2016 has started in the best possible way for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Josh Strang. Hitting winning form during the closing stages of the 2015 GNCC series, following a well-earned winter break back home in Australia he’s secured victories at both rounds one and two of this year’s GNCC championship.
Josh, how does it feel to be heading into this weekend’s third round of the GNCC series with a perfect 60-point score from rounds one and two?
Josh Strang: “It feels good, but there’s a long way to go in the championship. There’s nothing better than making a winning start but I’ve made strong starts to championships before so I know not to get too carried away. I felt good heading into Florida but I never put too much pressure on myself to win there. It’s an important race, but it’s just one race and not like any other round of the series.”
The GNCC opener in Florida is well known for being brutal. Did it, as well as the second round in Georgia, go as you hoped it would?
Josh Strang: “Like I said, I felt like I should be competitive in Florida. But it was the race in Georgia that I guess was the more important result. That race is like a regular GNCC, so to win there was important to me. I was last off the line in Florida but the track was a little tighter than normal and the race pace a little slower, which helped me. Honestly, the win came pretty easily – I felt good. At round two I rode with Kailub all race and beat him at the finish.”
You headed back to Australia during your off-season. How important was it for you to enjoy a well-earned end-of-year break?
Josh Strang: “I’d not been back to Australia for two years, so I felt like it was a little overdue. It’s always important to take a break, especially as I’ll have 27 races to compete in this year. I was able to relax but kept training hard. I knew what I needed to do to be ready for 2016 and the winning results I got at the end of 2015 certainly kept my motivation up.”
2016 is your second year with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team. How important is it for you that you’re able to build on the hard work everyone put in last season?
Josh Strang: “Continuing to be a part of the Husqvarna team – a team that’s putting as much into getting winning results as I am – is a huge part of why I’m riding well at the moment. It’s been hard for me in the past, switching teams year-on-year. Now I’m really settled, which is really showing in my results. Honestly, my bike is really good. But that’s just one part of having a solid programme. My bike and being with a team of people who want to win, it’s really cool.”
Kailub Russell has been the dominant rider in recent GNCC seasons. Do you feel like you now have everything you need to challenge him for the title?
Josh Strang: “Kailub set the bar high in 2015. He’s been the rider to beat for a few years now, and knows woods racing inside out. It was great to get a couple of wins at the end of 2015, which kind of started the ball rolling for me. He’s been able to build on his programme year-on-year and got stronger year-on-year. I feel like I have a great bike, team and programme now, so I’m focused on doing all I can to keep challenging for race wins.”
You mentioned you have 27 races this year, what’s your schedule for 2016?
Josh Strang: “I’m racing the GNCC and National Enduro championships, and some of the Full Gas Sprint Enduro races. I’m still kind of learning the National Enduro format because racing in tighter trees isn’t something that I’ve done too much of. But it’s fun and I’d really like to get a win at one of those races some time soon. Things are going well in the GNCC right now so that championship’s really important.”
All the best this weekend at the Steele Creek GNCC.
Josh Strang: “Thanks. I’m really looking forward to it, should be a good one…”
2016 US GNCC championship standings
1. Josh Strang (Husqvarna) 60pts; 2. Kailub Russell (KTM) 46pts; 3. Daniel Milner (Yamaha) 37pts; 4. Trevor Bollinger (Honda) 33pts; 5. Ryan Sipes (Husqvarna) 30pts; 6. Steward Baylor (KTM) 29pts; 7. Chris Bach (Honda) 25pts; 8. Grant Baylor (Yamaha) 24pts; 9. Jesse Groemm (Beta) 20pts; 10. Ricky Russell (Suzuki) 20pts