FMF MAKITA SUZUKI CELEBRATES JOSH STRANG'S GNCC XC1 CHAMPIONSHIP
The FMF Makita Suzuki team has had a fantastic 2010 GNCC season, and with the newly crowned Champion Josh Strang at the helm of the team, it's cause for celebration. The 22-year-old Australian worked very hard this season to prove that his FMF Makita Suzuki fuel-injected RM-Z450 was the bike to beat, and he showed the entire class that he is as fast and talented as he is determined and focused on winning. In 2008, Josh finished third overall in the XC1 class, and he followed that up with second place in 2009. Josh continued his upward trajectory to take the championship in 2010, the first of his career.
The season started off the last weekend of February at River Ranch in Lake Wales, Florida, where the series set the tone by having very fast racing on an extremely challenging course. Josh was also intent on setting the tone for the season aboard his FMF Makita Suzuki RM-Z450, and after three hours of intense racing he crossed the finish line first. Though Josh started at the back of the pack, he used the power and handling of his Suzuki to take him to the front of the pack.
The second stop on the GNCC circuit was at the Maxxis General in Washington, Georgia on March 7th. Josh and his FMF Makita Suzuki RM-Z450 were dialed in already with one win, and they had the drive and focus to make it two in a row. "I've worked hard for this and it feels good," said Strang. "And to get two wins is great. I got a good start, perhaps the best start I've ever got on the 450, and I rode well." Team Manager Mike Webb was also very happy with Josh's performance on the racecourse. "This is a great way to start the season," Webb said. "Josh and the entire crew have put a lot of long hours to be ready and winning the first two is proof of that. It’s a long season, though, and we just need to keep our head down and stay focused.”
Focus is exactly what Josh did at Round 3 of the series at Steele Creek in Morganton, North Carolina, on March 21st. Despite being pressured the entire race by another race, Strang was determined to finish the race first. Right off the start, he took the holeshot, and not even the torrential downpour of rain could pull Josh's focus away from the checkered flag. After a shortened race due to the racecourse deteriorating from the wild weather, Josh was deemed the winner with an 11-second lead. “I led every lap and was comfortable with the conditions,” said Strang. “I’m very happy with the way things turned out.”
Josh continued his winning streak at Round 4 of the GNCC circuit at the Big Buck race in Union, South Carolina, on April 11th. Furthering his commanding points lead in the XC1 Pro class, Strang won his fourth race in a row, this time aboard his powerful and impressive 2010 Suzuki fuel-injected RM-Z450. The three-hour race was a bit of a dust storm, but Josh used his racing skill and strategic thinking to get around competitors to put him in a prime position to take the lead. He did indeed take over the lead during the long and dusty race, and even put 20 seconds between himself and second place. "Four in a row is awesome! I'm super happy with that," said Strang. "This was a tough one, and it was a little stressful during the first lap, because of the dust. The conditions were definitely difficult today, but I just raced my own race. I just kept going and made some passes, and then when I got in the lead I was able to push a little harder to make sure I stayed there."
At the legendary Loretta Lynn's track, Round 5 of the GNCC series took off at the end of April. Josh had won every race so far in the season, but this race was to be a little different. Strang lead for nearly half the race and battle with one racer the entire time. With heavy rains making the track a true challenge, Josh raced to the finish and came in second. With his consistent string of podium finishes, Josh was now 37 points ahead in the race to the championship. "That was a great battle today," Team Manager Mike Webb said, "but we came up a bit short. The goal is the championship, and Josh just keeps padding his lead and that’s what we need."
The Yadkinville Valley Stomp was a change of pace for Strang. Round 6 of the schedule proved to be a tough one for the FMF Makita Suzuki team, and Josh finished off the podium in ninth place. He grabbed his second holeshot of the season, but a second-lap crash set him back. “I landed a bit off the line and clipped a tree,” said Strang. “When I grabbed the bars again, I grabbed a handful of throttle and it sent me right into another tree.” Both bike and rider sustained some minor bumps and bruises, but came away from the crash without suffering any major damage.
After a pit stop to repair his bike, Strang set back out on the course to earn as many points as possible toward the championship. "I'm really proud of Josh today," Team Manager Mike Webb said. "You win championships on your worst day, and he gave it everything today."
At the halfway point of the GNCC season, Strang still had the lead in the series. Round 7 at Moose Mountain in Somerset, PA, in May was yet another tough battle for Josh. He had a strong start to the race, where he ran as far up as third place, but a second-lap fall due to the mud on the course pushed him back in the standings. He battled his way back up to seventh place. "I got a good start, and my RM-Z was running really well," said Strang. "I crashed at the start of the second lap, and had a few more after that. It just wasn’t a very good race for me." Despite the set back, Josh still had a hold on the points lead for the championship.
Round 8 of the series took place in Millfield, Ohio, on June 6th at the John Penton GNCC. Once again, heavy rains made the track tough to navigate and the race was even pushed back an hour to allow it to dry a bit before the race. Josh didn't get the start he wanted, but by lap two he was in the groove and moving up the ranks. He put himself back on the podium at the end of the race thanks to the power and handling of his RM-Z450, and his second-place finish gave him a 20-point lead in the series.
The final race before the summer break, the Snowshoe GNCC race was yet another battle to the finish for Josh and the FMF Makita Suzuki team. The weather of Snowshoe, West Virginia, at the end of June was more than the young racer was accustomed to, and it showed in Josh's results as he finished sixth. "It was a tough race for me," said Strang. "My bike handled great, but I just wasn’t used to the heat and humidity." Josh still held onto the series points lead at the end of the day with 17 more points than the next closest racer, and he was hoping to better his results after the summer break in racing.
After more than two months off to test bike setup and recuperate from the tough start to the season, the GNCC series resumed with Round 10 at Unadilla in New Berlin, NY, on September 12. Josh and his FMF Makita Suzuki RM-Z450 were primed to get back to GNCC racing, and they battled throughout the three-hour event. Strang finished the day in fourth place and earned more valuable points toward the championship, extending his lead by 24. "I actually picked up a few points and my bike was awesome," Strang said after the race. "The testing we did the last few weeks, we got the thing dialed in, so I'm pretty stoked about that. It's a bummer not to get on the podium but I'm still in good shape for the championship."
The Titan GNCC was where Strang regained his rightful place on the podium: the top. Round 11 in Lafayette, TN, on September 26 was Josh's return to form. He and his RM-Z450 were fast, relentless, and focused on winning, taking the checkered flag with just one second over the second-place rider. The three-hour race was a grueling test of both man and machine, and Josh ran into trouble partway through the race when a collision with a lapped rider dropped him out of the lead. After getting back up, Josh opened the throttle on his bike to quickly retake the lead and extend his grip on the 2010 championship to 28 points. "That was a battle today,” said team manager Mike Webb. "We worked hard during the week and today Josh made it happen. We are just going to keep pushing all the way to the end!"
With a strong finish, it was possible for Josh Strang and his FMF Makita Suzuki fuel-injected RM-Z450 to take the 2010 GNCC XC1 title at the 12th round of racing at Power Line Park in St. Clairsville, Ohio. The duo was prepared to take on the competition and hungry for a podium finish, but they definitely kept everyone in suspense at the start. With a last-place take off from the starting line, Josh and his RM-Z450 had their work cut out for them. They spent the first two laps fighting their way to fourth place, where they stayed until the checkered flag dropped. Strang had to finish ahead of his next closest rival in the points chase to secure the 2010 GNCC title, which is exactly what he did. Josh's fourth-place finish secured him as the 2010 GNCC Champion, the first title of his young career. "This was the toughest race of my life," said Strang. "I didn't get the start I usually get, I couldn't find my rhythm. I finally just put my head down and rode as hard as I could. It was a heck of a race and it's incredible to win the title!"
The Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana, was host to Round 13 of the GNCC series. With the championship wrapped up, Josh and the FMF Makita Suzuki team were hoping to put one last podium effort together to cap off the 2010 season. Josh led for a good portion of the dry and dusty race, but eventually his bike succumbed to the extreme dust with a clogged air filter. "I wish it hadn’t ended like that, but I was in the lead and that felt good," said Strang. “It was a pretty good season overall, and I’m happy that I got the championship!”
Strang is now relaxing before preparations begin for the 2011 GNCC series, where his bike will be sporting the No. 1 plate. Congratulations to Josh and the entire FMF Makita Suzuki crew for their championship effort!