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Championship May Go to the Wire

Championship May Go to the Wire

OCTOBER 8, 2012: Pahiatua cross-country motorcycle ace Paul Whibley has suffered a set-back in the United States, but it’s mostly of his own doing.

The Yamaha ace still leads the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC), despite crashing his way to an unaccustomed third place finish at the 11th round of 13 in the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) at St Clairsville, Ohio, on Sunday.

And while it wasn’t the result he wanted, especially with his main rival Kailub Russell winning the day, the damage was limited by his tenacity and ability to fight back.

“Championships are won on your worst days. If you can keep your worst days to finishing third or fourth, then that’s okay,” said the 34-year-old former Manawatu forestry worker, affectionately dubbed “The Axeman” on the motorcycling scene.

Whibley (Yamaha YZ450F) snatched the lead at the start, something he has been able to do with regularity this season.

“The bike is standard but it still has more power than anyone could use,” he explained. “So, yes, I was happy with the start and I was riding up front for a lap or so before Kailub Russell and Charlie Mullins came past me. I was feeling comfortable to follow them, so I could watch their lines and it was tough in the slippery conditions.

“But then I messed up. I thought I could get the bike over a big log ... but I couldn’t,” he shrugged.

“I crashed but it was just my own stupid fault. I tweaked my head, my neck and my arm and was pretty sore after that. I needed to make some quick repairs to the bike too.

“I was just hoping I could keep going after that but then I had another crash. I started riding more carefully after that, thinking about damage control.

“I think, to salvage third place, was not too bad considering the day I’d had.”
The Kiwi’s lead has been shaved back to 13 points, with Russell now closing in.

Whibley knows it will go down to the wire and he needs to be at his best if he is to survive and win over the remaining two rounds of the championship.

Meanwhile, another New Zealander in the mix, Wellington’s Rory Mead, finished the day in fifth spot overall and he maintains his hold on third overall in the championship chase.

This season’s New Zealand cross-country and enduro champion, Adrian Smith, from Mokau (Yamaha YZ125) was battling in the top third of the field when he suffered a mechanical problem and was forced to withdraw.

Whibley is supported by Monster Energy, Sargent Yamaha in Masterton, MotoSR suspension,, Graphic MX Creation and Yamaha New Zealand.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan,


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