Crawfordsville, IN - It's all over for 2007, and the history books must now be re-written. Bill Ballance is the all-time King of Quads in the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series. The Yamaha rider went out and won the season-finale Kloz Ironman GNCC to make sure the championship was his, and now he has won the GNCC crown for the eighth-straight time, an all-time record.
"It hasn't even hardly sunk in yet," said Ballance, clearly getting emotional on the podium. "When I first started this years ago, I was just hoping to be a top ten rider. To win eight in a row, I can't even believe it. I'm just so happy, we weren't even trying to win this one, we were trying to take it easy and make sure we didn't have problems with the bike, and things started happening and we ended up in the lead."
Ballance's rival Chris Borich looked like he could win the Ironman, although Ballance still would have only needed to finish 12th to win the crown anyway. Borich took the ITP Holeshot Award and battled with Ballance most of the day, but he ran into trouble on the muddy, rugged track with two laps to go and dropped to fifth. Ballance then led Matt Smiley and Adam McGill, and then McGill put on a big charge on the last lap to pass Smiley and go after Ballance. He almost pulled it off and passed Ballance in the final mile, but Ballance managed to stop him and get the win--and the title, of course.
McGill was second and Smiley third.
It was a banner day altogether for Yamaha, who not only celebrated Ballance's eighth crown, but also won the overall in the morning race with Traci Cecco, who started in the fourth row in the Women's class but still managed to win the race--and fitting end to a championship season. Also, Brandon Sommers won the XC2 title this year and raced the XC1 class, and nearly made the podium overall, staying right with the leaders for most of the race.
Cecco was followed by a pair of happy class winners in the morning race, as Scott Kilby won the Open 4x4 class and Mike Benson took U2.
Also, the UTVs had their way with the Ironman track and it was one of the funnest races the series had ever seen, with about 30 machines (and 30 passengers) battling through mud, water, hills and rocks. It was very fun to watch--there's a good chance you'll see more of these races in the future.
But the future, the present and the past belongs to Ballance. "We got so many fast guys out there riding these days, and factory support and everything is coming, everyone is taking it so seriously now, and spending so much time riding and training. Things like bike setup are a lot closer than they used to be."
Close, but once again not quite enough to knock off the King of Quads.
Over 1550 riders competed at the Klotz Ironman GNCC throughout the weekend, at an event that included demo rides from Can-Am, Yamaha and Polaris, helicopter rides available to fans, and a full-assortment of 2008 machines on display, as well as raffles and give aways.
For full results, log on to www.gnccracing.com. A full race report will follow this report on Monday morning.
Ballance photo by David Scearce