New Zealand‘s 2008 Off-road Rider of the Year has done it again on the international stage.
Pahiatua’s Paul Whibley extended his points lead in the Grand National Cross-country (GNCC) Championships in the United States with another brilliant display, this time at the series’ 10th round of 13 near New York on Sunday.
Whibley (Kawasaki KX450F) won the race ahead of New York’s Nathan Kanney (KTM), with Californian Kurt Caselli (KTM) mounting a come-from behind charge to take third spot on the podium.
“It was a good race, we were all just going back and forth out there,” said Whibley.
“Nathan rode a great race, I was just able to put enough time between me and him on the last lap to stay comfortable and win it. It feels good to win.”
The win meant Whibley extended his points lead over Suzuki team-mates Charlie Mullins and Josh Strang. Both Mullins and Strang challenged early on but ended up fourth and fifth respectively at Unadilla.
Meanwhile, two more Kiwis were also in the mix with Pahiatua’s Adam Reeves (Yamaha) and Aucklander Karl Power (Kawasaki) finishing 10th and 12th respectively, both riders making their GNCC debut.
“Unadillla was huge. It was my first GNCC and man it’s big over here,” said Reeves afterwards.
“I got an okay start, while Karl Power got a good start and was in second. I started to fall back and then I hit a big rock and bent my gear lever, leaving me stuck in third gear for the remainder of the lap.
“I called into the pits and the GEICO pit crew worked on straightening my gear lever. A few minutes later I was back into it but I had slipped way, way back, as far back as 64th I think.
“I got a good rhythm going and started coming to grips with things and started passing riders. Around the halfway mark I caught up to my fellow Kiwi, Karl Power, passed him and then promptly fell in front of him. I got my stuff back together and got back on it and continued moving up, the track would have to be the roughest, demanding track I have ever ridden, yet probably one of the most fun tracks out there.
“We kept popping out of the trees and running on the Unadilla motocross track, then going back into trees again. It was pretty cool. Rocks were everywhere like I’ve never seen before, definitely a track that takes a bit to get the hang of.
“By race end I had moved up to 22nd overall and 10th in class, not to bad for my first international race.
“I was happy with the way I rode and definitely gave it all I had. I was hurting after.”
Power also impressed on his GNCC debut.
“I was looking good off the start and a rider went down in the first corner and I picked a line around him and came out of the turn in second place. I was running in the top five until some of the quicker riders started to come through. I held my own trying to ride the track.
“The course was cut up pretty bad and the rocks were getting worse. The tracks they race over here are really wide and there are plenty of line choices. Adam made a pass on me and I followed him for a bit.
“At about the two hour mark I started to get tired and had a small crash on the slippery rocks. I made a few passes on my last two laps which took me up to 12th.
“I am starting to like the big green 450. It was a bit to handle at the start but now I have it set up, it’s good.”
Results, Unadilla GNCC, New Berlin, NY.
September 13, 2009:
1. Paul Whibley (NZ, Kaw)
2. Nathan Kanney (KTM)
3. Kurt Caselli (KTM)
4. Charlie Mullins (Suz)
5. Joshua Strang (Suz)
6. Barry Hawk (Yam)
7. Jimmy Jarrett (Kaw)
8. Ben Bouwens (Yam)
9. Ryan Gainey (Hon)
10. Adam Reeves (NZ, Yam)
11. Kenneth Gilbert (Kaw)
12. Karl Power (NZ, Kawasaki)
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
3. Jason Thomas (Yam)
4. Scott Watkins (Kaw)
5. Jake Korn (KTM)
GNCC points standings:
1. Paul Whibley (244);
2. Josh Strang (217);
3. Charlie Mullins (215);
4. Jimmy Jarrett (174);
5. Nathan Kanney (164);
6. Kurt Caselli (142);
7. Barry Hawk (138);
8= Kenny Gilbert/Glenn Kearney/Jesse Robinson (97).
1. Kailub Russell (277);
2. Cory Buttrick (218);
3. Jason Thomas (212);
4. Scotty Watkins (193);
6.Jake Korn (162).
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com