New Zealand’s Paul Whibley is again on the pace for a title win in the United States this season.
The 32-year-old Yamaha ace from Pahiatua kicked off his American campaign with a solid runner-up finish at the opening round of the Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) series in Alabama at the weekend.
The event was at a new venue, near Tuscumbia, Alabama, with the track featuring tight, fresh woods, with several rocky sections and Whibley was determined to make a good start to the defence of the title he has owned for the past three seasons.
It was a tight battle from the beginning of the two-hour race with Whibley taking his Yamaha YZ450F off the line and entering turn one with American rival Russell Bobbitt (KTM) just inside of him, the two riders rubbing elbows as they went through the corner.
“I got bumped wide, allowing Scotty Watkins (Honda) to get by,” said Whibley.
“I entered the woods in third and I pushed hard to get past Scotty quickly as I knew Bobbitt would be pinning it up front. After making a move on Scotty on a rocky downhill, I got stuck between two trees in a tight section allowing Russell to get further in front.
“Over the next couple laps I worked hard slowly reeling him in and I finally pulled up to his rear wheel and began to look for some were to make a move. I found a couple places where I was going quicker but it was hard to put it together and set up a pass with most of the trail being tight and rocky.”
For the next couple of laps Whibley continued to keep the pressure on Bobbitt.
“It was becoming clear I was really going to have to put it on the line and make something happen,” said Whibley. “On the second-to-last lap I had a place lined up but got a vine snagged on my handlebars and lost a few seconds to Russell. On the last lap I made my move on one of the open sections and got alongside of him but the door was shut pretty quickly.
“In the end I had to settle for second. Russell rode a great race and owned it right from the start. I failed to find and take any chances to take the lead, but it was a great battle right down to the end.
“The pace we were running pushed us further out front and we had a comfortable lead over the third placed rider, my Yamaha team-mate Jordan Ashburn.”
1 Russell Bobbitt KTM
2 Paul Whibley YAM
3 Jordan Ashburn YAM
4 Jimmy Jarrett HON
5 Nick Fahringer HSB
6 Scott Watkins HON
7 Kenneth Gilbert HSB
8 Shane Klimek SUZ
9 Brett Zofchak KTM
10 Michael Williams KAW
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com