The Yamaha ace from Pahiatua won the opening round of the series in Florida in March and managed another podium finish with a third placing at round two in Washington a fortnight ago.
But his second-place finish at round three at Steele Creek, North Carolina, at the weekend has now given him a seven-point advantage at the top of the championship standings, ahead of American ace Kailub Russell, who won the day at Steele Creek.
Another New Zealander, Wellington’s Rory Mead, finished 11th at the weekend. Coupled with his third-placing at round one and eighth overall result at round two, Yamaha’s New Zealand enduro champion Mead is now sixth in the championship rankings.
“When the green flag waved, I again grabbed the holeshot,” said Whibley.
“The track was very choppy and had a lot a square edges going up and down many of the steep hills.
“I could feel my arms tightening up and tried to ride as relaxed as possible, but, near the end of the first lap was overtaken by Kailub Russell and his KTM team-mate Charlie Mullins. I latched onto them for another lap trying to shake the arm pump but could not hold their pace with my arms so tight.
“I slid back into the pack, ending up buried in about sixth position.
“After the fuel stop, I began to loosen up and found myself regaining some time on Charlie. Soon catching him and moving by. I then was battling Cory Buttrick and Thad Duvall for a podium position. With two laps to go, I slotted into second but Cory was determined not to let me have the position without a fight.
“The white flag came out and I started to put some daylight between Cory and myself. I claimed second spot in the XC1 class but there was no denying Kailub the win. He rode a strong and calculated race.”
The next round is set for Union, South Carolina, next weekend (April 14-15).
1. Kailub Russell
2. Paul Whibley (NZ)
3. Cory Buttrick
4. Thaddeus Duvall
5. Jordan Ashburn
6. Charlie Mullins
7. Garrett Edmisten
8. Jimmy Jarrett
9. Takeshi Koikeda
10. Chris Bach
11. Rory Mead (NZ)
12. Nate Kanney
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com