The 41-year-old former New Zealand and United States cross-country champion was a non-starter at the first round of three in the Woodhill Two-Man Series in June, but more than made up for that by winning the next two events, round two in July and the final round on Sunday. With points to be counted from two of the three rounds and a rider’s worst score to be ditched, it meant Whibley’s 0-1-1 results were easily enough for him to claim the series’ senior trophy.
Although this series of races in the Woodhill Forest, west of Auckland, was billed primarily as a two-rider competition, riders were permitted to tackle it solo and it was “ironman” riders Whibley and Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman who finished 1-2 on Sunday. Sent off into the forest in waves, the two-rider teams were allocated the favoured front few rows of the starting grid and Whibley and his Yamaha YZ450FX were lined up on row four for the start of Sunday’s three-hour senior race. But, despite this handicap, Whibley made short work of passing the groups of riders in front of him and he led the race by the end of the first lap. “It was a pretty tight course, but I managed to work my way through the traffic okay,” said Whibley. “It’s a long race, so I knew I just needed to ride smoothly and I’d get the job done. “There were a lot of fresh track cut through the forest and it was very tight for a 450cc bike amongst the trees, but the Yamaha was still pretty nimble.
There had been a bit of rain through the week leading up to this event, but it wasn’t too rough. “I am really enjoying my time on the bike at the moment and, although it’s a wee way off, I guess I’m building up now ahead of me tackling the New Zealand Cross-country Championships again in 2020.” Finishing behind Whibley and Wightman on Sunday was the Auckland two-rider Yamaha partnership of Jonathan Hill and Luther Mitchell-Quinell. In terms of solo rider honours, Whibley won the series ahead of Wightman and Marton’s Cam Smith (Kawasaki) with Rotorua’s Ethan Harris (Yamaha) and Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha) rounding out the top five.
Whibley is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, PWR Yamaha, Arai, TCX, Oakley, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Rosscos Start Up Services, Dirt Guide, Tire Balls, Renthal, BikesportNZ.com, CarbSport, FMF, Michelin, Yamalube CV4 GYTR, IMS O'Neal, Rekluse, Workshop Graphics, Motomuck and NZXC Series.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan