After struggling to come to grips with a new bike at the start of the season, defending series champ Paul Whibley finished off the 2010 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series schedule with back to back wins. The AM Pro/FMF/Yamaha rider from New Zealander tied a bow on the season with a spectacular win at the series finale in Indiana – the Amsoil Ironman GNCC – leaving no doubts that he will be a major force in the 2011 series.Whibley started the 2010 season on Yamaha’s WR version of its off-road line, and struggled to keep pace with the motocross bikes ridden by his chief rivals (Josh Strang was mounted on Suzuki’s RM-Z450, and even fellow Yamaha rider Charlie Mullins rode a YZ this year, although an ’09 version). Whibley sat fourth in the series standings heading into the summer break, however, Yamaha gave him the go-ahead to ride the new YZ at the end of the series and the Axeman rewarded them with a pair of wins.
At the Ironman, Paul Whibley got off the line behind newly crowned XC2 champ Kailub Russell, and when Russell dunked his FMF-backed KTM in a waterhole, Whib’s had clear sailing until Josh Strang moved into contention at the midway point of the race. Due to an extreme drought in Indiana, dust was a problem at this year’s Ironman, and Strang soon developed a misfire when his air filter clogged with dust. That was all the opening Whibley needed and he cruised home with a well deserved win.
Whibley’s teammate, Thad DuVall, has struggled this year, as well, moving to the XC1 division at the start of the season after a stellar year in the XC2 class last year. The West Virginia teenager led a lot of laps throughout the year but suffered numerous crashes, leaving him with a few DNFs and very few podiums. In Indiana, DuVall was on the gas and he stayed upright for most of the race, finishing off the three-hour race with an impressive runner-up finish.
Chris Bach has been one of this year’s best stories. The KTM privateer from Indiana started off the season with a podium finish at the opener in Florida and has remained fast and consistent for the duration of the schedule, taking a popular third in front of a hometown crowd at the Ironman and ending the year in fifth place overall. The Ironman was Bach’s last ride on a KTM for at least two years since he recently signed a two-year deal with American Beta.
After an impressive second place finish at the previous round in Ohio, Australian Glenn Kearney got off to a poor start at the Ironman, exiting the first turn in about 10th after his bike failed to start on the first kick. Poor visibility hindered him at the start of the race, but GK managed to find a way to work into fourth by the end of the race. Sadly, Kearney may not be back for the entire season in 2011, due to sagging budgets, but he has vowed to make at least a couple of the major rounds in the coming year.
FMF/KTM’s Cory Buttrick started well in Indiana, but slid out on one of the Ironman’s notorious hills on the opening lap and dropped several positions before finishing fifth. The XC1 rookie is one of the series’ up-and-comers and scored his first major win at this year’s John Penton GNCC in Ohio. Buttrick also finished off the National Enduro Series with a win at its final round in Indiana. The Ohio teenager leaves this week for the ISDE in Mexico.
Josh Strang came into the Ironman having wrapped up the series title at the previous round in Ohio. The FMF/Makita Suzuki rider wanted nothing more than to finish off the season with a big win at the Ironman and he actually passed Whibley in one of the open fields on the fourth lap of the race to take the lead. However, due to the dusty conditions, the Strangler’s air filter clogged no long after he made the pass and the Aussie slowed to a stop and was eventually credited with 11th overall.