Motocross: Whibley packs his bags
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Paul Whibley heading to South Carolina
Manawatu dirt bike racer Paul Whibley is heading back to the United States and this time he hopes to make an impact there in a slightly different way.
He aims to help others win the same races he used to dominate just a handful of years ago.
The 38-year-old former Manawatu forestry worker, affectionately dubbed “The Axeman” on the motorcycling scene, twice won the Grand National Cross Country Championships in the US (in 2009 and 2012), as well as becoming a six-time US Off-road Motorcycle and ATV series (OMA series) champion.
With a dozen years of sleeping in motor homes and travelling the world to race off-road motorcycles — he also competed in the World Enduro Championships in Europe before heading to the US — Whibley decided it was “time to settle down”.
At the end of his 2014 season in the US, Whibley returned to New Zealand and went to work trying to re-establish his position at the top of the sport at home.
After a fierce season-long battle with friend, rival and fellow Yamaha ace Adrian Smith, of Mokau, he clinched the New Zealand cross-country championships in 2015, his first serious Kiwi campaign in more than a decade.
That season he also decided he’d like to “give something back” to the sport he loves.
Although the Yamaha man had tasted success at many major cross-country events in New Zealand over the years, he said he was not completely satisfied with some aspects and he decided to take his involvement a step further, at the same time lifting the quality of competition and putting processes in place that might assist young Kiwi riders wishing to follow in his wheel tracks overseas.
With that in mind he launched his own multi-round NZXC series.
Whibley wanted to amalgamate some of the sport’s most popular events into what he hoped would become a premier series.
He made no apologies for cherry-picking the best events from other series, co-sanctioning his NZXC with popular parallel competitions such as the Dirt Guide Series, the NZ GNCC, the Woodhill Two-Man, the Central Cross-country Series and the Yamaha Taikorea 500.
His inaugural NZXC series in 2015 was a success and its third year kicks off near Tokoroa in June.
Even though the Taikorea man is now nearly three years into his retirement from international competition, he is still in high demand, not just running events but as a rider-coach.
He continues to race major domestic events around New Zealand and next week he is answering the call to cross the Pacific and settle back into South Carolina, where he will work as trainer and mentor for the professional AMPRO Yamaha Race Team.
Whibley’s contract is for two months and he’ll be working to get the team’s two riders — Ricky Russell in the XC1 class and Josh Toth in the XC2 class — fit and up to speed before the start of the 2017 GNCC season.
“AMPRO Yamaha team owner Randy Hawkins knows how hard I trained,” said Whibley. “He wants me to impart some of that wisdom and knowledge on to his riders.
“I’ve already been in contact with them and we’ve worked out a training regime, but when I get over there I will crack the whip a bit more,” he said, laughing.
“It’s only a short-term thing and it’s the first time Randy has tried to have a dedicated trainer do this job for him.”
Whibley leaves next week and returns to New Zealand in April, picking up again his role as a demonstrator for Yamaha.