Dirt Rider - - Route Sheet - STORY AND PHOTOS BY SHAN MOORE

Why the two-time GNCC champ got back on a racebike… and why it was a 125.

When we last saw our hero at the end of 2014, Paul Whibley had re­tired and moved back to his home­land of New Zealand. Dur­ing his 12-year ten­ure here in Amer­ica, the “Axe Man” amassed two GNCC cham­pi­onships, six OMA ti­tles, one per­fect OMA sea­son, 17 con­sec­u­tive wins, and a whole heck of a lot of holeshots. Back in New Zealand af­ter his US rac­ing ca­reer was com­plete, Whibley be­gan pro­mot­ing races and or­ga­niz­ing demo rides for Yamaha. He and his wife Katherine also de­cided to start a fam­ily, and it wasn’t long be­fore their son Colton was born. All plans changed in De­cem­ber of 2015, how­ever, when a car crash took Katherine’s life.

Dis­traught at los­ing his soul mate, Whibley did his best to stay busy by pro­mot­ing races and bury­ing him­self in his demo rides. “It was tough at first,” Whibley con­fessed. “But I had to keep go­ing for Colton.”

Just over a year af­ter the tragedy, his old friend and for­mer boss, Randy Hawkins, called from 10,000 miles away and of­fered “Whibs” a job train­ing the team’s young rac­ers. Once he was back on US soil, his three-year-old son Colton with him, the GNCC se­ries an­nounced a new 125 class, and Am­pro Yamaha Crew Chief Corey Mcdonald came up with the idea of putting Whibley back on the line, on a bike about one-quar­ter the dis­place­ment of the bike he was so suc­cess­ful on and so phys­i­cally well suited to. Hawkins was all for it—any­thing to help out his old friend.

“Paul has a lot to of­fer, and I thought he could be a big help to our new rid­ers by com­ing here and work­ing with them,” Hawkins said of the de­ci­sion to bring Whibley back to Amer­ica. “We con­sider Paul fam­ily, and I think he was look­ing for some­thing to keep him busy dur­ing this time of the year. This is their slow sea­son, so this was good for both of us.”

Ob­vi­ously, Hawkins has a lot of ad­mi­ra­tion for Whibley. “Of all the rac­ers I’ve spon­sored—char­lie Mullins, Barry Hawk, Ja­son Raines, Josh Strang—i’ve never seen any­one who worked harder than Paul,” Hawkins added. “Paul re­al­ized he might not be the most tal­ented guy lin­ing up on the front row, but he knew if he worked harder than any­one else, he could win at this level. And that’s what he did. So to be able to have him come back and train our new guys is in­valu­able.”

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