Hepler, Dowd, Kiniry Challenge GNCC Elite this Weekend at Unadilla

September 20, 2006 3:07pm

New Berlin, NYLast year the world famous Unadilla Valley Sports Center hosted the biggest Suzuki Grand National Cross Country event ever, as over 1800 individual racers lined up to challenge the woods, hills and motocross track in New York. But this year’s race will make more history, as some of the nation’s top motocross talent will challenge the field, creating a start-studded motocross verses off-road test.

Broc Hepler a three-time winner in this year’s AMA/Toyota Motocross Championship, and AMA Supercross Champion John Dowd will race the event with help from the factory FMF/Suzuki off-road team. Hepler’s appearance marks the first time a rider has ever won an AMA Motocross National and raced a GNCC in the same season.

Make no mistake, GNCC regulars like 2006 Champion Juha Salminen, Barry Hawk, Rodney Smith and Charlie Mullins will be ready for the challenge. The entire pack has elevated their game this year in pursuit of Salminen, the Finnish World Champion that just clinched his second-straight GNCC title.

But reports say that Hepler is no slouch in the woods. “I know what it’s about,” says Hepler. “I ride in the woods at home, I grew up in it. I watch it on TV every week and I like it. It looks fun.”

Dowd raced the Parts Unlimited Wisp GNCC in June and finished an impressive fourth in his first GNCC ever. “That had to be the hardest race I’ve ever done in my life!” said Dowd, who also finished second at the Maxxis EnduroCross in Las Vegas. “It was good. I put in a couple of good laps and a couple of bad ones. I had fun though. I’d really like to try a dry one!”

In addition,  word is out that top New York pro motocrosser Bobby Kiniry will race the event after finishing an impressive 17th there last year.

Unadilla is the perfect place for such a race, as it’s arguably the most historic motocross track in the country. The track has hosted races for almost 40 years, and every top racer in the sport from around the world has raced there. Both the original Unadilla track and the U2 amateur track will be integrated into the rugged off-road course, which will also feature mud, hills, rocks and trails.

Last year’s race was a classic, with Salminen falling early and mounting a comeback. Mullins, Hawk and New York’s own Nathan Kanney battled up front, but Juha’s tremendous charge eventually got him the win in an exciting race.

            The race also features a full schedule of ATV racing on Saturday. Yamaha’s Bill Ballance wants to collect his record-tying seventh GNCC ATV title, but the Kentucky rider is locked in a battle with Sunbury, PA’s Chris Borich. It’s still anyone’s championship in the battle between the Killer B’s. Veteran favorite William Yokley is a threat every weekend on his Yoshimura/Monster Suzuki, plus, a host of young riders are staking their claim to victory lane, including Chris Jenks, Chris Bithell, Adam McGill and last year’s Unadilla winner, Bryan Cook. 

            The Unadilla GNCC begins Saturday, September 23, with four-wheeled ATV racing. Pro racing begins at 1 p.m. Bikes race on Sunday, with the pro race beginning at 1 p.m. Weekend passes run $12 and children six and under are free. All passes include pro pit admission and autographs.

Located on State Highway #8, five miles north of New Berlin, New York. From the north take NYS Thruway (Rt. #90) to exit 31 (Utica). After the tollbooth, begin following signs for Route #8 SOUTH. Turn right after the tollbooth and make another right at the first light. You will go about 50 feet and exit to your right. Continue about 1 ½ miles and you will exit again at Route #8 south/ Route 5/12. Approximately 4 miles later you will exit one more time at “Route #8 South-New Hartford”. Once you exit here, you will stay on this road right to the racetrack. From the south, take Rt. #81 north to Rt. I-88 east. Exit at exit #9- Sidney. At the top of the ramp, turn left onto Route #8 NORTH. Do not go to the Town of Unadilla.

            The AMA-sanctioned Suzuki Grand National Cross Country series is America’s premier off-road racing series. The 13-round series is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. Cross-country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The nearly three-hour long GNCC races lead as many as 1800 riders through tracks ranging from eight to twelve miles in length. With varied terrain including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed. GNCC featured sponsors include Parts Unlimited, Moose, Maxxis, Pirelli, Wiseco, Klotz, FMF, ITP and Tire Balls, and riders compete for over $3 million in series prizes and contingency money. Associate sponsors include Moose Utility Division, Scott, Acerbis, Alpinestars, Cometic, Outerwears, Twin Air, Polisport Plastics, Thor, Motion Pro, Hyper Wheels, Elka Suspension, MotoTee’s, Weekend Warrior, Owens Motorsports, Tom’s Marina Polaris, EK Chain and Laeger’s. Media Sponsors include Dirt Rider Magazine, ATV Sport Magazine, www.ATVRiders.com and Racer X Illustrated. For more information log on to www.GNCCRacing.com.



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