Washington, GA – The Killer B's were back battling at the front of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, but Yamaha's Bill Ballance ended up with yet another win at the Maxxis General GNCC, his fifth in a row in Georgia.
"We had a heck of a battle today, but I felt like if I had a challenge at any time, I could square it back underneath and this thing would just go there, and I could probably get back by anyone," said Ballance. "This place is just good for me. It gets pretty rough and it seems like the faster you go the better it is, you just stay up on top and float over all of it."
East Coast ATV's Chris Borich was once again the man to challenge Ballance. After a bad start, he charged through the pack to catch the seven-time GNCC Champion, but he couldn't make a pass when he needed it. "I had a bad start again. I don't know, I just can't get it started," said Borich. "Me and (Chris) Bithell hooked up, we caught him, and just battled. There were a lot of lines out there, I was trying a couple of different ones, but it seemed like every time I tried it, they were longer."
The race turned even wilder when some of the bumping between the two ignited a small scene in the pits. "We hooked up on the fourth lap and there was a little bumping or something going on, and I couldn't figure out what was going on," said Ballance. "It kind of got me perturbed a little bit. Chris has always been a good racer, we've had some good battles and we've always been able to shake hands after them, but I guess there are some people who can get an influence over anybody."
"We're not really that aggressive," said Borich. "We came into the pit area, he got on the brakes, and I got by him, so it was on from there. I let him back by and trailed him, I was just holding back and waiting for the end. I couldn't get by, but it will be on when we get to North Carolina, I guarantee that. It's on now."
Third place went to LTERacing.com's Chris Bithell, the 19-year-old from Pennsylvania. He ran with Borich at mid-race while they tracked down Ballance through traffic, but ultimately dropped just a few ticks of the watch behind. "It feels great to be back up on here after a bad race in Florida," said Bithell. "I was sick all week, so I gave it the best I had. Chris and I ran right together, and it was just like another day riding, and it's a lot of fun. I learned a lot riding with these guys, the veterans. I'm always looking to be center of the box, that's for sure, but for now I'll be happy taking what I can get."
Fourth went to Taylor Kiser in a strong follow to his podium finish at the season opener in Florida. Brandon Sommers was fifth overall and first in the XC2 Pro Am class, with BJ Ballance sixth, Matt Smiley seventh, William Yokley eighth, Chris Jenks ninth and Bryan Cook tenth.
BJ Ballance grabbed the ITP Holeshot Award and led early. "It felt good being out front these last two races," said Ballance, who led for a few laps at the season opener in Florida. "I got out front and just held it as long as I could, and I figure that's going to help me get my pace up. It feels great."
Soon Bill Ballance was able to grab the lead and stretch it out. "We got a pretty good lead there and pulled out right away," said Ballance. "But it's kind of the way racing has been for the last few years. You start catching lappers by the third lap, and it takes awhile for them to realize you're back there. It doesn't matter how fast you are or how hard you push, it's hard to keep a lead once you get down to the third lap. we held them off, and heck yeah we're off to a great start."
Borich was disappointed with second again, but he's still very close in championship points with his back-to-back runner-up rides. "Yeah it took me a little bit to catch up," said Borch. "There was a plan there, but it seemed like it just wouldn't work out."
In the XC2 Pro Am class, GT Thunder's Brandon Sommers rode strong again to notch his second win in as many races. His podium mates were identical to round one as well, with Ryan Lane and Don Ockerman second and third. "I came in here not really knowing what to expect," said Sommers. "I trained hard all winter and it paid off, and now I'm going to go home ecstatic."
Lane rode from behind to net second. "I had a lot of problems off the start, and it was overheating on me again," said Lane. "We had a lengthy pit stop to clean up the radiator again, so we lost some time. I'd like to get up there early and race with these guys."
Ockerman nailed the ATVRiders.com holeshot award to begin the race. "I was out front and felt good, but Brandon jumped over me on the motocross track," said Ockerman. "I tried to hang with him. I'm just going to keep on pushing until I can run with him again."
In the morning race, Team Yamaha's Traci Cecco held on for the overall win and a victory in the Women's class. U2 (Utility Unlimited) racers Michael Benson and Marcus Gonzalez took second and third on Kawasaki KFX700s. Can-Am riders cleaned up in the three 4x4 classes, with Scott Kilby taking 4x4 Open, Michael Swift taking 4x4 Limited, and Cliff Beasley winning 4x4 Lites 0-500.
Matt Harris took the overall win in the Youth ATV race.
The Can-Am GNCC Series continues in two weeks with the FMF Steele Creek GNCC in Morganton, North Carolina.
Photos by David Scearce: firstname.lastname@example.org