The 39-year-old from Taikorea took his Yamaha YZ450FX into battle at the fifth round of eight in the Central Enduro Championship Series at Santoft Forest, near Bulls, on Sunday, his last build-up ride in New Zealand before he heads back to the United States this week to continue his work as mentor and trainer for the high-profile AMPRO Yamaha Cross-country Race Team.
Whibley was virtually unchallenged as he won the day at Santoft, winning all four special tests and ending the afternoon more than two minutes ahead of fellow Yamaha rider Seth Reardon, of Whanganui. The 19-year-old Reardon, an apprentice engineer, rode a 250cc version of the Yamaha YZFX bike. Wellington's Jake Whitaker (KTM 250 XCF) finished the day third overall, 12 seconds adrift of Reardon. "I have not raced this whole series, but I'd consider this a 'home' event for me, because Santoft is just up the road from Taikorea, and so I couldn't resist the chance to ride. I don't manage to spend as much time racing these days as I'd like, so this was a great opportunity for a good workout. "I had a whole day of racing today and, because it's a sand-based forest, it's quite hard on the body. Five hours on the bike has got to be better than five hours sitting on the couch at home eh?" he laughed. "I was pushing hard all day because, with enduros, you never know if the guy starting on minute five or than guy on minute 10 is actually going faster than me. You never know who has won these things until the very end. "I left on minute one, so I never really saw anyone all day. Even without another rider to gauge myself against, I always push myself because you need adrenaline to keep focussed." Meanwhile, Masterton's Jacob Hyslop (Honda CRF450) leads the expert grade after five rounds of the series, with Reardon second overall and Whitaker third. Hyslop finished fourth overall in Sunday's race. Even with just two rounds contested, Whibley is sixth-equal overall in the series standings.
Whibley is perhaps the perfect recruit for the AMPRO team in their bid to win cross-country titles in the US – the Kiwi hero is a two-time former outright winner of the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the United States (in 2009 and 2012) and a record six-time winner of the parallel Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) series as well. Whibley was also New Zealand cross-country champion in 2015. Based in South Carolina for the next two months, Whibley will be training Yamaha's XC1 class contender Ricky Russell, from Washington State, and Connecticut rider Josh Toth, who is currently leading the XC2 (250cc) class in the US. Whibley is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, PWR Yamaha, Arai, TCX, Oakley, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Rossco's Start Up Services, Dirt Guide, Tire Balls, Renthal, Bikesportnz.com, CarbSport, FMF, Michelin, Yamalube CV4 GYTR, IMS, Rekluse, Workshop Graphics, Silverbullet.co.nz, Motomuck and O'Neal.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan