A Kiwi on a Kawasaki has done it again and won an American off-road motorcycling title.
Pahiatua’s Paul Whibley successfully defended his Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) cross-country championship title at the weekend, recording his eighth win from as many starts to win the day at round eight in Bedford, Indiana.
With an unbeaten string of wins, he was therefore able to take the title with two rounds still to be run — at Memphis, in Missouri and Morrison, in Illinois.
Whibley also won the OMA series last season.
This follows the outstanding motocross success in the United States by Taupo’s Ben Townley, who raced a Kawasaki KX250F to win the East Coast Lites Supercross title in 2007.
Meanwhile, Whibley still has work ahead to do this season. He also leads the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC), with just four rounds remaining, and so the 30-year-old former Manawatu forestry worker is on target to make it two US titles in the same season and possibly a third title win in America by a Kiwi on a Kawasaki.
“With the GNCC series about to resume (on September 13) after the summer break, this brought an influx in top pro riders to the start line at the OMA race at the weekend,” said Whibley.
“With little rain at the venue over the last week, the soil was dry and loose. After the quad bikes had torn up the track, it was obvious that dust was going to be a feature of the race.
“I scored an important holeshot and led the way around the first 15-minute loop. (American Yamaha rider) Thad Duvall was riding strong and, even in the dusty conditions, he hung with me and a battle for the lead began.
“As we started out on the second lap, we encountered lapped traffic. There was a powdery hill just off the start that was giving riders fits,” said Whibley.
“There were still riders (on their first lap) trying to fight their way up as we came around for our second shot at the hill. Lappers began to play a part in the racing with neither Thad nor myself able to go a couple of minutes before we were back into dirty air or fighting our way through the numerous bottlenecks that occurred throughout the first half of the race.
“The traffic jams created a few lead changes as we bounced our way past the blockages.
“Unfortunately for Thad, he crashed hard in a fast section of the track mid race. I didn’t realise he was no longer on my tail until I came around the following lap and got a pit board signal from (my wife) Katherine.
“Our battle had pushed me clear from other racers and I had a good lead. After the fuel stop, I backed down the pace a little to stay safe and not risk a crash in the tough conditions.
“After two and a half hours, the chequered flag came out and I took win No.8 from eight in the series.”
Round eight results:
1. Paul Whibley (Kawasaki, New Zealand)
2. Jason Thomas (Yamaha)
3. Jordan Ashburn (Kawasaki)
4. Chris Bach (Kawasaki)
5. Scott Watkins (Kawasaki)
Series standings after eight rounds:
1. Paul Whibley (Kawasaki, NZ) 240 points (maximum, crowned champion);
2. Scott Watkins (Kawasaki) 157;
3. Adam Bonneur (Yamaha) 121;
4. Nick Fahringer (Husaberg) 114;
5. Jimmy Jarrett (Kawasaki) 113.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com