Titirangi’s Callan May won the opening round of the NZXC cross-country series near Tokoroa in June, but it was time for fellow Yamaha ace Paul ‘Axeman’ Whibley to stamp his authority at round two near Muriwai on Sunday.
Manawatu’s Whibley (Yamaha YZ450FX) showed his international class when he wore down his much younger rival, Howick’s Liam Draper (Husqvarna FE250), to snatch the lead just after the halfway stage of Sunday’s three-hour dirt bike marathon in the Woodhill Forest, before pulling away to eventually win the race by nearly seven minutes from Draper.
Even without spending much time on his bike in recent weeks, former United States champion Whibley was a comfortable winner, especially after round one winner May had been forced to withdraw because of tyre problems.
Third overall on Sunday was Coatesville’s Sam Greenslade (KTM SXF250) and he has now taken over the series lead, his 2-3 results in the six-round series thus far giving him a slight mathematical advantage.
Waimauku’s Jake Wightman (KTM 200 XCW) was fourth on Sunday and Palmerston North’s Adam Reeves (Suzuki RM-Z450) rounded out the top five.
May’s DNF on Sunday and Whibley’s non-start at round one means that, although these two Yamaha stars have dominated, they each have just one round to their credit.
However, with only five of the six rounds to be counted as riders discard their one worst result, anything can still happen before the NZXC series wraps up in December.
“I was riding a bit tight at the start,” said the 38-year-old Whibley afterwards.
“Liam got off to a flyer, but I soon got into the flow of it and caught him. My pit crew told me I was only 10 seconds behind him and so I pushed hard to get him in sight.
“I followed him for a bit and could see he was making mistakes. Once I passed him, I opened up a bit of a gap. I didn’t realise I was so far in front and it was really an easy win in the end.
“My fitness was better that I thought it would be. I have not been riding a lot lately, but I still felt pretty good at the end.”
Sunday’s round two of the NZXC series doubled up also as round two of the popular Woodhill Two-man cross-country series, although only solo riders could score points in both the parallel competitions.
“It’s good to see a different rider leading the series. It makes it more exciting,” said Whibley, who describes himself as a part-time motorcycle racer, bike park operator and dad.”
Whibley, Draper, Greenslade and May all now prepare themselves to tackle round two of The Dirt Guide cross-country series at Ohakuri, near Tokoroa, next weekend.
May won the first of four rounds of The Dirt Guide series and will possibly be hoping for a little more luck with his tyres at Tokoroa this coming Sunday.
Whibley is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Sidi, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Darbi Accessories, GHQ, Rosscos Start Up Services, Works Connection, Pro Taper, Race Pace Services, Unabiker, Leatt Brace, Tire Balls, BikesportNZ.com, CarbSport, KettleClamp, Alliance Offroad, Ride Eng MotoSeat, FMF, Yamalube, CV4, GYTR, IMS, Rekluse, Ride Eng, Workshop Graphics, Michelin, O’Neal, Oakley goggles.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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