Welcome to 2017 and another glorious year in Canadian motocross. As we focus our attention on the Monster Energy Supercross Series for the first part of the year, it will be interesting to see how new Honda rider Ken Roczen fairs in his first season riding red. Ken Roczen, and his teammate Cole Seely will be racing the all-new 2017 CRF450R in Supercross and everyone at Honda couldn’t be more excited. Once the supercross series is complete, we’ll turn our attention to the Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals where the Honda Canada Fox GDR Racing Team will hit the track with their talented duo of Colton Facciotti and Dylan Wright. What an exciting 2017 we have ahead of us and we couldn’t do it without the support of Honda Canada Racing. Now it’s time for your weekly Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop.
Good day and Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend, and if you spent it in Canada, I trust that you found a way to stay warm. Thankfully, as we progress through January, each day is getting a little longer. Before we know it, spring will be here. Until then, I think we should all try and make the most out of winter.
This past weekend I made my way southwest to somewhat sunny California for Round 1 of the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series. Although each country in the motocross world has their own successful series, I think it’s safe to say that fans from right across this great planet of ours counts the days until Anaheim 1. With months of preparation by everyone involved in supercross, this series, with all due respect to every other series, really is the pinnacle of our sport.
As it usually is, the track at Anaheim 1 was fairly basic that didn’t have any sections to separate the riders. The qualifying times in practice were all really close with Musquin, Roczen, Dungey and Tomac all going fast. Most riders were doing all of the same things on the track, with the exception of a couple of things. During the morning track walk I happened to be standing on the same tabletop as Ken Roczen and his entourage while they spoke about the fastest way through the section. Roczen was saying that if the track held up that he could probably triple onto the tabletop. After I heard him say this, I glanced back to see exactly how far it would be to jump the distance he was referring to, and then land on the tabletop. It was a pretty long distance. While it didn’t look impossible, I knew there weren’t going to be too many riders attempting it. As it turned out, only Roczen tried it, and that was once during the final lap of his heat race. It looked really fast, but it must have been tough as he never jumped it again. I normally don’t do this, but since I was there I decided to break down the top five in the 450SX and tell you how each rider looked at the opening round
Ken Roczen -1st place- Honada
Heading into Round 1, King Kenny was definitely one of the favourites to not only win the opening round but also to be crowned the 2017 Champion when this series concludes in May. Roczen was fast right from the first lap of practice, and he looked very comfortable riding at that speed. His qualifying times were good, and you just knew that if he could get the holeshot in the main event, he was going to be pretty tough to beat. When the gate dropped for the main event, Roczen didn’t get the holeshot, but he was leading by the second corner. From there, the German rider put on an absolute riding clinic as he raced away to a 16 second lead and a main event win. He flew through the whoops, his corner speed was on a different level than everyone else, and he just rode as if he had something to prove. Roczen was the man to beat on Saturday and it will now be up to the rest of the riders to make the necessary adjustments heading into San Diego.
Ryan Dungey – 2nd place- KTM
I’m sure Dungey is a little bummed that by the end of the 20 minute +1 lap main event in Anaheim, he couldn’t even see Ken Roczen. However, during these opening rounds, second is almost as good as first, except for the bonuses that winning pays. Having been his friend, training partner, and teammate for a number of years, no one knows Ken Roczen as well as Ryan Dungey. Heading into Anaheim, I’m quite sure that Dungey and his trainer, Aldon Baker, have a plan for how to deal with Roczen’s predictable early series speed. In fact, I’m willing to bet all of the ridiculous amount of money that I spent this past weekend at the Starbucks at the airport, that Roczen winning on Saturday night played right into Team Dungey’s hands. With all of Roczen’s speed, style and flair, his biggest weakness is that he’s not Ryan Dungey. Meaning, that if he continues to win and lead the points race, as the series progresses, Roczen will begin to feel pressure like he never has before. I cannot wait to see how this story line unfolds in the next few months.
Marvin Musquin – 3rd place- KTM
To see Marvin Musquin cross the Anaheim finish line in third place was really no surprise at all. Musquin was fast all day on his Red Bull KTM. While he will probably win a main event very soon, once the gate dropped for the main event, Musquin appeared to struggle just a little on the slippery track. He did his best to hold off his teammate Dungey, but it was clear that he couldn’t ride at the leader’s pace without making a lot of errors. I can see Musquin scoring a lot of podiums in 2017 if he can stay healthy. I’m sure he’s just trying to get through these western rounds in one piece before he attacks the east on tracks that favour the Frenchman much more.
Jason Anderson – 4th place- Husqvarna
I’m not sure how everyone isn’t a fan of Jason Anderson. Every time he’s on the track, he’s going wide open. His raw aggression is unmatched in the entire field, and when he decides to pass someone, you just know it’s only a matter of time. Even on the slippery Anaheim track, Anderson rode like a man possessed, coming from behind to finish fourth. Along the way, he forced his way past Cole Seely and Eli Tomac, and if the main event was a little longer, I’m sure he would’ve gotten Musquin. If Roczen and Anderson get out front together in the next few weeks, buckle up and hold on because it’s going to be fun to watch. As the series moves on and the tracks become more and more difficult, a rider’s familiarity will be of utmost importance. Anderson is one of the riders who knows his bike very well, and what it does in every situation and every condition. Ken Roczen isn’t in the same boat and that could make things very interesting. After watching Anderson ride on Saturday evening, I would put him in the category as one of the riders capable of winning on any given night.
Eli Tomac – 5th place- Kawasaki
For the second year in a row, Eli Tomac stormed out of the gate at the opening round and found himself with a great chance to win the race. Tomac was fast all day in Anaheim and looked very comfortable on his 2017 Kawasaki. He easily won his heat race, and when the gate dropped on the main event, Tomac was second and had his eyes on leader Ken Roczen. Much to his credit, Tomac was trying different things on the race track in hopes of reeling in Roczen. However, with very few technical sections on the A1 track, there was very little Tomac, or anyone, could do to make up time. It all came down to corner speed, really, and no one could match Roczen speed through the turns. I’m not sure if Tomac pushed so hard during laps 5 through 10 that he got tight, but it was around the halfway point of the race that Tomac began feeling the effects of arm pump. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a top pro rider, we all know that when arm pump sets in, you’re pretty much finished. Either way, Tomac looked very fast on Saturday and should challenge for wins in the coming weeks.
Chad Reed – 20th place- Yamaha
I thought I would give Chad Reed an honourable mention as he’s a fan favourite, and he’s friggin’ two months shy of being 35-years-old. However, the only person those facts don’t impress is Reed himself as I’m sure that’s the last thing on his mind. Reed wants and feels like he can still win races, and while he may win one or two in 2017, Saturday night was not his best race. Whether it was nerves, stress or the easy track, Reed never looked confident from the opening lap of practice. Although he had the 6th fastest time in his second practice session, and was very fast through the whoops, he lacked a little corner speed, which cost him at least a second per lap.
All hopes of a great finish in the main event were erased when Reed got an awful jump off the gate when it dropped. I’m not sure what happened off the gate but Reed’s jump was so bad that it looked as if he had started in neutral. The fact that he was able to sneak through the first turn and turn a really bad start into a top ten position on the opening lap was a testament to his experience and creativity. However, it would then take him almost 10 laps to really feel comfortable, but by that time Reed had lost a lot of time to the top 5 group of riders. He then tried to force his way past the slightly slower Weston Peick, but Peick held strong and Reed’s bike would take the worst of the collision. After that incident, Reed was forced to call it a night and would suffer a DNF. As I said, Reed may win a main event in 2017 as the tracks get more and more technical, but he will need a lot of things to fall into place for that to happen. I think it’s amazing that he’s still out there and I just enjoy watching him ride.
Well, that is it for Anaheim 1 and the long anticipated opening round of the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series. It will be very interesting to see how the racing unfolds as the tracks get more difficult and the riders get things figured out. Obviously, the main goal of everyone is to just get through Round 1 in one piece, and then move onto the next race. The pace Ken Roczen demonstrated on Saturday will be difficult to maintain for 17 rounds, however, it will sure be fun to watch him try.
I hope everyone has a great week, and again, I hope you stay warm. It was good to see the Canadian Motorcycle Show tour begin this past weekend in Calgary and Toronto. The MMIC Show moves to Edmonton this weekend. Here is the website for all the information you need – www.edmontonmotorcycleshow.ca.