New Zealand’s Paul Whibley has made his intentions in the United States this season very clear indeed.
The 33-year-old from Pahiatua took his Yamaha YZ450F to a convincing win at the opening round of the Mid East Harescramble Championships at Laurinburg, North Carolina, at the weekend as he sets about building up for the upcoming Grand National Cross-Country Championships (GNCC), his main focus for the season.
Whibley won the parallel Off-road Motorcycles and ATV (OMA) series last season as well as finishing runner-up in the GNCC competition, making him one of the favourites to win when the riders lined up to race in North Carolina on Sunday.
“The track was sand-based, so it handled the rain and provided practice for the upcoming GNCC opener in Florida,” said Whibley.
“I got a great start and nabbed the hole shot, although got a bit of a surprise when on about the third turn was confronted with a late starter still on his way to the start line and riding backwards on the track. Although I’m sure he was just as surprised, as he just froze and kind of tucked his elbows in as the pack roared around him.
“The track was sandy but there seemed to be a bit of a hard slick base in a few sections.
“I edged away out front and held a comfortable lead throughout the race. My mechanic, Ryan Slagle, handled the pit stop and kept me out front.
“A couple creek crossings cut up and many bikes were left swamped if a wise line selection was not made.
“The race was called a little short but I’m sure most guys were happy to get out of the freezing wet conditions and into some dry clothing.”
The Grant National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) kicks off in Florida next month and Whibley is looking sharp again to run at the front of that competition too.
1. Paul Whibley
2. Matthew Nix
3. Takeshi Koikeda
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com