The Pahiatua man took his Yamaha YZ450F to the head of the field at the opening round of the Off-Road Motorcycles and ATV (OMA) series in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on Sunday and he never looked back from there.
The 33-year-old Whibley is the defending OMA champion and, with this first-round win under his belt, he looks on form to make it five OMA crowns in a row in America this season.
“Last year was the debut of this challenging tight and rocky track on the OMA circuit with this season’s edition proving just as worthy as a season opener.
The race kicked off with Whibley snatching the holeshot and an early lead.
“There was still a few leaves on the track and I wasn’t about to risk it all on the opening lap. Cory Macdonald, in his first OMA event, kept me honest in the early going before United States enduro champion Russell Bobbitt and Husaberg’s Nick Fahringer moved into second and third spot.
“Midway through the lap I made a mistake in a tight section and went the wrong side of a tree, allowing Russell to take the lead. I slotted into second and kept the pressure on into the second lap.
“A leap of faith across a small muddy creek resulted in Russell going down and the lead falling back into my hands. I tried to make the most of being back up front and open a gap on the two enduro specialists.
“My mechanic Ryan (Slagle) and my wife Katherine had the pit boards out informing me of my progress and a smooth pit stop set me up for the last couple of laps. I was able to monitor my lead on the pit boards and maintain a stable lead going into the last lap, where I was able to back it down and bring it home.
“This is a good start to a long season, one that promises to be very exciting with tight racing and fun tracks.”
It was a vital part of his warm-up for the Grant National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the United States, with that high-profile series set to kick off in Florida in just a couple of weeks’ time.
Whibley is supported by Monster Energy, Sargent Yamaha in Masterton, MotoSR suspension, BikesportNZ.com, Graphic MX Creation and Yamaha New Zealand.
Leading results from OMA round one:
1. Paul Whibley
2. Russell Bobbitt
3. Nick Fahringer
4. Scott Watkins
5. Shane Klimek
6. Corey McDonald
7. Brett Zofcheck
8. Zac Nash
9. Matt Barger
10. Michael Williams
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com