As the summer of 2016 rolls on, Honda Canada Racing has been tearing up the race tracks right across Canada. Whether it’s young Austin Watling in the amateur ranks, or Colton Facciotti in the pro class, Honda has been at the front of the pack. In the 1990’s it was Carl Vaillancourt and Marco Dube who rode a Honda to their Championships. From 2001 to 2006, it was Blackfoot Honda’s Jean Sebastien Roy and Dusty Klatt who reaped the rewards of riding red. Fast forward to 2016 and it’s the Honda Canada Fox GDR Racing Team of Colton Facciotti and Jeremy Medaglia looking to add to Honda’s rich history of success on the track. We would like to welcome Honda Canada as a proud new supporter of this Monday Gate Drop column. If you want to see all of Honda’s line up for 2016, just log onto www.motorcycle.honda.ca.
Good Morning and Happy Monday to everyone! I hope all of you had a great mid-August weekend in this great Country of ours. With only a few weeks remaining in the summer of 2016, now is the time to try do all those little things you’ve wanted to, but just haven’t had the time. In the Canadian motocross world, it’s now time to both reflect on the success of the Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals, and also look ahead to the 25th Annual Parts Canada TransCan which begins this week at Walton Raceway.
It was definitely a bitter sweet ending yesterday to the 2016 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals as almost everyone involved with the series was both happy and sad that it was round 10. They were happy simply because ten rounds from one coast of Canada to the other, and then halfway back again always ends up turning into a grind. With so many people both front and centre, as well as behind the scenes making this series happen from week to week, fatigue is bound to set in and when the final flag flew yesterday at the conclusion of the final MX1 moto, I’m sure a huge sigh was let out. With two new tracks added in 2016, as well as a couple of big name riders, this summer certainly brought a few unknowns to the series. However, last night as the sun was setting on the 2016 series, I believe it was a huge success! And with a few minor rule tweaks during the off-season, 2017 is looking as bright as ever on the pro national front.
As it was back in 2013 when long time US Series rider Brett Metcalfe reluctantly entered our series, and then ended up embracing our laid back Canadian lifestyle, Davi Millsaps was in the same boat this summer. He traveled north to compete in the MX1 class and to hear him speak on the podium yesterday at RJ’s as he held on to his son in one hand, and his #1 plate in the other, was truly special. Here’s a rider who came into Kamloops as a bit of an unknown, even though he’d recently won main events in SX, and not to mention a Lites SX title a decade ago. While no one on the planet doubted Millsaps speed, some were skeptical that he would be able to come to Canada and beat our series regulars in a 20 moto, grueling national series. Well, other than a few little hiccups Millsaps was the dominant rider right from the first gate drop in Kamloops. His speed was unmatched, his ability to win motos was unmatched also and when you add both up, Davi Millsaps is your 2016 MX1 Champion. After a few rounds out west Millsaps said that he wouldn’t be back in Canada next season, by round 7 he hinted to me that he would certainly be open to the idea of returning, and then yesterday (actually he mentioned it to me last weekend) he said that he really enjoyed his Northern summer and that he hopes to be back! Over the three months that he was here, our Canadian hospitality has definitely worked it’s magic on one of the most stubborn riders in our sport. Well done Canada!
This past summer was definitely an exciting one and as the riders and teams entered the final round at a different track than they had for two decades. All eyes were on RJ’s Motorports Park to see just what kind of host it would be. With a lot of personal history at RJ’s, all summer people were asking me what I thought the track would be like for round 10? I must admit that I was a little skeptical about how James Farrington and the crew at RJ’s would pull off a national again after not hosting one for so many years. Over the past few years, RJ’s hasn’t really even showed an interest in holding races, so I figured to jump back in the deep end with a pro national would be an awfully tough task. However, I will say that yesterday was a great success, both with the facility and the spectator turnout. From the moment the teams arrived on Friday the RJ’s facility looked great and with the help of Mother Nature on Saturday, by the time the boys took to the track for practice yesterday, the track was in perfect shape. I’m not sure if the final round will remain at RJ’s in 2017 and beyond, but with a few track changes, RJ’s seemed to work for everyone who was there. I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate James and his crew on a great job this past weekend. I hope hosting the final round has re energized them for years to come. With the 2016 series now a part of Canadian moto history (I can’t believe it’s over), let’s take a look at the top five riders in the MX1 class. Actually, over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at the top ten in both the MX1 and the MX2 series.
1. Davi Millsaps- KTM Thor Racing Team
As I mentioned above, Millsaps was without a doubt the best rider all summer long. On the harder packed tracks he was unbeatable and on the softer ones he adjusted his forward riding style and managed to get the job done. He controlled the MX1 series from the opening round and never let up. His first lap aggressiveness was a sight to be seen and no one will ever forget a few of his passes. Off the track he loosened up as the series went on and he really seem to enjoy his summer in Canada. I think it will tough for KTM Canada to get him back in 2017, but I hope for everyone’s sake that he returns to defend his MX1 title.
2. Matt Goerke- Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha Team
I’m not really sure what exactly happened to Matt Goerke this summer. When he was on, he was excellent but he also had some motos where you wondered what exactly was going on. He was obviously fast at Gopher Dunes and everyone saw his speed yesterday at RJ’s, but the points he gave away in Calgary and the first moto in Moncton really hurt him. During the off-season he will be racing AX again and I think this will once again help his raw speed. With Millsaps a maybe for next year, an emerging Kaven Benoit and a host of other top riders lining up, Goerke will need to be on top of his game if he wants another title.
3. Kaven Benoit- KTM Thor Racing Team
Very few people predicted a third overall for Kaven Benoit in 2016, and without Brett Metcalfe getting injured last weekend, this third would’ve been a fourth. But, even if Benoit had finished the series in fourth, that still would’ve been a very good year for the rookie MX1 rider. The simple fact is that Benoit knows how to race and how to be a good pro. He works hard and he’s figured out how to be consistent in this tough sport. I’ve really enjoyed watching Benoit race over the past few seasons as he’s been on quite a great roll. I’m sure that with both of his teammates winning titles this summer, the pressure was on Benoit to also perform. He certainly did and it will be interesting to see if KTM can keep his services for 2017? Next up for Benoit is the Walton invitational this coming weekend, the Ironman National in Indiana the following weekend, and then representing Team Canada in Italy.
4. Brett Metcalfe- Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha Team
There isn’t one person in the paddock who doesn’t have the utmost respect for Brett Metcalfe. When he crashed last weekend in Quebec, everyone felt horrible for him. After a slow start by his standards to the 2016 series, Metty punched and clawed his way back onto the podium and then into a battle for second overall with his teammate Matt Goerke. Along the way he won a few motos and got more and more comfortable with his Yamaha as the series went on. His crash was not only tough on his aging body, but also tough on his points as he slipped from second to fourth in the final series standings after missing the final round. Once he heals up from his recent injuries, I’m sure Metty has a busy off-season ahead of him as he prepares for yet another run at a Canadian MX1 title in 2017.
5. Mike Alessi- Monster Energy Alpinestar Kawasaki
Coming into the 2016 MX1 series most had Mike Alessi finishing a little higher than fifth overall. However, after taking half the series to get used to his new Kawasaki, Alessi had troubles getting back into the top three. At times his speed was just like the old Alessi, but whether it was his age or his unfamiliarity with his green bike, Alessi just never looked comfortable riding at the speed of the riders in front of him. With a season under his belt on the Kawasaki, look for him to be much better next year…if he comes back. Off the track I have to give him some props as he was a pleasure to deal with all summer long and I for one hope he returns. I’m sure Mike was expecting a little better than fifth overall, but with the level of speed at the front of the pack, he did ride well this season.
So there you have it, your top five MX1 riders from this summer. It’s quite the list of names at the front and that doesn’t include Tyler Medaglia who rode amazing in the east to secure 6th overall, and Colton Facciotti who had a miserable summer and fell to 10th. Also getting inside the top ten this summer were Cade Clason (7th), Keylan Meston (8th) and Morgan Burger in 9th, congratulations boys, you all rode great all summer.
So that’s a wrap on the 2016 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals. As always, the summer went by so fast and three months and ten rounds felt like a few weeks. Thank-you to all the riders for giving us amazing racing every weekend. Thank you to the teams for being so awesome to deal with and thank you to all the CMRC staff for making this series possible. Now it’s onto to the 25th Annual Parts Canada TransCan this week to watch our top amateur riders battle it out and then before we know it, 2017 will be here and we’ll do it all over again. Have a great week and good luck to everyone this week at Walton Raceway!