Pahiatua's Paul Whibley has opened a fresh account in the United States for the new season, winning the second round of the Southern Off-Road Championship Series at Milledgeville, Georgia, last weekend.
The 34-year-old former forestry worker won two major cross-country titles in the US last season, clinching the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) and the Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) crown.
That makes him favourite to win the titles again in 2013. So, although a little jet-lagged, Whibley opted for a relatively low-key appearance to start his campaign.
"When we arrived at the track I felt more like taking a nap than racing but I knew, whatever the result, it would be good for me to get back into the swing of things," he said of his latest effort.
He started well, rounding turn one in second place, following the leader for the first half lap before finding a slightly open straight where he was able to make a pass. The sandy conditions were pretty much perfect, not really rough but well-watered.
Over the first couple of laps, Whibley maintained a modest pace before the "brain fog" cleared a little and he felt able to click it up a gear.
The track, although not too tight, was quite one-lined and passing was tough, so with a six-mile loop the lead riders were quickly into traffic. However, the slower ones did their best to move over when necessary and problems were few.
In the end, Whibley won the two-hour event by a clear margin and was happy with his form as he headed to the first OMA race in Alabama in a couple of weeks.
Whibley and his wife, Katherine, left New Zealand soon after he had raced, and won, the river race segment of the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville late last month.
His focus now is preparing for the start of the separate GNCC and OMA competitions. In both instances, Whibley will race with the No1 on his Yamaha YZ450F bike, a ranking he is keen to retain this season.