On The Prowl, The story of champion ATV rider Landon WolfeNovember 15, 2019
Landon Wolfe – 2019 GNCC 4×4 Pro Champion – Talks Racing, Life and More
Words: Jerrod Kelly
Photos by Ken Hill
Landon Wolfe, who spent much of his teen years honing his off-road racing skills within the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) series, capped off the 2019 season by acquiring his first 4×4 Pro ATV class title and third total series ATV championship in all. Wolfe won the crown aboard a Can-Am Renegade X xc 1000R and also extended the brand’s dominant reign in the GNCC series’ premier 4×4 ranks to 15 straight years!
The 25-year-old said his love for racing began at birth. You see, when your dad is deeply fond of racing, it can spur you to develop your own passion for the sport and competition. Wolfe said his entire family has been very supportive throughout his racing career, including his parents, Michael and Melanie, and sister, Rachel. And over the last couple years, his other supportive force has been his wife Danielle, whom he married in August.
“My father has had the biggest impact on my racing career. We have been racing a long time and, in that stretch, there have been some hard times,” explained Wolfe. “He has definitely pushed me through all of those times. He is there to celebrate when we do good and there to lecture just enough to get me going when we do bad. My family has always been there for me and now my wonderful wife is all about the racing life as well.”
Wolfe began racing all different sorts of things and was hooked on the racing mentality immediately. His affection pretty much started as soon as he could throw a leg over something; anything! The racer from Glenville, Penn., earned his first GNCC podium 10 years ago with a third-place finish in the First Year Racer ranks, racing on two wheels. Wolfe explained that after years in traditional motocross, he wanted to make a change due to the stop-and-go and having to wait to ride while at the racetrack. He also suffered a knee injury in 2008 and said riding a quad during his recovery also just made more sense.
“During rehab I started to ride four-wheelers a bit because it wasn’t quite as dangerous with a bum knee,” said Wolfe, who admitted he still enjoys two wheels and riding dirt bikes a lot. “Although I think riding dirt bikes can help with my ATV skills as far as throttle control and just having handlebars in my hands, it’s more just to help spice things up for practicing and always keeping the sport interesting for me.”
After a switch to four wheels at the local hare scramble series, Wolfe decided it was time to go bigger. And that decision clearly paid off. His first GNCC series title came one year later when he switched to four wheels and took home the 16-19 C ATV class title. Wolfe moved up to the College B class 16-21 ATV division the following season and again earned a championship. “Eventually I made my way to the big leagues (GNCC),” he explained. “GNCC is the elite off-road series for the states and it happens to also be on the East Coast.”
Since that time, Wolfe has again competed with mostly four-wheelers and some bikes (both combustion and most recently an electric mountain bike in 2019). He had decent success in the Pro-Am and XC1 Pro ATV ranks, but felt his time there was somewhat restricted due to sponsorship and the overall cost to compete. However, he attributes his signing on with Can-Am in 2017, to compete in the 4×4 Pro ATV class aboard a Renegade X xc 1000R in 2018, as a game-changing decision.
“Can-Am has been a tremendous help to my entire racing career. It really was a dream come true when I got the call from Can-Am in 2017 to join their team. My racing career was close to coming to an end a couple years ago because of lack of support, so it has been a huge blessing to have factory support from a company as great as Can-Am, and to keep this racing career alive.”
After a great runner-up finish to three-time 4×4 Pro ATV champion Kevin Cunningham in 2018, Wolfe earned his third career GNCC ATV class title this year. His 2019 4×4 Pro ATV class title was impressive because he notched 10 wins and a dozen podiums in 13 rounds. In fact, his 2019 4×4 Pro ATV class championship has made him a multi-time GNCC racing title holder and aligned him with a long list of prior 4×4 champions who raced a Can-Am. It’s a remarkable group of title holders to join. Riders who have put the Can-Am brand atop the most prestigious GNCC 4×4 podiums since 2005. Wolfe has etched his name in the GNCC history books amongst 4×4 greats such as Bryan Buckhannon, Cliff Beasley and Michael Swift, to name a few more.
“It really has been great. I could not be happier to be able to put together such a great year and end up on top against some great competition,” he said. “But more than anything I am so happy to succeed for everyone who helps me. There have been some extremely talented people who have won championships in this class before, so it is cool to be added to the list.”
Wolfe, who powers up on race-day mornings with an egg sandwich and half a PB&J prior to the race, has the skills and racing wisdom to separate himself from the competition. He doesn’t have a lot of time to train, so between events he may sneak in an occasional workout or take a dirt bike for a spin to get the blood flowing. Other than that, his secret to success is to remember to have fun and stay consistent when racing.
“I would say consistency has been a huge part of my success. Race seasons are long and grueling and it’s not always the fastest guy who wins, so I try to always stay consistent and everything seems to fall into place pretty well,” he explained.
Wolfe said that having an amazing race vehicle like the Can-Am Renegade X xc 1000R has made a big difference for him. At the beginning, during the transition from sport quads to the 4×4 class, Wolfe said it took some practice to adapt to the handling and power differences and he had to get accustomed to the four-wheel drive and power steering on the Renegade. The other trial was having to learn the mechanical wear points on the vehicle, due to his riding style, since GNCC racing really puts a vehicle through a 2-hour adversity session.
“Early on when I started racing the 4x4s, we struggled a bit to find out what parts and pieces I was abusing too much and what we needed to replace/service in between races,” added Wolfe. “Those struggles really seemed to set us back early on in our first year in the 4×4 Pro class, but we overcame that fairly quickly and there’s not much that challenges the Can-Am Renegade. It truly is incredible how such a large and heavy machine can handle as good as it does at the speeds we’re traveling through the woods. I have had a chance to ride the Renegade with the Rotax 1000 and 850 engines, and the power on both of them is awesome.”
He said the top-notch performance on the Renegade and his ability to carry higher speeds in the tight trees was a good combination. Wolfe made it clear that his Can-Am has some aftermarket parts to make it fully GNCC ready, but firmly believes the platform is race ready from the dealership. He also points to having James Reeves of DeRisi Racing as his personal mechanic as a benefit in his championship chase.
“James is a mastermind of a mechanic and preps me a perfect race-ready machine each and every race,” he added. “ James is most definitely one of the biggest assets to my team and I owe a lot of my accomplishments to him. I’m forever thankful to all who have helped over the years. Mom, Dad, Danielle, James Reeves, Jojo, Rachel, Jon, Can-Am, OBOR and DeRisi Racing.”
Wolfe has competed on two-wheels, four-wheels on the local and national levels and now has his most significant GNCC title belt. After successfully defending the 4×4 Pro crown for Can-Am and capturing his first “Pro” title, is it on to a bigger stage? He suggests more of the same, but also would love to compete on a global level if given the chance.
“I always thought it would be awesome to run Baja, but I really don’t know enough about the race to go do it without someone who has experience there, so maybe one of these years,” he added. “I thought it would be cool to go to ‘Hunt the Wolf’ or any kind of race like that.”
Wolfe Video (OBOR Tires):
Wolfe’s Racing history
2009 Schoolboy 13-15, Bike First Year Racer, Bike Youth Super Mini 14-15
2010 16-19 C ATV class champion
2011 College B 16-21 ATV class champion
2012 XC2 Pro-Am ATV
2013 XC2 Pro-Am ATV; fifth
2014 XC1 Pro ATV racer; 12th (Open B bike)
2015 XC1 Pro ATV racer; 11th; Raced a dirt bike in the Open A class, Sportsman A 25+
2016 XC1 Pro ATV racer; seventh
2017 XC1 Pro ATV racer; sixth
2018 4×4 Pro ATV class; runner-up
2019 4×4 Pro ATV class; champion
Wolfe’s GNCC podiums:
2009-1 (First Year Racer bike)
2010-7 (not Can-Am; 16-19 C ATV class)
2011-11 (not Can-Am; College A 16-21, 8; College B 16-21,1; Open C College (14-21), 2)
2012-10 (not Can-Am College A 16-21 and XC2 Pro-Am ATV)
2013-7 (not Can-Am XC2 Pro-Am ATV)
2014-1 (not Can-Am, XC1 Pro ATV; Open B bike class win)
2015-0 (not Can-Am, XC1 Pro ATV)
2016-2 (not Can-Am, XC1 Pro ATV; Sportsman A bike )
2017-2 (one on a bike, one on Renegade)
2019-13 (12 on Renegade ATV; one on electric Mountain Bike)
Wolfe’s GNCC Wins:
2010-4 (16-19 C ATV)
2011-10 (College B 16-21, 7; College A 16-21, 1; Open C College 14-21, 2)
2012-3 (XC2 Pro-Am ATV, 1; College A 16-21, 2)
2013-2 (XC2 Pro-Am ATV)
Can-Am GNCC 4×4 Racing History
2019 GNCC 4×4 Pro Champion – Can-Am Renegade (Wolfe)
2016-2018 GNCC 4×4 Pro Champion – Renegade (Cunningham)
2014-2015 GNCC 4×4 Pro Champion – Outlander (Buckhannon)
U2 ATV Champion (Swift); 4×4 Open Champion (Buckhannon), 4×4 Lites (Trantham); 4×4 Senior (Whorton); 4×4 Novice (Smith)
U2 ATV Champion (Beasley); 4×4 Open Champion (Buckhannon), 4×4 Lites (Trantham), 4×4 Super Senior Champion (Whorton), 4×4 Novice (Bowles)
U2 ATV Champion (Beasley); 4×4 Open Champion (Buckhannon), 4×4 Lites (Trantham); 4×4 Super Senior Champion (Whorton)
4×4 Open Champion (Buckhannon); 4×4 Lites (Trantham); 4×4 Limited (Swift); U2 ATV Champion (Beasley); Utility Senior Champion (Whorton)
4×4 Open Champion (Buckhannon); 4×4 Lites (Beasley); 4×4 Limited (Swift), U2 ATV Champion (Cecco)
4×4 Lites Champion – (Beasley), 4×4 Limited Champion – (Swift); 2008 4×4 Open Champion – Outlander (Buckhannon)
4×4 Lites Champion- Outlander (Beasley); 4×4 Limited Champion – Outlander (Swift); 4×4 Open Champion – Outlander (Cecco)
Utility Stock Champion – Outlander (Swift); Utility Mod Champion – Outlander (Kilby)
Utility Stock Champion – Outlander (Penland); Utility Mod Champion – Outlander (Kilby)