River Ranch, Fla. - Three hours of rough, sandy whooped out trails could not separate Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Title contenders Paul Whibley and Charlie Mullins. They battled down to the finish-and into sheer exhaustion-at the opening round of the 2012 season, the Moose Racing Westgate River Ranch GNCC in Florida.
Ultimately Am-Pro Yamaha Racing’s Whibley, who finished a close second to Mullins in the 2011 title chase, grabbed the win by just six tenths of a second. Mullins, completely spent, collapsed off of his FMF KTM as he crossed the finish line in second. Fast behind them came XC2 Pro Lites winner Steward Baylor on his KTM 250 two-stroke. Much pre-season buzz centered around the 17-year-old Baylor’s attempt to win a race overall on his 250, and his Florida performance did not disappoint.
Last year, Mullins scored the first GNCC Title for an American-born rider since 2004. This year he appears to be up against stiff overseason competition again, with New Zealand’s Whibley joined by another Kiwi, WMR/KTM’s Rory Mead, who finished a strong third in the XC1 class and fourth in overall time behind Baylor.
Whibley grabbed the $250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award with Mullins close in tow. Whibley established himself early on and set the pace against a varied field of competitors. Riders such as Mullins, Mead, FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell and Florida favorite Garrett Edmisten fought for the lead, but Whibley responded to each challenge.
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