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Aonia Pass track set to host thousands at national ATV/motorcycle race

Those who like to watch speed and skill while enjoying the great outdoors can head to Aonia Pass this weekend for "The General," the third round of the 2005 Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series.

Fans can watch pro ATV racing Saturday, March 12 at 1 p.m., and pro motorcycle racing Sunday, March 13 at 1 p.m.

Admission is $12 and includes both days.

"It's going to be a big race," predicted Perry Gunter, who owns the Aonia Pass facility with his wife, Margaret.

This is the third-annual Maxxis General at Aonia Pass. Last year's event represented the largest number of racers in the history of the series, said Jason Weigandt, spokesman for GNCC racing, in a press release.

"Last year, we had 7,500 to 8,000 people here to watch. There were about 1,500 riders," Mr. Gunter said. The race includes various terrain features such as hills, mud, dirt and rocks that challenge the riders, but The General is known as a woods race with very tight trails, he said.

The annual race draws fans from across the country, many of whom end up staying in McDuffie County.

"It's going to help McDuffie County. It should fill up the motels and restaurants," Mr. Gunter said.

The Maxxis General ATV race on Saturday will feature five-time GNCC Champion Bill Ballance and his factory Yamaha racing team who will take on Alba's Chris Borich who beat him in a two-hour contest in Texas a month ago, Mr. Weigandt noted. Also challenging for more than $1.3 million in series' prizes and contingency money are Team Suzuki's William Yokley and Team Polaris rider Matt Smiley. Physical conditioning will represent a major factor as top riders take on the grueling course Sunday in a contest that will last three hours.

The Aonia Pass facility held its first running of "The General" in 2003, and impressed visiting competitors with its track. Aonia Pass is located on a 589-acre site on Highway 78 between Thomson and Washington in Wilkes County.

The Suzuki GNCC series is the largest off-road racing series in the nation. The sport is one of the most physically demanding in the world, and the GNCC events lead dirt bike and ATV racers through tracks ranging from eight to 12 miles in length.

Local riders are invited to race this weekend's event since GNCC racing offers classes for riders of all skill and experience levels, according to Mr. Weinandt's press release. On both days, beginners race at 10 a.m., and the top amateurs and the pros race at 1 p.m.



Web posted on Thursday, March 10, 2005











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