The 39-year-old former United States and New Zealand cross-country champion races only occasionally these days, but a race at Taikorea was simply too much temptation to resist starting up his Yamaha YZ450FX. The sprint enduro formula has proven popular in Australia and in the US – basically the day consists of a series of fast special tests, with no "trail ride" sections, something else that would probably suit Whibley right down to the ground. "So it all comes down to speed. Who can go the fastest through the tests wins. Pretty simple. No penalties for lost trail time or cold starts or working out average speeds," Whibley explained. "There were three separate tests and they were repeated three times. "In the first run through the tests, I had a small issue and my times didn’t look too flash with Seth Reardon (Whanganui) and Reuben Vermeer (Masterton) posting some good times through the motocross test and the long cross-country test as well. "With the problem sorted, I set about putting in some fast times to regain the lead.
The long and the short cross-country tests were heaps of fun, with the long cross-country test including a log section at the end to keep riders on their toes. A bypass was available for those not keen to try but it cost them some track time. "By the second pass through, lines and berms where forming in the freshly groomed trail. By the third lap through the tests I had pulled back any deficit and moved safely into the lead. "Overall it was a fun day and a fresh way to run an enduro.
Lots of time to bench race with mates between tests and laugh about why and how they posted a better time. Or how your goggles got so full of sand,." Whibley won the day by four-and-a-half minutes over Reardon, with Vermeer finishing third overall, 50 seconds further behind. Masterton's Jacob Hyslop finished the day ninth at Taikorea, but that was enough for him to secure the series win overall. Reardon finished the series runner-up just three points behind Hyslop. Even though Whibley raced just three of the series' six rounds, he still managed to claim third overall.
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