Parts Unlimited Off-road Motorcycle and ATV Nationals, Round 1/Winter Nationals, Round 8 (finale): Johnny Signs Hill Jack Cross-country National
All Duvall in Indiana
By Mark Kariya
Am-Pro Yamaha’s Thad Duvall put an end to the Paul Whibley era in the Parts Unlimited Off-road Motorcycle and ATV Nationals by winning the Johnny Signs Hill Jack Cross-country National in Medora, Indiana, which served as both the first round of the established ‘summer’ series and the finale of the inaugural Winter Nationals.
After battling with Whibley, four-time series champion Jimmy Jarrett and new Pro Jordan Ashburn during the first half of the race, Duvall took control in the final hour while attrition decimated the lead group. Jarrett went out with a smashed radiator after hitting a tree, but he was uninjured and took to manning the pit board for JG Off-road/GEICO Powersports/Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Scott Watkins who had a slow start but found himself steadily gaining ground on the lead pack.
A small crash and other issues caused Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Ashburn to lose contact, though he remained in the top echelon. For Whibley, things started going bad when he hit something that bent his shifter, leaving him stuck in second gear aboard his Am-Pro Yamaha WR450F. After a quick pit stop to attempt repairs, he discovered he was stuck in first gear–okay for the really tight stuff but nowhere near ideal for a pinned-in-fifth rolling straightaway along one grassy powerline trail–so he returned to the pits, finally got a new lever installed and rejoined the race. Though he’d lost quite a bit of ground, being able to use all five ratios let him make it up quickly. He worked back up to third and closing on Watkins, but bent the shifter again. Ironically, it was stuck in second gear again, but late on the last lap, it jumped into fifth. That was too much for the overly abused clutch which finally gave up on the final climb, leaving a frustrated Whibley to push his bike to the finish where he’d be credited with sixth place.
Meanwhile, Duvall waltzed away, putting down consistent fast laps and enjoying the virgin terrain of the Reynolds Family Farm on a great day for racing. ‘I kept putting my head down and charging, and it was a good day,’ he said. The winner completed 11 laps in two hours, 13 minutes and 18 seconds.
Watkins enjoyed a good result as well, coming from behind for second place in 2:15:59 while Ashburn completed the podium finishers in 2:18:33. Kawasaki-mounted privateers Adam Bonneur and Kenneth Gilbert earned fourth and fifth, respectively, and were the final racers on the same lap as Duvall. Despite his problems, two-time and defending series champ Whibley earned sixth (his first OMA defeat since his runner-up finish at the 2008 finale) followed by Lite A riders Michael Williams and Chris Douglas, 30-39 A winner Steve Leivan and Lite A third-placer Derek Spangler.
It wasn’t a good day for the Winter National regulars. Shane Klimek, who’d wrapped up the Pro championship at the previous round, seized his RM250 after four laps to earn 10th-place points. Husaberg-mounted Harvey Whitaker, the scourge of the 40-49 A division who won the class six times in a row and earned overall series championship honors, bowed this time to Pete Redel in that Senior category.
The series resumes in two weeks in Hanging Limb, Tennesse.
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