Millfield, OH (July 10, 2011) – Paul Whibley used a dramatic last-second pass to claim an exciting win at the Wiseco John Penton GNCC, round nine of the 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Series in Millfield, Ohio.
The New Zealand off-road star put his Am Pro/FMF/Yamaha YZ450F into the lead at the start of the race, claiming the $250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award in the process, and then proceeded to lead most of the three-hour contest. However, heading into the final hour, FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell drew even with Whibley, as the two locked into a battle that would see them trade the lead several times over the next two laps.
Russell held the advantage heading into the motocross section for the final time, which made up last few hundred yards of the course. However, with two turns to go before the finish, Whibley made a spectacular pass over the final jump to steal the lead – and the win – away from Russell.
The win was Whibley’s third of the year and it helped to tighten up the three-way battle for the 2011 series title.
“I was putting pressure on him there at the last and we both were riding as hard as we could,” said Whibley. “He didn’t jump that double at the finish and I did and I was able to get around him just before the checkered flag. It was an all or nothing kind of deal.”
Russell came from way back to catch Whibley with two laps to go and the XC1 rookie rode a great race, but he was obviously spent at the end and admitted that he had nothing for Whibley when the Yamaha rider challenged him on the final jump.
“There was no way I could hold on there at the end and I knew there was no way I could make that jump,” said Russell. “I’m pretty bummed I didn’t get the win, but I’m satisfied that I’m working hard and it’s starting to show in my results.”
Josh Strang rounded out the podium, the FMF/Makita Suzuki charging back after getting knocked down on the start. The defending series champ was able to work his way back through the pack and closed on the two leaders near the end of the race, finishing eight seconds behind Russell for third.
“I worked my way back up to the leaders, but then those guys got away from me in the John Penton section, but the last two laps I felt pretty good and passed Buttrick for third,” said Strang. “I caught Kailub on the moto track, but then I crashed and I was afraid Mullins was going to catch me. But overall, the day went pretty good and I was able to build on my points lead a little.”
Heading into the summer break, Strang now holds a 14-point lead over Mullins in the series standings with six races remaining. However, Whibley inched a bit closer to both riders with his win, and sits in third, another 11 points behind Mullins, who finished the race in fourth.
Mullins ran in second on the opening lap, but lost considerable ground when he was pointed to a bad line in a mud hole.
“It was a good day, I felt like I rode well, but I didn’t feel I met my expectations,” said Mullins. “I’m a little bummed out on how the final results went, but that’s racing. We have six races to go and I can’t afford to lose any more points. Luckily, we have a break coming up and I can work on a few things and be ready for Unadilla.”
FMF/KTM’s Cory Buttrick was fifth after running in third for a good part of the race. Meanwhile, Am Pro/FMF/Yamaha’s Thad DuVall rebounded from an incident in a mud hole to finish sixth.
WMR Racing/Clockwork/Planet Fitness KTM’s Nate Kanney was seventh, finishing just over a minute ahead of JG Off-road/GEICO Powersports Honda’s Rory Mead.
FMF/KTM’s Russell Bobbitt made a rare GNCC appearance to finish ninth, while Nick Fahringer rounded out the top 10 on a 2012 two-stroke Husaberg.
Rookie Pro Lites rider Jordan Ashburn grabbed his first-ever XC2-class win, putting his Am-Pro/FMF/Yamaha on top of the podium after coming out on top of a final lap battle with second place finisher Jesse Robinson.
“On the last lap we were back in the tight stuff and I got behind a slower rider and fell over. That’s when I heard Jesse go by me,” said Ashburn. “I got back on the bike and we had a pretty good battle for the rest of the race.”
Robinson led the opening lap on his KTM, but took a bad line on one of the hills and dropped back behind Ashburn and FAR Husqvarna’s Jason Thomas. Robinson was able to work his way back into second, finishing the race 23 seconds behind Ashburn.
Thomas rounded out the podium and put a small dent in Steward Baylor’s XC2 points lead, after Baylor finished off the podium for just the second time this year with a fourth place finish.