It was a great day for the FMF KTM Factory Racing Team as Kailub Russell and Josh Toth came away from Round 8 of the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series with a dominant 1-2 finish in the premier XC1 Open Pro class, while teammate Ben Kelley finished just off the podium with a close fourth.

Heading into GNCC’s summer break, Kailub Russell has extended his lead to 42 points in the XC1 Open Pro Championship.

As the green flag waived, it was Toth who powered his KTM 350 XC-F to the holeshot and early lead, with his teammates Russell and Kelley close behind in third and fourth on the opening lap. Toth took advantage of a clear track ahead and he set the pace early on, while Russell fought to get around FMF/RPM/KTM Racing Team Maxxis rider Dante Oliveira on lap two. With Toth at the helm for the majority of the three-hours, Russell slowly chipped away at his lead and he brought it down to only eight seconds heading into the final two laps of racing.

Going into the white flag lap, the FMF KTM duo battled head-to-head into a field section and that’s when Russell made his first move past Toth for the lead. It wasn’t long before Russell encountered an issue that caused him to ride conservatively, and then he made a mistake and fell over, resulting in a broken shifter. Stuck in second gear for the rest of the race, the Seven-Time Champion once again was forced to adapt his race craft as Toth overtook the lead on the final lap. With about ¼ of a mile to go, Toth got caught up trying to pass a lapped rider on the final hill before the finish and Russell maneuvered his way around to secure his 67th career XC1 victory, despite a challenging day in West Virginia.

Kailub Russell: “I did the best I could with the circumstances but I was frustrated mentally. After Josh got around me, I stayed fairly close to him and while he was trying to get around a lapper at the end, I had enough room to take the main line that was faster and I passed him and the lapper at the same time.”

Next Race: Round 9 – The Mountaineer GNCC – September 13, 2020

Josh Toth, who was just three seconds away from winning his first-career XC1 race, had a stellar performance from start to finish leading the first two hours of racing. In a head-to-head battle with Russell in the final two laps, Toth unfortunately got caught up with a lapper just before the finish but he was able to secure his first podium of the season after coming back from injury only two months ago.

Josh Toth: “I knew it was going to be dusty so I got the holeshot and got out front early on. Once I realized that nobody else behind me could see anything, I just tried to set a comfortable pace while I warmed up. I rode my own race most of the day but as we were getting into lappers it was pretty difficult to get through clean.”

Ben Kelley had a good jump off the start as he battled Toth and got edged out for the holeshot, where he settled into fourth behind Russell early on. Fighting through the dust with low visibility, Kelley clawed his way up to the third-place podium battle with about three laps to go. He pressured Josh Strang for third into the final laps, where he finished only three seconds back for fourth.

Ben Kelley: “I wasn’t riding the best until I finally got by Dante [Oliveira] and then I picked up the pace in the second half. I linked up with Strang and battled with him down to the finish. I felt good but I felt like I had more in the tank. I definitely had the speed to get third, I just couldn’t make it happen.”

STORY: TKO Confirmed But Withdrawn From WESS Enduro World Championship For 2020 (June 2020)
STORY: United States win 2019 FIM International Six Days Enduro (November 2019)

LINK: GNCC

photos (c) Simon Cudby & Shan Moore