New Zealand motorcycle ace Paul 'The Axeman' Whibley has taken another huge step closer towards securing the Grand National Cross Country Championships title in the United States this season.
The 34-year-old former Manawatu forestry worker from Pahiatua, finished runner-up at the tenth round of 13 in the GNCC championship at Unadilla, near New York, on Monday (NZ time).
The high-profile series had just completed its mid-summer break -- temperatures being too hot on the American east coast during the summer months -- and Whibley showed he was well prepared for the resumption at the weekend as he powered to yet another podium finish in what he hopes will see him reclaim the US championship title he last held in 2009.
Whibley (Yamaha YZ450F) has only missed a podium finish once all season -- that still being a solid fourth placing at round eight of the series at Snowshoe in West Virginia in June -- enabling him to now build a seven-point lead over his nearest rival for the crown, American rider Kailub Russell.
Russell finished fourth on Monday.
Another Kiwi, 2011 New Zealand enduro champion Rory Mead, from Wellington, finished tenth overall on Monday but he maintains his hold on third overall in the XC1 Pro Championship standings, now 62 points behind Whibley and 55 points behind Russell.
Meanwhile, Pahiatua youngster Scott Sowry (Yamaha YZ125), making his GNCC debut and riding in the under-200cc A class, finished 298th overall but a respectable 33rd overall in his class.
The next round of the series is set for St Clairsville, Ohio, on October 7.
Whibley is supported by Monster Energy, Sargent Yamaha in Masterton, MotoSR suspension, BikesportNZ.com, Graphic MX Creation and Yamaha New Zealand.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com