Paul Whibley warms up with a little Kiwi bashing
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Manawatu dirt-bike hero Paul Whibley has been turning the blowtorch on fellow Kiwis as he warms up for his next big international adventure.
Though the 39-year-old is officially retired from international competition, he likes to race domestically and has recently found himself in high demand as a trainer and mentor for younger racers in the United States.
"Yes, I will be in South Carolina: going there to again help the professional AMPRO Yamaha Team riders as they prepare for their upcoming Grand National Cross-country Championship (GNCC) races.
"I might even get to have a ride or two myself while I'm there. I should 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 said.
Though no longer a regular racer on the GNCC circuit, 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.
And so, as part of a warm-up for his trip to the US east coast, Whibley was, not unexpectedly, a comfortable winner at the Taikorea 500. It was the fourth round of seven in the Yamaha-backed NZXC cross-country series, held on Whibley's own property near Himatangi just over a week ago.
He led a Yamaha 1-2-3-4 across the finish line in the drizzly afternoon's two-hour senior race.
It was also the extension of a personal sweep, with Whibley the outright winner at rounds one, two and three of the NZXC Series.
With competitors to discard their one worst score, and just three rounds remaining, he is in total command, though his overseas duties mean he will have to skip the next round in October.
Whibley is no stranger to winning at the ultimate level -- affectionately dubbed "The Axeman" on the motorcycling scene, he 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 in the US as well. So it surprised nobody that he ran away with his farewell race at Taikorea.
A Yamaha YZ450FX was his weapon of choice to tackle the sandy course, and he wasted no time grabbing the race lead and then stretching out his advantage.
Whibley eventually crossed the finish line more than six minutes ahead of the day'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.
Cambridge's Callum Paterson (Yamaha YZ125) convincingly won the 90-minute junior race earlier in the day and he now enjoys a 45-point advantage at the top of the series' 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 wraps up at Pahiatua on December 3.