There seems to be no stopping Manawatu dirt bike hero Paul Whibley.
The former Kiwi international was, not unexpectedly, a comfortable winner at the Taikorea 500, the fourth round of seven in the Yamaha-backed NZXC cross-country series near Himatangi on Sunday, leading a Yamaha 1-2-3-4 across the finish line in the afternoon’s two-hour senior race.
With six of the seven rounds to be counted, as competitors discard their one worst score, and just three rounds remaining, Whibley is in total command, although he will be skipping the next round in October as overseas duties call him away.
“Yes, I will be in South Carolina in a few weeks’ time, there to again help the professional AMPRO Yamaha Team riders as they prepare for upcoming Grand National Cross-country Championship (GNCC) races there.
“I might even get to have a ride or two myself while I’m over there. I think I might be able to take the Yamaha YZ125 out of the workshop again and give it a bit of a run (in the XC3 class),” he laughed.
Although now retired from fulltime international competition, Whibley borrowed the 125cc bike to score podium finishes in the US on three separate occasions earlier this year. He is currently eighth overall in the XC3 class in the US, despite having contested just three of the nine rounds run thus far.
The 39-year-old former pro racer is no stranger to winning at the ultimate level – affectionately dubbed “The Axeman” on the motorcycling scene, Whibley is a two-time former outright winner of the GNCC in the US (in 2009 and 2012) and a record six-time winner of the parallel Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) series as well.
And so it surprised nobody that he ran away with Sunday’s race at Taikorea.
A Yamaha YZ450FX was his weapon of choice on Sunday and he wasted no time in taking the race lead and then stretching out his advantage.
Whibley eventually crossed the finish line more than six minutes ahead of Sunday’s runner-up, Titirangi’s Callan May (Yamaha YZ250FX), with Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha YZ250FX) completing the senior podium.
Masterton’s Adam Easton (Yamaha YZ250) and Eketahuna’s Charlie Richardson (Husqvarna FC250) rounded out the top five.
“It was great to race here at Taikorea. I have organised plenty of events here and ridden the track plenty of times, but I’ve never actually done a race here.
“It’s given me an insight to where I can improve the course and make it better for future events. We had quite a few top riders here today and, with the lines that fast riders take, it exposes different tree roots and creates ruts that are different to those formed by the more social riders.”
Meanwhile, Cambridge’s Callum Paterson (Yamaha) convincingly won the 90-minute junior race earlier in the day and he now enjoys a 45-point advantage at the top of the junior standings.
Round five of the NZXC Series will be held at Matata on October 14, with round six in the Riverhead Forest on November 19. The series finally wraps up at Pahiatua on December 3.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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