One of the muddiest, toughest Can-Am Grand National Cross Country races ever ended up with a surprise finish and a podium sweep for the FMF Suzuki team. New Zealand's Paul Whibley made a pass on his teammate Josh Strang on the last lap to take the win at the Wiseco John Penton GNCC, with Ohio's own Suzuki talent Jimmy Jarrett third. Strang led most of the race, and he had no idea how or where Whibley got by him, just as Whibley had no idea how he took the lead.
"I think this was the muddiest, sloppiest race I've ever been in," said Whibley, a veteran of off-road racing around the world. "I don't even know what happened. I thought I was in maybe third, and I got the pit board that said 'Josh :52,' and I thought that meant he was catching me. I guess he was ahead and I passed him somewhere."
Strang was confused and dejected after missing his chance for a first GNCC victory, instead taking second for the third-straight race. Regardless of order, the event marked a 1-2 finish for the new EFI Suzuki RM-Z450. Jarrett, who took the Racer X Holeshot Award, rounded out the podium on his RM250.
Series leader David Knight rode fast through the mud and water, but eventually took in enough of it through his airbox to slow his bike. At one point he climbed to second and looked ready to challenge Strang, until his machine stalled. Later he had stop in the pits for a new filter, as did his teammate Nathan Kanney, and those problems cost the duo a few positions. Unofficially, Knight was credited with fourth, with Am-Pro Yamaha's Jason Raines in fifth.
In XC2, Am-Pro Yamaha's Thad DuVall took yet another win, ahead of Monster Energy/Kawasaki's Scotty Watkins and Steel City Honda's Ryan Echols. Powersports GrafX/KTM's Kailub Russell took the Thumpertalk.com Holeshot Award in the XC2 Class.
"I thought it would be awesome in the mud, but I wasn't going anywhere early on and I was over it," said DuVall. "All of a sudden, I got to hill and I just saw the whole class there! So I knew I was back in it."
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series continues in two weeks with The Weekend Warrior Spartan GNCC in Sparta, Kentucky.
Results: Wiseco John Penton GNCC
May 11, 2008
1. Paul Whibley (Suz)
2. Josh Strang (Suz)
3. Jimmy Jarrett (Suz)
4. David Knight (KTM)
5. Jason Raines (Yam)
1. Thad DuVall (Yam)
2. Scott Watkins (Kaw)
3. Ryan Echols (Hon)
4. Eric Bailey (KTM)
5. Josh Weisenfels (Yam)