Good day and welcome to another edition of the Honda Canada Racing sponsored Monday Gate Drop. This summer, Honda Canada Racing and its GDR Fox Racing Team will be looking to take home both the MX2 and MX1 titles in the 2017 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals. With the talented duo of Dylan Wright and Colton Facciotti, Honda Canada Racing will be making frequent trips to the podium in 2017.
To begin this week’s column, I would like to first say that I hope everyone out had a great Easter weekend. Whether you were out riding, spending time with family, or doing both at the same time, Happy Easter MXP readers. This year the Easter weekend means that we have reached the mid-point of the month of April. While spring may be holding off in some parts of this great country, our 2017 race season is now underway. In Southern Ontario, Gopher Dunes kicked off another year of racing with its first event yesterday. The folks at AMO took over the roughest track in Canada on Sunday. For me personally, it was not only cool to witness some great racing again, it was also incredible to see so many members of my motocross family again. Each year is the same thing: kids are taller and faster, bikes are fresh, trailers are bigger, and everyone is motivated for the new season. It’s such a wonderful time of the year!! This coming weekend the racing is back at Gopher Dunes as the CMRC begins its 28th season of racing in Southern Ontario. As Randy Collins used to say over the loud speaker at the old Hully Gully track, “Pitter Patter, let’s get at ‘er!”
From one rough and sandy track to another, I received a very interesting call last week regarding a very cool event that is being planned for late August in Austin, Manitoba. Justyn McCabe called to say that he is trying to put together an event that will be like nothing we have ever seen. The old Austin track is now a golf course, so what Justyn is planning is to get as many old Canadian pros together as possible to come out on the final weekend of August to first play in a golf tournament on the Saturday, and then compete in a race the following day on a track that will actually use part of the golf course. There will also be an invitational race for current pros who obviously have never had a chance to race in the famous Austin sand. How many times as motocross riders have we driven past a golf course and wished that we could unload our bikes and rip it to shreds? Well, this sounds like the opportunity that we’ve been waiting for as this event will allow riders to do exactly that. So please stay tuned for more details as they come in.
I’m sure some of you are sitting there and wondering what it so special about the old track in Austin, Manitoba? I’m not sure when the Austin track first started up and was part of the old CMA National schedule, however, I do know that during the 1980s and early 1990s it was a round that was like Gopher Dunes nowadays; it got every rider’s attention whenever it was on the schedule. I was lucky enough, or unlucky enough (depending on how you look at it), to have raced the Austin National on two exhausting occasions. I can say that I think it was comparable to how Gopher Dunes is now, but the sand was softer, deeper, and the track was a lot narrower. Because of these three things, the track was extremely difficult to race on, and like any super rough track, only the strong survived. Also, back in those days the pro riders had to race four motos per day, so imagine racing four 30 minute national motos on Gopher Dunes’ worst day. The thing that I remember most about racing in Austin was that like any sand track, this one started off smooth as silk in practice. However, before you could say “sand sucks,” the track was filled with six-foot bomb holes everywhere. Because it was so narrow, you couldn’t find any smooth lines. I actually holeshotted a moto in 1992 and led for three laps before Ross Pederson muscled his way past me. In those first few laps I remember frantically searching for a smooth line and a place that I could sit down to take a short break. Quite honestly, there wasn’t one spot to relax, or even one spot to sit down, you literally had to stand up for the entire lap. It was a miserable experience and definitely one that I will never forget. But, looking back on it now, I’m proud to say that I raced on this tough track and that I was part of our rich Canadian motocross history.
In keeping with the pro nationals, on Friday it was finally made official that there will be a new team in the paddock. As I mentioned last week, the Royal Distributing/ Motovan/ Pillar’s Racing presented by Huber Motorsports Team will be lining up at Round 1 in Kamloops. With team riders Tyler Medaglia, Nathan Bles, and a TBA USA rider (believed to be Kyle Chisholm), this team should contend for race wins and consistent podium finishes. This new team will be racing Hondas and will be managed by my good buddy Adam Robinson. Disco Stu (as he’s known to most) has been around for a long time. I was actually lucky enough to be his first rider back in 1999. He was obviously new to the sport while I was on the back side of my pro career. I remember even in those early days, Adam’s attention to detail was unmatched and I knew that he would have a long career in this sport if he wanted to. It’s going to be great to see him back, and it’s going to be awesome to see a new team in the pits.
With just a month and a half remaining until the gate drops in Kamloops, things are really beginning to come together. Last week, the Rockstar Energy MX101 FXR Yamaha Team did their photo shoot with Jess Pettis, Hayden Halstead, and their new rider, Shawn Maffenbeier. By all accounts, this team looks ready to win and challenge for the MX2 title. I think both classes are going to be exciting to watch this summer and I cannot wait for the opening round. Here is a cool shot of Maffenbeier on his new Yamaha.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week, and good luck if you’re going racing this coming weekend. Judging by the speed of some of the riders I witnessed yesterday at Gopher Dunes, 2017 is going to be a pretty incredible year of amateur racing. Ride safe and I’ll see you at the races!