into the summer break.
The annual Snowshoe GNCC round lived up to its reputation with classic conditions on the Cheat Mountain in West Virginia this weekend. With the traditions of the old Blackwater 100, known as “America’s Toughest Race,” still alive and well, rain leading up to ’23 Snowshoe left the course typically slick and many different tyre choices up for debate. The Pro class riders saw everything from regular set-up to soft (extreme or gummy) rear tyres and even a trials tyre or two in there to tackle the rocks, climbs, mud and roots.
As ever the Snowshoe GNCC event pays tribute to that Blackwater heritage with the race starts sees riders lined up in groups of five or seven on the main road. They start live-engine every 10 seconds, and are time adjusted based off their row.
The early leader was AmPro Yamaha’s Ricky Russell as they came through on lap one but he would later retire from the race.
Rocky Mountain Tely Energy KTM’s Steward Baylor was one of the riders opting for a softer rear tyre (which would require a rear wheel change during the race) and looked to be taking advantage with the lead on lap two. Not far behind though was Ben Kelley making moves towards the front of the pack, and the former champ looked at his relentless best as he picked everyone off for the lead on lap three.
Kelley would then keep the pace to reach the chequered flag with over a minute lead to earn his second win of the season.
“I’ve struggled with managing my races all year and messed up a little this time, but it’s the track – it’ll reach up and bite you.” Explained Kelley. “It was one of those tracks where everyone was making mistakes, so I did what I could to stay up front with the leaders, then by lap three I put a charge on.
“I extended out to a decent lead, focused on hitting my marks, and I’m proud to return to the top step of the podium and share this with the team.”
Magna1 Motorsports Husqvarna’s Jordan Ashburn was again Mr Consistent and he held the number two position for the majority of the race. Although the reigning champ was never quite able to make a pass stick it was a solid second on a tricky day on the pegs.
FMF KTM had a happy podium with Jonathan Girroir taking third overall after what he described as a “gnarlier” than usual Snowshoe. The new US Sprint Enduro champ says focusing on standing up and hitting the lines was key to keep it flowing on the day.
2023 Snowshoe GNCC overall results:
Top riders with plenty to think about over summer break
After holding the lead on lap two, Stew Baylor got overtaken by eventual winner Kelley and then had to make a long (over one minute) pit stop to change that soft rear tyre. The pit stop allowed Ashburn, Girroir and at the time also Josh Toth through for a defecit the big man was never able to regain.
It was a notable ride from Toth on the Enduro Engineering GASGAS 300 two-stroke, a rare two smoker at the sharp end of the GNCC races these days. Sadly the mud got the better of the Gasser’s radiators and overheating eventually caused Josh to retire.
With Baylor finishing fourth, Grant Baylor clocking fifth and previous round winner Craig DeLong not having the race he hoped for, the championship points now look a whole lot more interesting. Stew and Craig are tied on 178 with Kelley honing in on 174 – the summer break now will give the riders plenty of time to mull over these points before picking back up at the Summit GNCC on September 15-17.
2023 GNCC Championship standings after Rnd 9:
Liam Draper takes two on the bounce in XC2
AmPro Yamaha’s Liam Draper took his second-straight XC2 250 Pro class win of the season at the Snowshoe but as previous it was a hard battle with Phoenix Racing Honda’s Ruy Barbosa as they swapped the lead in the first half of the race – Grant Davis was also in the mix there for a while.
But Kiwi Draper kept on strong through the tough five laps to earn the win, take sixth overall and finish almost half a minute clear of Barbosa.
FMF RPM KTM Racing’s Angus Riordan worked his way up from a seventh at the start to make the pass on Davis for third on the last lap.
In XC3 125 Pro-Am class Thorn Devlin returned to the GNCC races and earned the class win after leading all five laps of the race.
Archer in a class of her own
The morning race saw a remarkable result from AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer who not only got out front early and maintain an impressive pace for the overall win but would finish a clear 23 places higher than her next WXC rival.
Rachel Gutish got that honour of being second but it was 12 minutes down including a small mechanical but Archer takes her sixth win of the season and now holds a more than 40 point lead over Korie Steede.
Prestin Raines in fact got the better of Steede after a race-long for that final WXC podium place which saw them swap position multiple times. Raines held on to earn her second podium of the season with a third in the WXC class.
2023 Snowshoe GNCC AM race result:
Photo Credit: Mack Faint + Ken Hill