Ballance Locks up Record-tying Seventh ATV GNCC Title
But Borich wins ATV race
With yet another consistent finish, Yamaha’s Bill Ballance rode his factory YFZ450 right into the GNCC record books. Ballance locked up the 2006 Suzuki Grand National Cross Country ATV title at the FMF Power Line Park GNCC over the weekend, tying Barry Hawk’s all-time record with his seventh-straight GNCC number one plate.
“I just can’t believe it,” said Ballance. “I remember way back when we were struggling, it was hard to even imagine winning a championship, let alone all of these. And we’ve gone through so many changes as we’ve tried to make the sport better, changing rules and equipment, and the amount of races we count for a championship. I have the big target on me, and I have to make sure I say and do things right, because everyone is going to be watching me. So it’s been tough. It feels real good to be able to pull it off. The sport just keeps growing and growing. It’s good for all of us to try to be good role models and be good to these fans. That’s part of it. I love the sport and love racing, and with the way it’s elevating right now, it’s great to be part of it.”
Ballance needed only a fourth or better to win the title, and he finished second. The win went to his closest competitor, East Coast ATV Honda’s Chris Borich, who also won the race last year. “This track fits my riding style,” said Borich. “It’s high speed and I just let it all hang out. Me and Bill were going through the water leading, and I just started laughing, because (Brent) Sturdivant just went wide open through the water. He was gone! Bill let me by and I tried to reel him in. He was going pretty good. I finally got around him, and he got back by me, and then I gave him the thumbs up and told him to use his head so we could roll together. I think he ended up doing pretty well.”
Sturdivant, who raced the Pro Am class earlier in the year before moving up, finished a career-best fifth.
“We got down into the first water crossing and all of a sudden Sturdivant just came in there wide open,” said Ballance, who grabbed the ITP Holeshot Award money at the start. “I was like “Wow, that guy is going to drown out or something. He’s going somewhere.” He was pretty much balls to the wall, all over the rev limiter, and I was just letting him go. I know Chris was wanting to win the race, so he came up on me and I moved over. He gave me the thumbs up and went charging ahead. He ran a good race, but I ran a pace that would maybe put me in position to win, but I was a little more on the conservative side.”
Behind Borich and Ballance came Monster/Yoshimura Suzuki’s William Yokley in third. “I had some trouble getting my race face on, I was back there cruising,” said Yokley. “Duane Johnson got around me and he kind of picked me up. That’s what I needed, somebody I could set everything off of. We went after Bill, and I got close with lappers, but I couldn’t get close enough to make a move or anything.”
The ever-consistent Johnson was fourth, and thanks to bad luck suffered by GT Thunder’s Chris Jenks, Johnson now sits an amazing third in points heading into the finale in Indiana in two weeks.
The other seven-time GNCC ATV Champ, Barry Hawk, was invited to the podium for photos with Ballance. “I never imagined I would get seven in row, and once I retired from the ATV side, I thought Bill might win a couple of championships, but I never thought he would win seven,” said Hawk. “So I congratulate him on that. This has come a long way. When I won my championships, the factories didn’t do much for me. It’s a shame that it took so long, but I’m glad it finally happened, because these guys deserve it.”
Much like last year, Borich appeared to be a championship favorite early when he won the season-opening event in Florida by a huge margin. “We had a couple of bad races and let it slip away from me,” said Borich. “I don’t want to let him get that eighth title next year.”
But Ballance won’t stop working. “Actually, I’m doing nine days of suspension testing next week,” said Ballance. “The work doesn’t stop. Hopefully we show up at Ironman ready to win. It’s been tough, there was a lot of competition this year. I didn’t think I could wrap it like this, five or six races ago I thought it was going to come down to the wire. We made some good decisions and we had luck on our side.”
The race was taped for an airing on the Versus Network (formerly OLN). The shows air weekly on Saturdays and Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. For more information log on to www.GNCCRacing.com.
Photos by Raymond Gundy.