New Zealand’s Paul Whibley achieved his fourth podium finish of his 2010 Grand National Cross-country Campaign in the United States at the weekend but he has still got some work to do if he’s to successfully defend his GNCC title.
The Yamaha ace is still fourth overall in the championship standings, but now just two points behind the man in third spot, American Cory Buttrick (KTM), the man who won the weekend’s round eight event at Millfield, Ohio.
The former forestry worker from Pahiatua raced his Yamaha WR450F to third overall at Millfield and he is now 44 points behind the series leader, last year’s runner-up Josh Strang (Suzuki), of Australia.
“This was a tough race,” said Whibley. “On the second lap I got stuck in a rut and it took me so long to lift it out that I lost a lot of time. But then I started picking off riders.
“I saw Charlie (Mullins) stuck out there, I think he lost a chain, so it was just one of those days. I was actually pretty happy that it rained. I don’t like the dust and I had done well here before in the mud, so I just went out there and tried to pick good lines.”
The win at the weekend means XC1 rookie Buttrick joined ranks with Strang and Yamaha’s Mullins as the only riders to have taken wins in this year’s GNCC series with a scrappy performance at Millfield.
With a hometown crowd urging him on, the KTM factory rider claimed his first-ever XC1 win in one of the toughest races of the year.
After heavy morning rains left the course in less than desirable condition, GNCC officials made the call to move the race program back an hour to allow the water to drain.
In addition, the afternoon race was shortened from three hours to two. By start time the sun had come out, which might in fact have made matters worse, because instead of having slippery Ohio mud, the riders had to deal with the kind of mud that sticks to fenders and wheels and everything else.
However, Buttrick was undeterred by the adverse conditions, and kicked off the race by grabbing the holeshot, leading Am Pro/FMF Yamaha riders Whibley and Thad Duvall, Mullins and KTM’s Nate Kanney through a short section of the motocross course and into the woods.
Meanwhile, series points leader Strang was near the back of the pack after getting off to a poor start.
DuVall pushed Buttrick through the first few deeply rutted sections, before Buttrick decided it would be better to follow instead of lead.
“On the first lap it was bad because all of the downhills had all this water at the bottom of them and I was breaking all of this wet trail, so I let Thad go by,” said Buttrick. The decision was a good one, since Duvall eventually got stuck in a deep mud hole and lost ground.
On lap two, Strang got into a rhythm and moved up into second place behind Buttrick, with Kanney, Mullins and Ohio native Jimmy Jarrett (Kawasaki) not far behind. However, not long afterwards Mullins encountered problems and dropped out because of a derailed chain.
Strang took the lead on the third lap and held it until the fourth and final lap, when Buttrick retook the point on the motocross section of the course. The order seemed set until the two front-runners encountered a bottleneck near the end of the race.
“I got there and there we bikes everywhere – it was a bad situation,” said Buttrick. “I got there about 30 seconds before Josh and I looked up one line and there we bikes all over and the other way didn’t look any better.
“Then Josh pulled up and we were sitting there for a while and then we started trying to get through and I dropped into this deep rut and I thought I was done at that point. But then Josh helped me drag the bike out and gave me a shove up this hill to get me going.
“I stopped at the top of the hill and got off the bike to help him and then I saw Whibley go to the right of us and I saw Kanney go that way too, and then I saw Josh get going so I took off. I can’t thank Josh enough for what he did – it was the best thing anyone has ever done for me during a race. Big thanks to Josh Strang, he’s a class act.”
The shove from Strang was enough to keep Buttrick in the lead and the Ohio native crossed the finish line with fists in the air, taking the win with over a minute to spare.
“I’m so happy. This is the best feeling in the world, but it sure was nerve-wracking,” said Buttrick. “I passed Strang on the last lap and as soon as I did I put the hammer down, but then I started worrying I would burn up all my energy. I was worried about a thousand things. I was wondering if I was even going to make it back around, but then I pulled it all together.”
Strang finished second in what he considered a battle of survival.
“It was only two hours but it seemed like forever,” said Strang. “The track was kind of hard, with a couple of difficult hills and a few bog holes. I was in the back on the first lap and I got bogged down, but then I got going on the second lap and got up there with Cory. This event got real rutty and slippery and it was pretty gnarly, but a second was good today and I was able to stretch the points lead a little.”
Whibley finished third and Jarrett finished the day in fourth, his best ride since injuring his shoulder earlier in the year.
Meanwhile, fifth went to KTM rider Chris Bach, with Husqvarna factory rider Glenn Kearney taking sixth. Kanney ended up eighth after suffering a damaged radiator on the final lap. He was sandwiched between Kawasaki riders Kenneth Gilbert in seventh, and Matthew Miller and Eric Bailey in ninth and tenth.
Mullins was credited with 13th and trails Strang by 20 points in the series standings (196 points to 176). Buttrick moves into third overall with 154, followed by Whibley with 152 and Bach with 125.
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Series will return on June 26th and 27th for the MotorcycleUSA.com Snowshoe GNCC, held in Snowshoe, West Virginia.
1. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
2. Josh Strang (Suz)
3. Paul Whibley (Yam)
4. Jimmy Jarrett (Kaw)
5. Chris Bach (KTM)
6. Glenn Kearney (Hsq)
7. Kenneth Gilbert (Kaw)
8. Nate Kanney (KTM)
9. Matthew Miller (Kaw)
10. Eric Bailey (Kaw)
1. Josh Strang (196/4 wins)
2. Charlie Mullins (176/3 wins)
3. Cory Buttrick (154/1 win)
4. Paul Whibley (152)
5. Chris Bach (125)
6. Glenn Kearney (121)
7. Nate Kanney (112)
8. Barry Hawk Jr. (93)
9. Kenneth Gilbert (91)
10. Eric Bailey (76)
© Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com