ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OH - New Zealand’s Paul Whibley completed a dominating Suzuki sweep of the top-four positions and earmed his third victory of the 2008 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) season Sunday at Power Line Park. Whibley started in the middle of the pack but he set a relentless pace to pass his teammate Josh Strang with an hour remaining and then pulled away to win the ITP Power Line Park GNCC.
"After last week, it felt good to win this race," said Whibley. "Everything went well today. My bike was excellent and, though the track was a little dusty, it was cool. I started picking off guys and made my way to Charlie (Mullins) and had a little battle for a while. After I got around him I reeled in (Josh) Strang was able to overtake the lead."
There was some considerable late-race drama as Whibley's team was unable to completely fill his fuel tank full on what should have been his final pit stop.
"They told me they didn’t get it full, so they pulled me in on the last lap," said Whibley. "I had a good enough lead, but I never call a win a win until they give me the checkered flag. I just kept riding hard."
Whibley led a string of FMF Suzukis in the top four with the aforementioned Strang. He finished a second.
"I got a really bad start," said Strang. "Someone spun out coming out of the start and came across my front wheel. I came around seventh on the first lap and just started charging. I made my way to the lead, but I couldn't hold off Whibley. I saw him coming and I know how strong he is at the end of these things. It was a good day though."
Rounding out the podium was Ohio's Mullins, who earned the Racer X Holeshot award and ran near the front all day.
"My RMZ fired on the first kick and I got a good jump," said Mullins of the start of the three-hour race. "I tried to ride as fast as I could to stay ahead of the dust, then Brown jumped past me on the drop off. He had trouble and I was able to get by him. From there I did my best to finish on the podium."
The XC1 class carried a substantial amount of hype into it with 2001 AMA 125cc National Motocross Champion Mike Brown entering in his first Can-Am GNCC event. Adding to the hype was the XC1 debut of newly crowned XC2 Can-Am GNCC champion Thad DuVall. Both racers rode fast and ran near the front early on, but encountered various mechanical woes.
"I felt good early on, then I started blowing past corners," said Brown. "I really enjoyed myself out there, though. I like these GNCC events because you don't just go wide open all the time. The woods sections were really fun to ride. I broke a piece in my swing arm and had to pit to fix it, but overall I enjoyed the race."
Meanwhile a lot of fans were eager to see what DuVall could do aboard the big-bore YZ450F. The young up and comer didn’t disappoint as he raced his way into second position before his clutch began fading. Nevertheless, DuVall showed he had the speed to race at the front with the upper echelon of professional GNCC Pros.