News 12 Oct 2011

Russell breaks through on KTM 350, Strang fifth in Ohio GNCC

Australia's Josh Strang was fifth in Ohio's 12th round of the GNCC series.

Australia's Josh Strang was fifth in Ohio's 12th round of the GNCC series.

Australia’s Josh Strang will have to fight hard in the closing three rounds of the American Grand National Cross Country Championship after finishing fifth at the ITP Powerline GNCC in Ohio last weekend.

FMF Makita Suzuki’s defending champion Strang now sits a full 26 points behind FMF KTM’s Charlie Mullins in the standings, requiring luck on his side if he’s to battle back into contention by the season’s end.

Making it look all too easy, FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell claimed his first-ever XC1-class victory with a dominating performance at the ITP Powerline GNCC.

On a day when most of the focus centered on the two main contenders for the 2011 title, Russell put in a statement ride that served notice to the competition that his intention is to be a regular visitor to the center step of the podium.

On a fast and slippery course – one that also had its share of treacherous mud holes and unforgiving hills, Russell passed FMF KTM teammate Mullins on the opening lap when Mullins stalled his bike.

After that, the two-time XC2 champ put the hammer down and began building a lead that stood at over a minute by the end of the three-hour race.

The victory not only marked the first-ever win for Russell in the XC1 class, but it was also the first win for the new KTM 350 XC-F, which Russell has been riding all year.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work here lately, and I just want to win,” Russell said after the race. “I’m pretty disappointed with how the beginning of the year went, but I’ve turned it around and I want to finish off the season winning.”

Second went to Mullins, who helped his championship hopes immensely with the finish – especially since his main rival Strang finished fifth.

After settling into a safe second behind Russell, Mullins maintained a healthy lead over a raging battle for third, featuring Strang and AmPro Racing Yamaha riders Paul Whibley and Thad DuVall, the three swapped positions throughout the three hour race.

DuVall rounded out the podium, after fending off a last-turn pass attempt by Whibley. The West Virginia rider has steadily improved since the summer break and was extremely strong over the final lap of the race.

Fifth place went to Strang, the FMF/Makita Suzuki rider losing valuable points to Mullins in the championship battle, and with only three races remaining on the schedule, the defending series champ sits a full 26 points behind Mullins.