This week’s Monday Gate Drop is once again brought to you by the fine folks at Honda Canada Racing. This week Honda is releasing their all-new 2017 CRF450 at Monster Mountain Raceway in Alabama and MXP Magazine will be there. This exciting new motorcycle is exactly what the doctor ordered for Honda, and with top riders like Ken Roczen in the USA, and Colton Facciotti in Canada ready to race next year, 2017 is no doubt going to be an exciting year. We’d like to thank Honda Canada Racing for their continued support of this Monday Gate Drop column, as well as this sport in Canada.
As I mentioned above, my big adventure this week is jumping on a Delta Airlines flight on Thursday to head to Alabama and the Monster Mountain MX Park. Honda is releasing their all-new 2017 CRF450 to all of the North American media. Honda Canada even invited their top rider Colton Facciotti to join us as we test out this new and exciting motorcycle. On Friday, we will make our way out to the awesome Monster Mountain MX track to spend the day riding, bench racing and generally having one of the best days of our lives. As we witnessed this past this weekend with Ken Roczen, this new bike appears to work pretty good. Stay tuned next week for photos and a complete report on how this new Honda works.
By now, I’m sure all of you know what went down in Las Vegas on Saturday at the 2016 Monster Energy Cup. I got home from the Barrie AX just in time to turn on the television to see Ken Roczen and his new Honda cart-wheeling down the track. You don’t see the top riders in the world get a section as wrong as Roczen did on Saturday night. First he messed up the corner before the section, then he tried going double-triple (which he probably didn’t do too many times that day), and then from there it just got worse. While I’ve never raced in Las Vegas, I have walked the Monster Energy Cup track before and I couldn’t believe how hard packed the dirt was. Not only did Roczen get lucky by not having his bike land on him, but to even crash on that highway-like dirt and still get up and walk away is a real testament to just how fit and flexible these athletes are.
In watching the replay of that second main event, I think what might have attributed to Roczen’s crash was the added pressure that he was feeling from Eli Tomac during that lap. I’m sure that Roczen saw that Tomac was starting to find his flow by the little ground he made up. With his lead shrinking, Roczen might have felt the need to still try to triple through that section, even after making a mistake in the corner before. Whatever happened, I’m sure Roczen now wishes he would’ve taken his time through that section and deal with Tomac’s advances later. It was pretty impressive that Roczen was able to come back to win the final main event of the night. I’m also willing to bet that he was very sore when he woke up on Sunday morning…very, very sore! King Kenny is also supposed to be in Alabama this week to ride the new Honda, so maybe he’ll talk about how it all went down.
While a few of the top supercross riders gathered in Las Vegas, a number of Ontario AX riders made their way to Barrie on Saturday for Round 2 of the Canadian National AX Tour powered by Rockstar Energy. With the opening round last week being held in an outdoor arena, Round 2 was moved inside to the very nice Molson Centre in Barrie, ON. Moving this series to a more traditional AX setting made the rider turnout and the racing that much better. With more entries in almost every class, Round 2 was a huge success, in my opinion.
In the Pro classes, the racing at the front of the pack was between the same cast of riders as Colton Facciotti, Chris Blose and Steve Mages all battled for wins. On Saturday night it was very evident just how much Colton’s AX riding had improved in just one week. While he did manage to win some heat races, as well as the 20 laps Clash for Cash last weekend in Sarnia, he sometimes looked a little rusty. However, right from his first lap in practice lap inside the Molson Centre, Colton appeared to feel much more at home. When the gate dropped for the main events, Colton was out front and riding aggressively. In fact, during the Lites main event, Colton actually took out Kyle Keast on his way to a hard earned second place. Colton’s aggressive riding was definitely exciting to watch, and that is why I think that doing races like these are good for him and his racing program. It has been pretty fun to watch Colton navigate his big 450 around these tight AX tracks en route to two Clash for Cash victories in a row and the AX Tour points lead. Sadly, unless something changes in the next week, I don’t think Colton is heading out west to finish off the series as the costs are just too much. This will open the door for riders like Chris Blose, Steve Mages and possibly Cole Thompson, who is slated to head west for the final three rounds.
It was also announced on Saturday that this weekend’s round in Moose Jaw, SK has been cancelled. Moving forward, the plan is to take this weekend off, go to Penticton as planned, and then hopefully finish up with a double header in Calgary. This really makes the most sense as the facility in Calgary is a perfect setting for AX, so why not have two nights of racing there?
Well, that is it for me this week. As I mentioned before, please stay tuned for a report on the new 2017 CRF450 as we will be one of the first publications to ride this new bike later this week. Don’t forget that the opening round of the Future West AX series begins this coming weekend in Armstrong, BC. That series looks like it will be action packed as well. I hope everyone has a great week, and please ride