Kailub Russell gets the defence of his GNCC title off to a winning start at round one in Florida…

The 2015 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Maxxis kicked off its 41st annual season on Sunday with the Moose Racing Wild Boar GNCC in Palatka, Florida.

KTM’s Kailub Russell picked up right where he left off last season with a commanding victory in the XC1 Pro Class.

With two consecutive GNCC National Championships behind him, Russell entered the 2015 opener as the heavy favourite. Russell got off to a favourable start behind Yamaha’s Jordan Ashburn, who picked up the $250 All Balls Racing Holeshot Award. Ashburn grabbed the early lead but it didn’t take long for Russell to make his way to the front.

The major battles took place just behind the leader as Husqvarna’s Josh Strang went back-and-forth with fellow Husqvarna-mounted riders Ryan Sipes and Thad DuVall early on.

As the trio charged towards the front, Honda’s Chris Bach slowly inched his way into the battle. By the halfway point, Bach had made his way into a podium position while DuVall charged close behind.

A crash by Sipes just after the halfway mark ultimately hindered his chances at an overall podium finish. Strang capitalised on Sipes misfortune, creating a gap between himself and the third place finisher as DuVall caught up to Bach on the final lap that resulted in all all-out battle to the finish.

After three gruelling hours on one of the most challenging and rough courses that the GNCC has to offer, Russell made a big statement with a commanding lead over the rest of the field. This win marks his 23rd overall career victory and his first-ever overall win at a season opening round in Florida.

josh-strang-gncc unnamed© Ken Hill

Strang – over two and a half minutes behind Russell – secured second place, while Bach put his Honda in third. Despite a hard charge at the end, DuVall finished the day in fourth overall.

Canadian Motocross Lites Champion Tyler Medaglia made an appearance at the opening round and finished an impressive fifth overall for the day. Sipes recovered to take sixth place.

Yamaha teammates Grant Baylor and Jordan Ashburn finished seventh and eighth places respectively while Takeshi Koikeda and Cory Graffunder rounded out the top ten.

In the XC2 Pro Lites division it was Nick Davis who came away with the first victory of the season.

Ricky Russell put in a solid ride to capture the second place position at the season opener.

Jason Thomas hung on tight in the final laps of the three-hour battle, finishing in third place.

The 2015 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series continues on March 15 with the Maxxis General GNCC in Washington, Georgia.