Good day and welcome to another edition of the Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop. I trust everyone had a great weekend doing whatever it was you did. As you probably heard on the news, the weather in Southern Ontario this best week felt more like April than it did late February. On Monday, Gopher Dunes even opened for a few days of riding, and by the sounds of things the place was packed. Judging the forecast for the next few weeks, this little burst of spring was sadly short lived. However, it was great while it lasted and hopefully it got people excited for the nice weather that will hopefully be here to stay very soon.
This past weekend was the first-ever Moto Fest in Atlanta at the soon to be closed Georgia Dome. The first annual Moto Fest consisted of the Amsoil AX on Friday night, followed by the Monster Energy Energy SX on Saturday, and a full amateur day yesterday. Three big days of racing under the roof of one of the most famous stadiums in the south. The Georgia Dome opened in 1992 replacing Fulton County Stadium, and the building was an instant success. I only raced the Atlanta SX once in 1994 and it was quite an experience. The Atlanta SX in 1994 took place just a few weeks after the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills in Superbowl XXVIII in that very same building. I remember arriving in Atlanta that year and there were still banners and other memories of the big game still all around. I guess that will probably be the closest I will ever get to going to a Superbowl. Anyway, back in those days if you had pre-entered the event you were allowed to show up on Friday and enjoy two full practice sessions. Of course, all of the factory riders had pre-entered so pretty much every fast rider was there, as well as some lucky privateers.
Racing SX back then for privateers was just as you can imagine it to be. Our bikes were mostly stock, so before the gate dropped it was tough to compete with the factory boys, just as it is these days. The biggest difference back then was that the factory two-strokes were tuned to perfection. Their jetting was perfect and they put out much more horsepower than any privateer bike, especially in the 125 class. Nowadays with EFI, all of the bikes are tuned great, but the factory bikes are much lighter than a privateer bike so I think that is where they get most of their advantage. Being a non-factory rider is tough in supercross, regardless of the year or type of bike. At least in 1994, we got more time to learn the track and get comfortable. It’s hard to believe that the Georgia Dome is closing its doors for good, it’s not even as old as the Rogers Centre.
I’m not going to go into too many details from Atlanta, other than it was great to see Chris Blose win his first AX of the season on Friday night. Blose was brought up by the Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha Team last fall to race the Canadian AX Tour, which he won handily. He is without a doubt an AX god, and it was cool to see him and his team win the biggest event of the 2017 Amsoil AX series. It was also great to watch Ryan Dungey silence all those who didn’t think he could win races again, as he took home the victory in the 450SX class. I thought the track was awful once again, but I guess everyone had to ride it so it didn’t make too much difference. It was cool to see Chad Reed regain some of the speed we saw from him in Glendale. I think if he hadn’t crashed he might have been able to finish on or near the podium. Hopefully Reed can bring that same speed and aggression to Toronto this weekend. As I’ve said before, if he can run near the front of the pack, the Rogers Centre crowd will go through the roof. Finally, we got our first look at our best Supercross rider as Cole Thompson made his 2017 debut in the 250SX East class. From what I saw on TV, and from what I heard from people who were there, Cole looked great in Atlanta and certainly felt good about his riding. His start in the main event wasn’t the best, but perhaps with it being his first race of 2017, maybe it was good that he was able to start in the back and race forward, rather than start up front and be forced into a pace that he wasn’t comfortable racing at yet. In these next few weeks, look for Cole to get better starts and be in the mix for some top ten finishes. He will definitely be a fan favourite this weekend in Toronto.
So as I mentioned, this weekend is the biggest race of the year in Canada and one that we’ve all been waiting for. Over the past few years the Toronto SX has become so much more than a dirt bike race in downtown Toronto. With parties, get togethers and just generally so many industry people coming into town to watch the race, the SX has become just part of the weekend show. It all begins on Friday night at the very popular DMX Party at Houston’s. As they say, be there or be square. You might just run into one of your favourite SX stars.
With the Toronto SX being such an important event for Canadian motocross, we decided to do a story on the 1989 Toronto SX in the next issue of MXP. If you don’t remember, the 1989 Toronto SX was a two night affair with a very cool amateur event during the day on Saturday. Although the pro racing was CMA sanctioned, the amateur day was made possible by the OMA. And what was the OMA you ask? Well, back in 1988 a few race dads in Ontario got the idea that amateur racing was being grossly neglected in Ontario by the CMA. In a nutshell, they started the OMA to run amateur racing in Ontario under the CMA umbrella. This is done in the USA as amateur racing is divided into districts and each one looks after their own interests, but still under the AMA. It had worked for years in the USA so the OMA wanted to do the same in Ontario. After numerous meetings with the CMA, which included yelling and even a few threats made to the excited OMA brain trust, it became clear that the CMA had no interest in changing the way things were run at the time. The winter between 1988 and 1989 was a volatile time in Ontario motocross and in the end the OMA ran just one race, the amateur day at the 1989 Toronto SX. It was patterned after the amateur day at the Pontiac SX, and if I remember correctly, all of the riders had a great time. Sadly that was it for the OMA as their enthusiasm was quickly extinguished by the resistance they received from the CMA. It was weird because under the OMA’s proposal all of the riders still had to have a CMA licence and race under their rules. All the OMA wanted to do was promote the races in Ontario and make sure the riders’ best interests were being looked after. Since my dad was a part of this movement I remember it very well; he still has the original OMA sign hanging in his garage as a memory of what might’ve been.
In keeping with the Toronto SX, our VIP ticket giveaway in conjunction with Canadian Kawasaki Motors has come to a conclusion and we have two lucky winners. Paul Bingham of Sarnia and Bilal Khan of Oakville have both won 4 VIP tickets to this weekend’s big SX, as well as some very cool Kawasaki swag. Congratulations to them and I’m sure they’re very excited for the race. Thank you to Canadian Kawasaki Motors for helping us out with this exciting contest and to everyone that entered. Best of luck next time.
Finally, we want to send a big congratulations out to multi-time Canadian MX Champion Carl Vaillancourt who this past weekend was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Carl is certainly a deserving inductee as he was one of best riders this Country has ever produced. Not only did he have success in Canada, but he also had a lot success racing in the USA, something very few Canadian riders can say. Carl was a rider that I looked up to when I turned pro, and after racing him for a number of years, we became very good friends. He retired in 1995 still at the top of his game, and his final national win in front of his hometown fans in Ulverton will go down as one of the most dominant performance I have ever seen. Congratulations Carl, welcome to the Hall of Fame.
In closing, it was just brought to my attention that sadly all of the KJSC 50cc bikes were stolen this past weekend in Atlanta. With there being another KJSC race this weekend in Toronto, KTM Canada and KTM USA are combining efforts to make sure all of the kids have new bikes for this weekend. Hopefully all the bikes will be recovered soon in the Atlanta area and returned to KTM. I hope everyone has a great week and I can’t wait to see you all this weekend in Toronto