Patton, PA (May 29, 2011) – Paul Whibley returned to the top of the podium with an impressive win at the Rock Run GNCC in Patton, Pennsylvania, the Am Pro Racing/FMF/Yamaha rider making easy work of the fast and rocky, 14-mile course to finish nearly two minutes clear of FMF/Makita Suzuki’s Josh Strang after three hours of racing.
Whibley took the lead at the start of the race after passing $250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award winner Jedidiah Haines in turn three, but then gave way to Strang and FMF/KTM’s Charlie Mullins, who took the lead position later in the lap. Whibley, however, regained the top spot at the three-mile mark when Strang made a mistake and Mullins took a bad line in a mud hole and from there the New Zealander pulled a considerable gap on the field.
Strang cut into Whibley’s advantage near the halfway point of the race and took the lead when Whibley got stuck on a steep climb. However, Whibley took control again when Strang pitted for gas and from that point on the Kiwi was never headed.
At the finish, Whibley claimed his second win of the year, with Strang second and Mullins third.
“For me, it feels good to get another win,” said Whibley. “Being one of the older guys in the field the wins are harder to come by and the last two races a few of the younger guys have been up front. So it’s good to still be able to run with these guys.”
“I have to admit I wasn’t really enjoying it out there. I’m not a huge fan of rocks, but this past week I practiced in the rocks and I was somewhat prepared,” added Whibley. “The course was quite fast and the penalty for going down in this stuff is severe so I was a little cautious out there and I think Strang might have had problems at the end of the race so everything ended up going my way.”
Indeed, Strang admitted after the race that he was suffering brake problems during the later laps, however, his runner-up finish was enough to elevate the defending champ back into the series points lead, two points ahead of Mullins.
“The last two laps the brakes started fading on me, so it was difficult, but Paul rode a good race and it’s good to get back in the lead in the standings,” said Strang. “I had the lead and then Whibs got me when I pitted. After that I struggled with the brakes. But I felt good and I’m happy with how the bike worked. We did some testing and we got a good set-up for the rocks and the suspension worked great in the rocks.”
Strang and Mullins have been battling back and forth over the series points lead all year, and at this round Strang seemed to have the upper hand.
“I would like to think I could have won this if things had gone different at the start, but that’s racing,” said Mullins. “But I made a mistake and it cost me. I took a bad line in the mud and went from first to about eighth. After that I just did the best I could to catch up, but it was hard to pass out there. I got up to third and tried to put on a charge, but things just weren’t going my way.”
Michael Lafferty ran as high as second on the opening lap, and eventually settled into a solid fourth on his factory Husaberg. The eight-time National Enduro Champ is making a return to GNCC racing in a big way this year and looked comfortable in the rocky terrain.
Kailub Russell finished fifth despite suffering a severe case of blisters. The FMF/KTM rider had to pull in at one point and have his mechanic put duct tape on his hands so he could finish.
Further back, Chris Bach put the factory Beta into sixth, ahead of WMR Off-road/Clockwork/Planet Fitness KTM’s Nate Kanney.
New Zealand’s Rory Mead substituted for the injured Jimmy Jarrett on a JG Off-road/GEICO Powersports Honda and brought home an eighth place finish in his first-ever GNCC.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Gilbert (KTM) and factory Husaberg rider Nick Fahringer rounded out the top 10.
After five rounds of the 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Series, Strang holds the XC1 points lead with 123 points, while Mullins sits second with 121. Whibley is third in the standings with 103 points.
In the XC2 division, Steward Baylor Jr. nabbed his third win of the season, coming out on top of a fierce battle with fellow KTM rider Jesse Robinson. Baylor came from the back of the pack after getting off to a poor start and once at the front he swapped the lead several times with Robinson before taking the win. Less than two seconds was all that separated them at the finish.