It was a new bike and a different part of the world but the same old result for Paul Whibley at the weekend … another convincing win.
The Kiwi international from Pahiatua took his new Yamaha YZ450F to victory at round four of the New Zealand Grand National Cross-country (GNCC) series near Tauranga, a mirror image of what he had been doing in the United States all last season as he raced his way there to the No.1 number plate in American cross-country racing.
The former Manawatu forestry worker, known affectionately in racing circles as “The Axeman”, made short work of the domestic Kiwi event, one of his first outings on the Yamaha brand.
“Extremely dry and dusty conditions greeted riders as the morning race took off in a blinding cloud of powdery dust,” said the 30-year-old Whibley.
“It was obvious that a start would be critical to getting a good result.
Lining up on the front row ready for the wave of the flag. The green flag shot up and the riders were off.
“The YZF launched me to the front but mid straight I hit a massive power-sucking powder pile and dropped back to third. Chris Power (Auckland, Honda) grabbed the holeshot followed by Sam Greenslade (Auckland, Gas Gas).
“I pushed pretty hard and made some risky moves to get past Sam in the blinding dust. I knew Chris was up front in clean air and putting time on us. I caught Chris in a fresh patch of bush where there was some moisture in the soil and the dust wasn’t so bad.
“When we entered another dusty section, I had two choices, crash in the dust or drop back. I got some pretty tight arms riding with a bit of a death grip in the dust, so I slowed down and relaxed a little.
“There was a cool little enduro-cross section added for spectator entertainment near the end of the lap that Im sure did its job.
“After the fuel stop I was ready to make another challenge and a lap later had pushed my way into the lead with only a couple of close calls. Once in the lead I was able to relax again and began to pull away.
“The track was pretty rough and the fresh sections in the trees cut up nicely with some good ruts and a few roots. With this being the first real test of the new YZF in rough race conditions the bike felt very balanced and I felt comfortable through the rough.
“The bike also felt very nimble through the tight trees with direction changes being easy.
“By the time the flag came out for the finish I had built a lead of over four minutes.
“Greg (Power) and the team should be congratulated for laying out a top track. The dust was beyond their control so we can’t hold that against them. This is close to the kind of track the New Zealand riders need to be riding to prepare for some GNCC events in the United States.”
1st: Paul Whibley (Yamaha)
2nd: Scott Barr-Smith (KTM)
3rd: Chris Power (Honda).
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com