BMW Motorrad Motorsport is heading back to the USA for the second time during 2007. In July, the factory team was in Colorado to contest the Pikes Peak Race to the Clouds on the HP2 Mega moto. This time though, it’s the 450cc sports enduro that will be in action in Crawfordsville, Indiana on 27 and 28 October for the final round of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) series.
The AMA/ATVA-sanctioned Grand National Cross Country series is America’s premier off-road racing series. The 13-round race series stretches through the eastern US, starting with the season-opener in Florida in March and concluding with the season-finale in Indiana in October. Cross-country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The riders must navigate rugged terrain such as woods, mud, dirt, rocks and jumps for nearly three hours, while racing against the best talent in the world.
The GNCC championship has drawn interest internationally, as riders from Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand compete regularly, usually backed by factory teams with an array of technicians at their disposal. Upwards of 1,500 racers compete at each GNCC round in various classes and the race action draws several thousand fans each weekend as well as a loyal following on TV.
Finland’s ten-times World Champion Juha Salminen won the 2005 and 2006 titles and his class and grace as a champion have helped cement the GNCC series on the international map. Fellow countryman Simo Kirssi has raced several times in previous GNCC series events but this will be his first time competing there on the sports enduro. It will also be the first three-hour race for the 450cc prototype machine, according to BMW Motorrad Motorsport Team Manager Wolfgang Fischer:
"We’re really looking forwards to competing at Crawfordsville, as it’s the finale of the season and is one of the most popular races of the year. All the cross-country races we’ve competed in so far in Europe have been two hours long so we hope everything goes alright with the bike on its first roll-out in the USA. We had planned to participate in this series earlier on in the year but we felt that the bike wasn’t ready for this kind of race distance. Sin ce then, we’ve developed some new parts that we hope will help Simo get to the end of this tough race. Obviously, we’re not going there to win, but we do want to showcase the bike’s development in this important and prestigious series."
At Crawfordsville, there will be a huge starting field of over 300 riders and Simo Kirssi will be entering the Pro Class on the 450cc sports enduro. BMW Motorrad USA will be in attendance to publicise the new bike and promote the company’s ever increasing participation in off-road motorsport. The course runs near riverbanks and there will be plenty of elevation change. If it rains, the hills will be the toughest sections for the riders, as the course will be routed around the creeks. If it doesn’t rain, the riders will have to be aware of all the rocks in the creeks. Just making it to the finish at Crawfordsville will be an achievement, according to Wolfgang Fischer:
"Simo will need the bike to run perfectly and he’ll also need to ride a perfect race, but that still may not be enough. Because there are so many riders and machines, he’ll also need a lot of luck to make it to the finish, as well as a good eye for the right line to take. He’ll also need to be extremely patient, because he’ll need to be able to wait to pass slower, less experienced riders in the safest places. We’ll do the best we can at this round, as we want to show the potential of the bike compared to other teams and riders."
As the 2007 motorsport season draws to a close, Fischer is extremely pleased with the progress the team has made with the 450cc sports enduro prototype and believes that the best is still yet to come:
"It was great to get our first win earlier this month at the European Cross Country final in Schefflenz. Our plan for 2007 was to develop a race bike and make it competitive - we weren’t expecting any results like this in our first season! Therefore, I’m really pleased at how our debut year has gone and how the bike is progressing. Let’s hope that we can keep this success story going at Crawfordsville!"