American off-road racing fans have much to look forward to in 2011, because the current European and German Cross Country Champion, Simo Kirssi, will soon be on his way to the States to take on the US Cross Country heroes in their own backyard.
This ‘battle of the giants’ will see Simo contest the 13-round Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series — America’s premier off-road racing championship that begins in early March in Florida. Having won just about everything there is to win in the European cross-country world, Kirssi will be jumping on a Husqvarna and joining the Fred Andrews Racing team for the 2011 GNCC Series.
Fred Andrews, the 1993 GNCC Champion, is delighted to be “importing” the Finnish native, who will ride the new four-stroke TE310 Husqvarna.
“We’re excited to have Simo on board with us this year for the XC1 class,” said Andrews. “With Jason Thomas and Morgan Moss running the XC2 class as well, I think we will have a successful season. I’m happy that we’ve had a good program in the past and with our continued support, I think we can put Husky on top this year.”
Because Kirssi already has a relationship with Husqvarna in Italy, his transition to Fred Andrews Racing will be a smooth one and, having ridden the factory BMW G450X for several seasons, he is relishing his challenge of now riding for Husqvarna, especially with the new TE310 Husqvarna machine.
“Husqvarna is very off-road minded and it’s a great opportunity for me to work with such a successful brand,” said Simo. “The latest bikes are the best in the market and the 310 is for sure a podium machine, with low weight and brilliant handling. It’s a proven bike and easy to prepare for the high-end race level we need for the GNCC series. My new bike is different in many ways to the BMW I rode. With the 310cc engine, we’ve naturally lost some power against my 450cc bike from the last years, but I think the handling — especially in the tight GNCC tracks — can make up for this.”
Kirssi, a 2010 European and German Cross Country Champion and established competitor in the World Enduro Championship, has made a few previous guest appearances in the GNCC series. Finnish riders are held in high regard by GNCC fans, after Juha Salminen came to the USA and dominated the 2005 and 2006 GNCC tours. Salminen will be riding a Husqvarna in this year’s Enduro World Championship and will have plenty of advice for his countryman, who becomes part of a long list of international GNCC talent aiming to lift this prestigious title. Indeed, one fact the Americans won’t want to be reminded of is that international riders have collected the last six GNCC crowns, a trend that Kirssi is hoping to continue.
“It’s going to be a very exiting year ahead,” said Simo. “You can imagine that after so many years in the European Cross Country I am really anxious to ride a full GNCC season. The US off-road media are very interested in this upcoming challenge because finally it’s a real comparison between the European and the US Cross Country series. I had a great working bike (BMW G450X) in Europe during the last years and won many races against other world’s best off-road riders, so my European fans expect me to continue. Our team and my mechanic Timo have all been working very hard during the last weeks so that we will be ready for this ‘US mission’ on time. With a perfectly prepared bike and a team spirit like in the past, we should achieve top results — no question. I am fully prepared and in good personal condition, so the first race can’t come soon enough for me!”
With its three-hour race format, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed — and without a doubt rank among the most physically demanding sports in the world. The gruelling GNCC races lead as many as 1,800 riders through tracks ranging in length from 10 to 12 miles (16 to 18 km) over varied terrain, including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections.
Although Simo has had little preparation time with the new TE310, he already feels completely comfortable on the new Husqvarna and after some final preparation and set-up work in Europe, he will be flying out to the USA to start this new stage of his career, which begins on 5 March. It’s a long busy season ahead for the ‘flying Finn’ who is hoping to find the time to race one or two selected European Cross Country events in 2011. He is also hoping to hook up with his ridding buddy Andy Lettenbichler for just one extreme enduro, the Roof of Africa, which takes place in November. Until then, watch this space for news of Simo’s progress throughout the 2011 GNCC.
For more information, please visit www.gnccracing.com.