Monster Energy athlete Paul Whibley kept his perfect record in OMA competition intact by taking a dramatic come-from-behind win this weekend at the River Front GP in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, round three of the Parts Unlimited Off-road Motorcycle and ATV Nationals.
Whibley got off to a good jump at the start of the three-hour race, but went down in the first turn after having his front wheel taken out from under him by my fellow competitor Nick Fahringer, leaving the defending champ last heading into the opening lap.
As he has done so many times before, however, the Ax Man put his head down and reeled in the front-runners, passing Fahringer and defending national enduro champ Russell Bobbitt over the course of the final two laps to take an exciting win.
This is the first race all year that you didn’t get the holeshot.
Yeah, well you can’t win ‘em all (laughs). We’ve been getting good starts all year and I got a good jump, I just clipped Fahringer’s wheel and went down. It was just one of those deals. Russell Bobbitt was right beside me and I think he’s been working on starts because he was the one who beat me to the first turn. He’s on a two-stroke and he lined up just inside of me, so he controlled the turn because he had the inside line. I got forced out a bit and that’s when I clipped Fahringer.
So did you get up in last place?
Yeah, I was last out of the turn. I immediately started pushing hard because I knew that Bobbitt got the holeshot and I knew he would be trying to break away. I think I got through to third behind Fahringer by the second lap, but Bobbitt had already pulled about 35 seconds or so. After that, I got past Nick somewhere on the second lap, and I slowly started eating away at Bobbitt’s lead.
At what point did you finally take the lead?
By the third lap I was on Bobbitt and we went back and forth with the lead, but then I finally got him for good on the next-to-last lap. Going into the last lap, he was pretty close to me but then he got stuck in a mud hole and that gave me a little breathing room.
How was the course?
It was almost a track of two halves. The first part of the track was open and had some hard-pack and was a little bit dusty in places. But then the second half of the course was more technical, and was quite swampy and soft. It got rutted up pretty good and was quite difficult and that’s where Bobbitt got stuck.
How was the turnout?
We had the usual regulars, but since this race was in Arkansas, we had a good group from out west, which made it interesting. I would say the turnout was pretty good.
So you must feel that you are still on your game plan.
Yes, I would say that things are going according to plan. We’ve won all three rounds in OMA, but we need to get a win in the GNCC series. We’re leading the standings in both, but Kailub Russell is coming on strong in the GNCC series, he’s won the last two rounds, and I’ll need to have a few wins in the next few rounds to keep my position.
Are you going to race any more national enduros, or was that a one-time thing?
We may go to the next one in Tennessee on the 22nd. I’ve got a 250 two-stroke and I might just race that and see how it goes. Those races are a good place to get in some seat time in tight woods riding and there is no pressure to win there. It’s for fun only. It’s more for practice and testing.