The inaugural NZXC cross-country series kicked off with a convincing victory to the man who created it last month, but it will definitely be a different winner at round two in the Manawatu this weekend.
Pahiatua’s Paul Whibley is dedicating himself to the role of event organiser for the second of five rounds – the Yamaha Taikorea 500 – being raced on his own property near Himatangi, just outside Palmerston North, on Saturday afternoon.
The 36-year-old Yamaha ace, a two-time former Grand National Cross-country Championships in the United States, signalled the end to the international phase of his motorcycle racing career when he arrived back in New Zealand and set up home back in the Manawatu late last year.
His first order of business was to win the 2015 New Zealand Cross-country Championships.
He did that, heading a Yamaha 1-2 to the top of the podium as he won ahead of fellow Yamaha star and the then defending champion, Mokau’s Adrian Smith, when that series wrapped up near Pahiatua in May.
The next thing of his “to do” list was to create an fresh new competition in New Zealand and so the NZXC series was hatched.
He had not intended to contest the series himself, saying “I didn’t create the NZXC to be a series for me to win … it’s for others to enjoy”, but his arm was twisted by the man who ran the opening round in June, Tokoroa’s Sean Clarke, and so compete he did, easily winning the race at Tar Hill, in forestry just south of Tokoroa.
He said he would be “too busy by far” organising the Yamaha Taikorea 500 event on Saturday to also race in it, and so that opens it up for some of the other series contenders to take the glory.
Likely frontrunners at Taikorea on Saturday obviously include the riders who finished immediately behind Whibley at round one – Howick’s Liam Draper and Wellington’s Jake Whitaker – as well as top local prospects Adam Reeves, of Palmerston North, Marton’s Cam Smith and Palmerston North’s James Galpin. Four-time former national cross-country champion Adrian Smith (no relation) should also feature on Saturday.
He makes no apologies for the fact that he is “cherry-picking” the best events from other series already happening around the country, co-sanctioning his inaugural NZXC series with The Dirt Guide Series, the NZ GNCC, the Woodhill Two-Man, The Central Cross-country Series and his own Yamaha Taikorea 500.
“They will be fun and flowing tracks, professional marked and well run,” said Whibley.
He said the best four out of five rounds would count with contestants discarding their one worst score.
“My intention was not to simply add more events to the calendar, but to use some that are already there and combine them into something different. I’ve chosen the best of the bunch and called it the NZXC series.
“I’m looking at what younger guys need for when they venture overseas and some of the events in New Zealand are not really preparing them for what they’ll face.
“For instance, we are running the annual stand-alone Yamaha Taikorea 500 earlier in the year, this weekend in fact, to help avoid dust issues.
“Racing over farmland is not really the same thing as riders will hit when they get to America or Europe. Forestry courses more accurately reflect what they will strike,” said Whibley.
Whibley is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Freedom Moto Yamaha, MotoSR, Monster Energy, Shoei, Sidi, Smith, MSR G2, Asterisk, Moto SR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Spectro, Acerbis, DID, JT sprockets, Leatt, Kenda, Yamaha NZ, BikesportNZ.com, Unibiker and Tire Balls.
2015 NZXC schedule:
Round 1: June 14, Tar Hill, Tokoroa (part of the Dirt Guide Series)
Round 2: July 18, Taikorea, Palmerston North (the stand-alone Yamaha Taikorea 500)
Round 3: August 30, Woodhill, Auckland (part of the Woodhill Two-man Series)
Round 4: November 14, Maddix Park, Tauranga (part of the NZ GNCC Series)
Round 5: December 5, Castlehill, Pahiatua (part of the Central CC Series)
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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