By Danny Brault
Photos by James Lissimore
Is Canada’s Capital city of Ottawa, Ontario becoming the ‘Capital of Canadian Motocross’ as well? It seems that way after the action and response we saw from racers, fans and the MX101 staff at last weekend’s Sand Del Lee event, Round 6 of the Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals. Let’s start with the track and facility: every weed was whacked, every banner and stake neatly lining the course and a beautifully laid out vendor row and ‘off track’ entertainment (two beer tents, woohoo!). Then there was the $700 raised towards Team Canada’s effort for the 2014 Motocross of Nations in Latvia. Awesome support from the folks in Eastern Ontario!
Since 2006, when Sand Del Lee hosted their first round of the Canadian Nationals, it’s obvious that a lot of heart and sweat goes into this event. Not to say other tracks don’t take a lot of pride, but SDL is right there with the best of them in Canada. We don’t have official numbers to report yet, but I’ve been going to SDL since the very first one and there’s no doubt it was the busiest one ever. Fans got their money’s worth, with awesome weather, great racing in all four motos and the ‘Hot Cream Holes’ were out of this world!
Let’s flip back through some of James Lissimore’s best images from the 2014 Ottawa Motocross National and relive the action….
LIFE IS ALL ABOUT CHOICES: And one of the biggest choices for race teams is which tire to use … do you go with the full-on sand scoop, as shown here, or go with a more intermediate pattern, since Sand Del Lee does pack up underneath the loose stuff? Most opt for the paddle as the starting line is tilled down deep, and since it’s 95 percent of a race, riders are not willing to give up an inch in the first corner.
LET’S GET IT STARTED IN HERE! With a packed house, handful of hometown heroes and excellent weather, Ottawa fans were treated to one of the best nationals this summer at Sand Del Lee. Eye candy was out in full force as usual as well.
Bobby Kiniry’s Sand Del Lee experience in 2014 was a lot like his time in 2008, when he was riding on an OTSFF Suzuki and DNF’d both motos. This year, it wasn’t quite as bad but the first moto was a painful one. After going down on lap and getting up in last, Kiniry charged up to 16th but then came to a halt when his YZ decided to take a nap. The second moto saw Kiniry go from sixth to tenth after a crashing a few laps in. Normally contending for the title, Kiniry is back in 7th in the points. It’s an uphill battle to score a series podium finish, but if anyone can do it, it’s this hard charging New Yorker.
SECOND’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Most would be more than happy with a second-overall finish in this year’s competitive MX2 class, but not Vince Friese. The Smartop MotoConcepts is fighting hard to cut down Kaven Benoit’s points lead, which was 8 points after Gopher Dunes. With Benoit taking the overall win (2-1) and Friese finishing second at SDL (4-2) that increases Benoit’s lead to 15 points. It wouldn’t taken much for things to flip around, but with four races left, Friese needs to limit every point loss, especially with Benoit preparing to race on two of his home province’s tracks (Deschambault & Ulverton) over the next three weeks.
HE’D BE THIRD, IF IT WERE CANADIANS ONLY: Dylan Kaelin continues to show that he’s the ‘real deal’ against the big boys in the MX1 class. After a miserable, body banging weekend at Gophes Dunes, Kaelin took the week off to heal up and regroup in SDL. It worked. Despite feeling a little “off” in practice, the Yamaha rider put it together for 7-7 and 6th overall. He sits 8th in points (and third Canadian).
SURPRISE, SURPRISE: We know that Ontario’s Nathan Bles can ride a bike, but with very limited training and not much racing this spring/ summer, nobody really expected to see Bles even race a national. Well, good thing he decided to join the fray as he’s put in two top-10 results at Gopher Dunes and SD on his KTM 450 SX-F. Last Sunday, his biggest highlight wasn’t the overall result (a 9th is good) but hanging tight with Medaglia, Facciotti and Alessi during the opening laps of the first 450 moto. Bles didn’t have the strength to hold on for the full 35 minutes, but he showed he has the speed and talent; now he just needs the fitness and time on a bike.
HOMETOWN HEARTACHE: Neither Jeremy Medaglia (4) or Dylan Wright (34) were able to get it together in front of their hometown crowd at SDL. Both had speed and were putting down the lap times, but crashes and bikes troubles kept them from a podium or win. Medaglia was able to put his Monster Energy Leading Edge Kawasaki onto the box in the first moto, but failed to finish the second moto after DNFing with bike troubles. The story wasn’t much different for Wright; a fifth in moto one and DNF in the second. Fans were hoping to see paint rubbing materialize in moto one, when Wright and Medaglia were racing close together, but they kept it clean for the most part.
DIGGING DEEP: Sand Del Lee prepares riders well for this Sunday’s Deschambault National, as it too features a mix of sand with a harder, clay base.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? Is Tyler Medaglia giving Mike Alessi the stare-down here? I’m not sure, but I hope so – who doesn’t enjoy some “healthy hate” between top racers!
ROOKIE MISTAKE: Sitting 10th place in your very first professional motocross racing series is great, but not for the ultra competitive Dylan Wright. The MX101 Yamaha isn’t shy to say that he’s expecting to win–and it would have made for a heartwarming story if it had came during his hometown national at SDL. He hasn’t won one of these things yet, but Wright belongs right there with Wentland, Medaglia, Friese, Maffenbeier, Benoit, and the rest of the ‘vets.’
CANADA VS USA: Mike Alessi has forever been nailing holeshot after holeshot in the US and abroad. Canada’s Tyler Medaglia could be considered our ‘Holeshot King’ as he’s normally out front no matter which class or bike he’s on. At this point however, Alessi remains the one to beat to the first corner in this year’s Canadian Nationals.
REDEUX: After an okay weekend at Gopher Dunes, Josh Hill kicked it up a gear at SDL, finishing fourth overall and even passed Tyler Medaglia late in the second moto for third. Not an easy thing to do at Medaglia’s home track. We have yet to see Hill really challenge for a win, but the likable kid is a blast to watch and is only 13 points out of third in the series. My bet is we see him grab a win or fight for one at the jumpy River Glade track in Moncton, New Brunswick.
GO AHEAD AND SMILE: The last time we saw Colton Facciotti at Round 6, it was 2011 and he was riding a Blackfoot Yamaha. Injuries suck, but that’s in the past for the calm and cool “Lightning Bolt Colt!” He and the GDR Troy Lee Designs Honda Team are fitting together perfectly, as shown by his third Overall Win at SDL last Sunday. It’s true, Colt did get a bit of gift thrown his way with Alessi losing a handlebar grip and slowing down enough to let Colton go by for his fifth moto win of the season. As they say, luck comes from good preparation and Colton and the GDR team are prepared.
BONUS MARKS: For finishing as the Top Canadian at SDL, Facciotti was also awarded SDL’s Dale Argue Memorial Cup.
DOWN TO THE WIRE: I think we’re going to see the MX2 championship go right down to the final moto at Walton, between these two warriors right here: KTM Canada’s Kaven Benoit and MotoConcepts Vince Friese. The two-stroke is proving to be a good choice for Benoit, as he finished second at Gopher Dunes and then grabbed the overall at SDL. Friese had a good weekend, but not good enough and his points deficient went from 8 to 15 points. It’s going to be a madhouse in Quebec this Sunday if these two get out front with Benoit’s local fans on the sidelines!
BIGGEST YET? Many are saying that this year’s SDL Ottawa Motocross National is the most well attended of this year’s Canadian Nationals–and in the event’s eight-year history. The MX101 crew put on a marketing push and it appears to have paid off. Kudos!
BUSY WEEKEND: Every time you looked for #27 Jesse Wentland, it seemed that he was nose down in a battle two or more riders, going at it for the third place position. He had the speed to win, but Wentland couldn’t get free to get chase after the leaders.
WORK IN PROGRESS: When asked what he needs more of to get in the hunt with Alessi, Facciotti and Medaglia, Teddy Maier commented that he is struggling with suspension set-up. He says the Monster Energy Leading Edge Kawasaki Team did lots of testing before the season started, but he’s still not feeling 100 percent comfortable on the bike. Maier’s been in the top 5 every weekend, except Kamloops, and sits fourth in the MX1 series.