Three wins from three starts and using three different bikes, Manawatu’s Paul Whibley made it a triple treat in every way possible when the Dirt Guide Cross-country Series wrapped up near Tokoroa on Sunday.
The former Kiwi international surprised everyone in May when he took a four-year-old Yamaha YZ125 motocross bike “out of the back of the shed, just to give it an airing” and convincingly won round one 2017 Dirt Guide Series at Ohakuri – the popular forestry venue about halfway between Tokoroa and Taupo.
He then showed up at round two at Tar Hill, just 12 kilometres south of Tokoroa, last month with his more-familiar Yamaha YZ450FX cross-country bike and he won the two-hour senior race on that occasion too.
And so, with two wins from two starts in the three-round series, Whibley was obvious favourite to take the competition’s main trophy when the final round was held on Sunday, the riders re-visiting the forestry at Ohakuri for the final two-hour showdown.
Fellow Yamaha riders Callan May and Ashton Grey were not too far behind Whibley in the overall points analysis at the start of Sunday and the trend continued, with May finishing runner-up in Sunday’s race, albeit eight minutes behind Whibley, and Grey crossing the finish line in fourth position, four minutes behind third-placed rider Tom Buxton, of Helensville.
These results gave the series’ finishing order a shake-up in the minor placings, with May elevated from third overall to second equal spot, ending the series level on points with Grey.
This also made it a Yamaha 1-2-3 for the senior grade.
Buxton (KTM) and Te Awamutu’s Kevin Archer (KTM) rounded out the top five for the series.
This time borrowing a third different bike, a 2016-model Yamaha YZ250FX, Whibley was immediately in front after the shotgun blast had signalled the start on Sunday.
Quickly into his stride, Whibley began building his advantage and, after just two laps, he was two minutes clear of the chasing bunch of riders.
“The bike worked out really well for me,” said the 39-year-old two-time former United States champion.
“The track conditions were pretty tough, with lots of mud and deep ruts forming, but, because the bike was a bit lighter than my 450cc bike, it was quite easy to pop it out of the ruts and find traction on fresher parts of the track.
“I tried to concentrate on riding smoothly and not making mistakes because the track was pretty treacherous. I didn’t know how far behind me the other riders were, but I kept pushing hard to give myself a buffer in case something went wrong.
Sunday’s event also counted as round three of the parallel-but-separate NZXC Cross-country Series, with the fourth round of seven in that competition set for Taikorea, near Himatangi, on August 20.
Meanwhile, Whitianga’s Blake Wilkins finished 25th overall on Sunday, sixth best among the intermediate grade riders, and this was enough for him to win the intermediate grade trophy. Wilkins’ intermediate grade results for the series were 1-1-6.
Meanwhile, the Dirt Guide Series has a wide appeal and again catered this season for the sport’s junior and mini riders.
Cambridge’s Beau Taylor finished runner-up to fellow Cambridge rider Callum Paterson in Sunday’s 90-minute junior race and that was easily enough for Taylor to claim the junior trophy for 2017.
Taylor posted a 1-1-2 score-card for the series to head off Paterson – who registered 3-2-1 results over the three rounds – and Tokoroa’s Nick Wightman (2-4-3).
Winner of the mini grade race on Sunday was New Plymouth’s Sam Parker. With his 2-1-1 score-card for the series, Parker also won the series’ mini grade trophy.
Whibley says he is now making plans to head back to the United States where he is now being employed by his former racing team boss to act as trainer and mentor for some of the rising stars there.
Whibley spent time coaching in South Carolina earlier this year and the success of that stint has led to his being asked to return.
Whibley is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Arai, TCX, Oakley, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Rossco’s Start Up Services, Unabiker, Leatt Brace, Tire Balls, Renthal, Bikesportnz.com, CarbSport, KettleClamp, Alliance Offroad, Ride Eng MotoSeat, FMF, Michelin, Yamalube CV4 GYTR, IMS, Rekluse, Workshop Graphics, Silverbullet.co.nz and O’Neal.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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