Yamaha Motor New Zealand’s cross-country and endurance team is in experienced hands this season with two of the nation’s former top international riders overseeing its development in 2020. While ex-motocross GP star Josh Coppins is supervising the brand’s overall racing programme, in his new role as Motorsport Manager, multi-time overseas cross-country champion Paul Whibley will be working closely with the three-rider PWR Yamaha team.
Made up of Seth Reardon (21), of Wanganui, Cambridge-based 19-year-old Ashton Grey and Taupo’s Wil Yeoman (14), the Yamaha cross-country team is chock-full of talent and ready for the four-round New Zealand Cross Country Championship season, which begins this weekend in Marton. Three rounds will be run in the North Island and one in the South Island, with the best three rounds counting towards the championship. Coppins says Whibley was the obvious choice to mentor and manage the riders as “he comes from an impressive proving ground of performances.” “Paul has won lots of championships and events for the Yamaha brand, including winning the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the United States in 2009 and 2012 and notching up six national titles in the Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV Series (OMA). I’m looking forward to working closely with him and having him taking charge in the cross-country/endurance team manager role.”
Whibley, who lives in Taikorea, near Palmerston North, where he owns and runs the Taikorea Motorcycle Park, has set his management goals for the team. “I want to improve the PWR Yamaha Team’s presence at the national events. We will be the team everyone looks up to. I want us to set the standard in off-road and have a more collective, cohesive team. I want to help our riders prepare and get the best out of their bikes and themselves,” he says. Whibley won’t be just standing on the side-lines this season and after several years of not racing on the national scene, he’ll be throwing a leg over a YZ450FX. “A few injuries and personal events have had an impact on how much I race now, since I retired from full time, international competition. But I love to race and I’m looking forward to getting back on the start line and just having fun,” he says. “The new 2020 YZ450FX bike is a great step forward. The previous model was really good, and I was very comfortable on it, but I feel the new FX is more race focused. That makes my job a lot easier!” Whibley adds.
Reardon is the team’s most senior rider and has been supported by the brand for about 18 months. He has had a stellar year of results. “Last year was a fantastic year for me. I rode most enduro and cross-country races available and managed outright wins in the Central Cross-Country Series and the national enduro championship. I was runner-up in the New Zealand Cross-Country Championship, and won my class in all other series events,” Reardon says. His 2020 game plan is to compete in both the NZ Cross Country Championship and the Enduro Nationals and do his best to ride away with two national titles on his Yamaha YZ250FX.
Grey has been racing Yamaha bikes “pretty much [his] whole life.” “I have ridden and raced every model of Yamaha from the PW50 all the way up to the YZ450FX,” he says. His build-up events towards the 2020 season, involved competing on his 2020 Yamaha YZ250X, mainly in the cross-country series. “I have focused mainly on the New Zealand GNCC series where I was able to finish second overall. Unfortunately, I crashed at the last round and dislocated my shoulder, but I was able to relocate it and finish the day in fourth overall. My main focus for the end of 2019 was to gain the strength back in my shoulder and continue to work on my fitness leading up to the national series races that are coming in 2020, so that I can give 100 percent!” Grey says.
A young, up-and-coming star, Yeoman has had a successful year. Riding a Yamaha YZ125X, he won the Dirt Guide Cross-Country Series’ junior class, with three from three wins. Sticking with the number three, Yeoman also won the GNCC Series’ junior title for the third consecutive year. His aim for 2020 is to add the junior cross-country national trophy to his cabinet and to build experience in the enduro nationals. Coppins says he is excited about the direction Yamaha’s race programme is taking. “We’ve got a great group of young riders who Paul is mentoring, plus a great development programme and pathway process for the riders to come through. This is something we are trying to implement across all levels and disciplines of Yamaha’s racing.” “We’ve also got some exciting new models that we are going to showcase, like the 125X, the new platform 250WRF and the YZF250. We are looking forward to getting those bikes out and about and having the young fellas learning from Paul and hopefully winning some races along the way,” he concludes.
2020 NEW ZEALAND CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 1 - Bushriders Motorcycle Club – Sunday 16th February – Marton
Round 2 – Central Hawkes Bay Motorcycle Club – Sunday 22nd March – Flemington
Round 3 – Marlborough Motorcycle Club – Sunday 26th April – Nelson
Round 4 – Taupo Motorcycle Club – Saturday 23rd May – Taupo
2020 NEW ZEALAND ENDURO CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 1 - 29th March 2020, Whangamata (Thames Valley MCC) - CANCELLED
Round 2 - 18th April 2020, Tokoroa (South Waikato MCC)
Round 3 - 27th April 2020, Blenheim (Kapi Mana MCC)
Round 4 - 24th May 2020, Martinborough (Kapi Mana MCC)
Round 5 - 30th or 31st May 2020, TBC (Kapi Mana MCC)
PWR YAMAHA TEAM WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS:
Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Yamalube, GYTR, YMF, YMI, Motomuck, Workshop Graphics, MotoSR, Oneal, Arai, Oakley, IMS, Zeta, Tire balls, TCX, Michelin, Renthal, Twin Air, USWE, EK Chain & Brownell Earthmoving.