JNCC Racing: Steward Baylor takes maiden victory in Japan
Steward Baylor came, saw and conquered the final round of the 2023 Japan National Cross Country Series (JNCC) after guest ride reprsenting GNCC.
JNCC is Japan’s most popular off-road racing series and every year, they invite riders from the GNCC in the USA over to race. The mutually cooperative relationship saw Japanese rider race in the States earlier in the season and at this final round, Stew got the call up to represent in return.
The setting for this final round is the X-JAM Takai Fuji Park near the Yomase Onsen Ski Resort in Kitashiga All the top riders who have been aiming for the championship throughout the year participated in this final race. Approximately eight kilometres long, and in sunny conditions, the XC race of 2 hour and 30 minutes were very familiar to Baylor from GNCC.
After a sluggish get away from the line, Steward took the lead late in the first lap and continued the race with an advantage. A small crash and a pit stop handed the lead over temporarily but in the end he won with a five-minute lead over second place Kazuto Yano.
Check out Steward’s onboard helmet cam from the race here: Steward Baylor onboard helmet cam at JNCC 2023 final
Yano in fact doesn’t race JNCC normally, fosusing more on hard enduro, but entered this final round just so he could line up alongside Baylor such was the draw of one of America’s biggest off-road stars.
Steward Baylor, who travelled to Japan with his father, Steward Baylor Snr, said after the race: “I am very grateful to have been able to race in such a blessed environment. The atmosphere was very welcoming from the Japanese riders and spectators, and I was able to enjoy a battle with Kazuto Yano in the early stages.
“I could feel the great respect that Japan’s top riders have for each other from their riding, which I thought was really great. The course was wider than GNCC, so I respected the other riders, tried to pass safely, and enjoyed the ride. I am happy to be able to represent GNCC and race in Japan.”
Yamaha mounted Manabu Watanabe, maintained his own pace from the beginning, finishing fourth on the day to successfully wrap-up the 2024 JNCC title.
2023 JNCC Final Round Results AAGP class:
1. Steward Baylor, KTM450XCF, Rocky Mountain / Tely Energy / KTM
2. Kazuto Yano, GASGAS EC300, RG3 Racing
3. Masahiro Kobayashi, Honda CRF250RX, THS Racing with Honda Dream Kobe Mita
4. Manabu Watanabe, Yamaha YZ250X, bLU cRU TwisterRacing
5. Yutaro Saito, Beta RR2T300, Soshichi Onkyo Wise Beta Team
6. Akira Narita, Honda CRF450, N.R.T.,
7. Ryo Uchijima, KTM250SXF, basist auto with Jon it.
8. Ginga Ohashi, Yamaha YZ250FX, Daito kentaku MC-japan SHINKO
9. Daiki Baba, Yamaha YZ250X, bLUcRUTEAM887 YSP Hamamatsu
10. Takanori Nakajima, Yamaha YZ250FX, bLU cRU Racing team Taka
Rewatch the official JNCC live coverage here.
Images and Report: Satoru Ii - off1.jp + Jared Bolton
Thanks to BIG TANK Magazine