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Whibley Back To His Stomach-Crunching Best

 

NOVEMBER 16, 2015: It seems you can't keep a good man down.

Just five weeks after undergoing emergency surgery on his appendix, Manawatu's Paul Whibley was back in stomach-crunching action, winning the premier class at a double-header dirt bike event at Maddix Park, near Tauranga, on Saturday.

The 37-year-old from Taikorea, on the outskirts of Palmerston North, took his Yamaha YZ125 into battle at this second round of the New Zealand GNCC (Grand National Cross-country Championships), an event that doubled also as the fourth round of five in the new competition of Whibley's own creation, the inaugural NZXC Series.

Whibley won the opening round of the NZ GNCC series at Matata five weeks ago, crossing the finish line ahead of Morrinsville rider Simon Lansdaal and Rotorua's Scott Birch, and then driving himself straight to hospital "to get a stomach pain checked out".

He was diagnosed with appendicitis and immediately admitted and, following surgery, understood he might not be back in action for round two at the weekend.

But he's a superbly-fit athlete and recovered quickly, no doubt much to the annoyance of his dirt bike rivals.

"I didn't create the NZXC series to be something for me to win personally, and I've already sat out of one of the rounds in the NZXC anyway, pretty much preventing me from winning that, but I'd certainly be keen to win the GNCC series," he said.

"I hadn't done hardly any riding since having my appendix out and was still supposed to be on light duties, so I took my YZ125 to Tauranga with the plan to get some seat time and just have fun.

"Off the line I got smoked by all the 450cc bike riders, but I was able to sneak around the outside and dropped into third. Dust was really bad early on but, as we got further back into the bush, evidence of the last rainfall still remained. My stomach was a little sore early on, but, as the race progressed, I loosened up.

"I moved up into the lead late in the lap after the leaders made mistakes. Simon Lansdaal took the lead for a lap, but I soon regained control on the following lap. It really was a lot of fun on the 125.

"The track got choppy and a few slick spots made finding traction hard work but the little YZ just handles so well. It was easy to switch up lines to alternative smooth ones seemingly inaccessible to others.

"As the track got rougher and rougher, the more I was being creative paid off. I ended up winning the race comfortably. Simon held out (Whangamata's) Jason Davis for second, while (Tauranga's) Peter Broxholme and (Mokau's) Adrian Smith filled out the top five.

"I was also happy with how consistent my lap times were. As well as capturing the fastest lap of the day, over eight laps my times only varied by 20 seconds, with the last lap just 10 seconds off my fastest."

Whibley finished the nine-lap race in a time of two hours and 41 minutes, more than two and a half minutes ahead of Lansdaal.

Unbeaten in the NZ GNCC series thus far, Whibley is now 10 points clear of two-time runner-up Lansdaal.

Whibley also leads the separate NZXC series, seven points ahead of Smith.

Meanwhile, Te Awamutu's Daniel White won the junior section of Saturday's event, finishing ahead of Eketahuna's Chris Dickson and Hamilton's Lachlan Bishop.

Yamaha rider Bishop leads the junior grade series points for the NZXC series, 13 points clear of White.

The fifth and final round of the NZXC series is set for Castlehill, near Pahiatua, on December 5, while the third round of four for the NZ GNCC series is set for Maramaru on December 12.

Whibley is supported by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, Sidi, Smith, G2, Asterisk, MotoSR, Vortex Ignitions, EC3D, Bush Riders MCC, Darbis, GHQ, Freedom Moto, Rosscos Start Up Services, Works Connection, Pro Taper, Race Pace Services, Unabiker, Leatt Brace, Tire Balls, BikesportNZ.com, CarbSport, KettleClamp, Alliance Offroad, Ride Eng MotoSeat, FMF, Kenda, Yamalube, CV4, GYTR, IMS, MSR, Rekluse, Ride Eng, Workshop Graphics.

Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com