Press Release –
Just three races into the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, factory Arctic Cat racer Jesse West launched himself from underdog to top dog, thanks to two podium finishes, including a win at the season opener in Vero Beach, Fla.
Competing in the ultra-competitive 4×4 Open class for the first time in his young career, West combined his win in Vero Beach with a third-place in Washington, Ga., and fifth-place in Morganton, N.C., to lead the series’ championship point chase.
West’s remarkable start to the race season is especially impressive for two reasons: He’s piloting a stock Arctic Cat 650 H1 4×4 against a field loaded with highly-modified machines as large as 840cc; and it’s his first foray into GNCC racing, in a career that began less than one year ago in the World Powersports (WPSA) Quad Terrain Challenge races.
The 24-year-old from Thief River Falls, Minn., headed to the first race unknowing of the extent of the challenges ahead of him, but confident of his ability. West’s goals for his racing are to finish well while showcasing the performance durability of Arctic Cat’s engine, chassis and suspensions.
“My 650 H1 has a lot less horsepower compared to the competition,” said West, “Which means I have to out drive them. That requires a durable bike. When they’ve tried running my pace, they’ve broken down.”
His lack of experience cost West higher placings in the last two races, but that’s part of the GNCC learning curve.
“I was leading the second race in Georgia by a nice margin, but I’d gotten three flat tires and had to slow down,” he said. “I’d used stock wheels in the previous race but the obstacles changed drastically in Georgia. I quickly learned bead-lock wheels are necessary, which we got just in time for North Carolina, but weren’t able to test before the race. I was in second place and catching the leader when the lug-nuts came loose, forcing me to stop for a repair ending in a fifth place finish.”
Chalk these up as learning experiences, of which there will undoubtedly be many this season.
Arctic Cat media spokesman Kale Wainer stated, “That’s part of why we’re racing; to learn, but also show consumers how competitive the 650 H1 can be compared to fully-modified bikes from other brands. Racing in these accelerated test conditions only helps Arctic Cat improve the bikes durability while maintaining their unmatched strength.”
West remarked on factory racing for Arctic Cat, “Racing is in my blood, it’s a passion, and a dream come true!”