Good day and welcome to another edition of the Honda Canada Monday Gate Drop. I hope everyone had a great weekend either at the track or just relaxing. Honda Canada and MXP would also like to say that we hope all of the special moto moms out there had a great Mother’s Day! Even though motocross is an individual sport, no young rider can succeed without a team of people helping them get to the starting line. One of the most important links in the chain is dear old mom. In most cases, our moms are a behind the scenes taking care of all the little things to help make a race day run as smoothly as possible. This past weekend we celebrated all of the moms out there who are there through the good times and the bad times.
Well, onto the news of the week in this exciting sport that we call motocross. This past weekend my family and I had a decision to make about where to race? Our first race of choice was the Loretta Lynn’s Qualifier at the famous Baja Acres track in Michigan. Not that we are on the “Road to Loretta’s” or anything, we just thought that it would be a cool event to attend as anytime you can race at Baja Acres it’s a good thing. Those plans didn’t work out as we at MXP Magazine had our latest issue going to press on Friday evening so I had to stick around my computer to make sure that process ran as it should. For Baja, we would’ve had to be at the track early Saturday morning, and since it’s a four hour drive, that wasn’t going to work out.
We decided that we still wanted to race, so at 5am on Sunday morning we loaded up and made the two hour and twenty-minute drive to Muttco Mountain and the MMRS/AMO event. This track was supposed to have a race last weekend but it got cancelled, and then Gopher Dunes was supposed to have a race this weekend, however, it got cancelled and moved to Muttco. I honestly have never seen Mother Nature wreak this much havoc on a spring race schedule in Ontario. Even yesterday she once again pulled out her claws and gave us rain, hail, thunder and lightening. Fortunately, Muttco is a sand track and it held up pretty good, all things considered.
The track at Muttco is a pretty cool design with multiple elevation changes and some cool jumps. As I said, the surface is made up of sand that got very, very choppy yesterday. Even though we were parked about five miles from the track, I could hear the announcer all day and there didn’t appear to be any major injuries yesterday. All in all, it was a pretty successful day of racing on a track that we had never been to before. It was also my first time at a MMRS event and from what I experienced yesterday, everything ran smooth and they did a great job of keeping the program rolling, even with the intermittent rain storms.
Now, I didn’t race yesterday, only my son did and that was busy enough. Every parent knows that with all of the track time and bike prep, race days move along pretty quickly and there isn’t too much free time for us parents. However, yesterday, one of my son’s races was just before the Cash Class race, or the fastest class of the day if you want to call it by another name. At the front of the pack in the Cash Class were two riders who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried. The two riders that I’m talking about are youngster Austin Watling and over 30 legend Kyle Keast. Now, both riders have been going to the track for a long time and both have awesome families who are a joy to talk to at any point during the day. However, that is where the similarities end as not only does their age separate them, but also how they ride their dirt bikes. This was very evident in the motos that I watched yesterday as Watling was out front and riding his GDR Honda with the grace and precision of a brain surgeon. Close behind him was the much older and hard charging Keast, hitting every berm and corner as it was his last, no doubt wishing the motos were 35 minutes long instead of 15.
For those that were lucky enough to be in attendance yesterday, watching those two definitely gave you a show of contrasting styles and techniques on a race track. To the trained eye, you can see just by watching how different riders like Watling and Keast approached the track with their line choices and throttle control on their big 450s. It’s hard to find fault in either approach as both riders get around a race track at a very high speed. However, for all of the young riders out there who might be apprehensive about wanting to race a 450 because of their size and power, all you have to do is watch Austin Watling and the way he’s currently riding his Honda CRF450R. As you get older and stronger, then a rider can vary a little more to the Keast approach (although I’m sure Keast would love to be a little smoother, the same way I’d love to ride a little more like Kyle Keast), but for kids that are still teenagers and still growing, go and get a 450 and learn how to ride it smooth. Yes, these bikes are powerful, but with EFI you can detune them a lot. You can also tailor the suspension to your weight and strength. I think everyone will agree that proper set-up is a must with regards to a 450F, regardless of a rider’s age or skill level. Once that is complete, go out and practice, and I as I said, learn how to ride it. A 450 doesn’t like to rev out as the bike is a lot more stable when the RPMs are kept low. If you ever have had the pleasure of watching Matt Goerke or Colton Facciotti race at the rough Gopher Dunes National, it’s amazing to see just how fast they’re going, but how little noise their bikes are making. It’s all about carrying speed and riding the bike correctly. I loved sitting there yesterday watching Watling and Keast and their two contrasting styles on the rough Muttco track. If Keast can start like Watling and ride just a little smoother this summer, then he will be our next Loretta Lynn’s Champion, and if Watling can continue to build his strength, speed and learn to enjoy suffering the way Keast has done for so many years, then he will no doubt be one of our future MX1 Canadian Champions. For now, though, it’s just really cool when they come together on the same track. Different styles, different generations, battling each other on the same playing field; that just makes you love sports even more.
As we head into the second half of May we now look forward to one of the biggest Ontario events of our race season. Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2017 New Era Moto Park Cup kick off this coming weekend at the famous track in Chatsworth, ON. Over the past few years, the MP Cup events have gotten bigger and bigger in popularity. Thanks in part to Iain Hayden and his MP crew, customer service has been brought to a new level at the these events, and I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the opening round this weekend. It all gets underway this Friday with an open practice prior to the start of racing on Saturday. I also saw on Social Media this morning that Matt Goerke is up at MP testing this week, so hopefully he’ll stick around and put on a show this weekend!
I will of course be at Moto Park this weekend, but for the first time in years I don’t think I will be racing. I think I might be too tired as tomorrow evening I fly to the KTM HQ in Austria to test ride their new direct injection two-stroke. For 2018, I believe the direct injection will only be offered in KTM’s off-road models so that is what we’ll be riding in Austria on Thursday. This willbe an incredible but short trip overseas, and since I don’t arrive home until late on Friday evening, I’m assuming I will be a little tired this weekend to race. It’s probably best to leave my bike at home. However, I’m sure I will have some great stories to tell about how this awesome new bike works.
I hope everyone has a great week, and again, I hope all you moms out there had a great Mother’s Day yesterday. We will see you all at Moto Park this weekend for the 2017 New Era Moto Park Cup and hopefully what will be an awesome long weekend. Thanks again to Honda Canada Racing for their continued support of the sport in Canada and this Monday Gate Drop.