The 2021 Japanese Cross Country Racing (JNCC) season sprang into life at round one in Osaka where Daiki Baba and reigning champion Manabu Watanabe duked-out a classic two-stroke versus four-stroke battle.

With COVID-19 regulations relaxed in many areas across Japan, most major race championships across the country will see most opening rounds held as scheduled. The season officially started in style with JNCC, Japan's most popular off-road racing series, kicking off at an off-road course adjacent to the city of Osaka, just a five-minute walk to a large train station.

Wet conditions greeted amateurs for the 90-minutes morning race but fine weather on the day meant the three-hour Pro class race in the afternoon started in good conditions.

When the flag dropped, Manabu Watanabe, the 2020 champion, and Daiki Baba led the field. The Yamaha mounted pair played out a four-stroke versus two-stroke game of cat and mouse for the first two hours with Watanabe leading the way.

Two-stroke mounted Baba upped his pace in the third hour and pulled a gap of almost one minute by the time they crossed the finish line.

The top five featured four different manufacturers with Honda’s Takase Tanaka in third, the new KX250X-mounted Masahiro Kobayashi fourth and 19-year-old Yoshikazu Hosaka debuting the new GASGAS EC300 in fifth.

Results PM Race of JNCC 2021 R1:

1. Daiki Baba, Yamaha, 2:38:21.398  +0:00.000

2. Manabu Watanabe, Yamaha, 2:39:15.418  +0:54.020

3. Takase Tanaka, Honda, 2:43:35.931  +5:14.533

4. Masahiro Kobayashi, Kawasaki, 2:45:15.543  +6:54.145

5. Yoshikazu Hosaka, GASGAS, 2:45:26.404  +7:05.006

6. Yoshitaka Atsuta, Honda, 2:45:32.389  +7:10.991

7. Tatsushi Kawakami, Yamaha, 2:47:06.719  +8:45.321

8. Ryouta Suzuki, Yamaha, 2:47:59.325  +9:37.927

9. Tsubasa Iizuka, Sherco, 2:41:33.371  -1lap

10. Hayato Deguchi, Yamaha, 2:43:52.171  -1lap

JNCC round two is on April 11 at Hiroshima. 


Words Credit: Hisashi Haruki | BIG TANK Magazine