In a recent issue of MXP Magazine, we not only featured 2014 Canadian MX1 Motocross Champion Colton Facciotti on the cover, but we also looked back to Mike Harden’s unbelievable 1984 500cc Canadian MX Championship. These two championships for Honda Canada are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Honda and winning titles in Canadian motocross. 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 day and happy Monday to all! I hope everyone out there had a great weekend, regardless of what you were doing. The summer of 2016 is definitely rolling along, and with Social Media being such a huge part of our lives these days, it is great seeing so many photos of what people are doing with their weekends. Our summers are awesome here in Canada, but they sure do go by quickly.
So as I’m sure everyone in our tight knit Canadian motocross community knows, yesterday was Round 5 of the 2016 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals presented by Motovan at Gopher Dunes. After four very exciting rounds out west, the series has finally moved east and there’s no better place to kick it off than Gopher Dunes. I can honestly say that from the moment I drove into the ‘Dunes’ on Saturday morning, I was blown away by how great the facility looked. I mean, the Schusters and their crew have always had Gopher Dunes looking great every time our National series visited there, but when I drove in this year, something was a little different. Maybe it was the massive ‘Gopher Dunes’ sign that now sits in the infield, maybe it was the 30 foot high ‘Mount St. Dunes’ that the guys built for the pro riders on Sunday, or maybe it was just the fact that new owner, Derek Schuster, has managed to grow grass in parts of the entrance they never had it before. Anyway, whatever it was, the entire facility looked amazing for the grand kick off of the eastern rounds.
Like the first four rounds out west, Round 5 began with amateur day and a Women’s National round on Saturday. However, unlike the west rounds where there was a battle for the lead in almost every moto, the opening eastern round on Saturday was a runaway win by the very impressive, 16-year-old Eve Brodeur. Even visiting US riders Jaqueline Ross and Shannon Fleming couldn’t stop Eve as she powered her KTM to both holeshots and two very dominating victories. Actually, all women rode well on Saturday, because anytime you can make it through a day of racing at Gopher Dunes you’re doing something right. This 2016 CMRC Eastern Canadian Women’s Nationals is going to be exciting, and congratulations to Leah Clarke for working so hard to put it together. For Round 2 the women will now move to Ulverton, QC next weekend. We’ll see if Eve Brodeur can make it two in a row in front of her hometown fans.
After a weekend off to regroup and prepare for the extreme conditions of what the eastern rounds can sometimes bring, the riders of the 2016 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals traveled to Courtland, Ontario for Round 5. Heading into Gopher Dunes, both Cole Thompson and Davi Millsaps had the red plates firmly attached to their Thor Racing KTMs in the MX2 and MX1 classes respectively.
For Cole Thompson, he has simply dominated the MX2 class, winning almost every moto thus far. His closest competitor has been Shawn Maffenbeier, but Shawn has suffered enough bad luck in recent motos that he came into Gopher Dunes well back of Cole in the points. MX101 FXR Yamaha rider Dylan Wright has also been very fast, but since his moto win at the opening round has struggled a little with consistency. There are very few riders on the track as aggressive as Dylan Wright, and as he matures he’s definitely learning to pick his spots better. The young speedster is still just a few seconds off the pace of Thompson and Maffenbeier when they go head to head, but that could change in the next few rounds.
When the gate dropped on the opening MX2 moto yesterday, the above mentioned trio of riders all found themselves in serious trouble. Dylan Wright got a little impatient when the starter held the gate longer than normal and when he moved early, he got stuck in the gate. So while Dylan was extricating himself from the starting gate, further up the track in turn one, Cole Thompson and Shawn Maffenbeier found themselves on the ground in a multi-bike pile up. Much to their dismay, but to the delight of all of the fans in attendance, the series top three riders were forced to come from behind. Even though Dylan got caught in the gate, he actually started lap one ahead of Thompson and Maffenbeier as he raced by them in turn one. Next to remount and get going was Maffenbeier and then Cole Thompson, who was almost dead last as they crossed the finish line for the first time.
What followed was a pretty impressive sight as Dylan incredibly made it up to 9th by the end of lap two with Maff and Cole not too far behind. Up front, visiting American Dakota Alix was building a massive lead as the terrific trio were busy eating sand just inside the top ten. I’ll save you a few small details and fast forward to the twenty minute mark when Cole Thompson had made his way past almost everyone and sat in second place, still well behind Alix. With the entire crowd cheering for Thompson, including his entire family, Cole put his head down and within one lap reeled in Alix and made the pass for the lead. I know Cole isn’t a natural sand rider, but he sure rides it well with his innovative line choices and his mastery of carrying momentum everywhere. All of his skills were on display in both motos on Sunday as he was by far the fastest MX2 rider. Behind Cole it was Dylan Wright with his best performance to date in second overall, and then Dakota Alix, who just edged out Maffenbeier for third overall. Again this weekend I felt bad for Maffenbeier as he gave us a perfect example of what can sometimes happen when you’re put in a position where you feel like you have to try too hard. With his set back in Regina a few weeks back, Maff has to make things happen and ride as hard as he possibly can to make up points on his arch rival Thompson. However, on the Gopher Dunes track that is almost an impossible task for any rider as the track can bite you as quick as Frank Schuster will shake your hand, there are definitely better days ahead for our favourite Saskatchewan rider as the MX2 riders move east to Quebec this coming weekend.
In the MX1 class, the biggest question coming into Gopher Dunes was whether or not the deep sand would be able to put a stop to Davi Millsaps’ domination? Over the years we’ve seen this round at Gopher Dunes present some pretty interesting story lines in the MX1 class. Three years ago it was the near win by Kyle Keast over Brett Metcalfe in the scorching heat, two years ago it was Mike Alessi running out of gas and pretty much handing the title to Colton Facciotti, then last year we all got to witness an epic battle between Brett Metcalfe and Matt Goerke. Before the opening MX1 moto yesterday, there was certainly a lot of nervousness as everyone wondered what might happen this year.
Davi Millsaps silenced any speculation early as found himself with a decent sized lead at the mid-way point of moto one. His teammate, Kaven Benoit, who was incredibly fast yesterday and actually logged the fastest lap time in both motos, got a section wrong and found himself on the ground. Pre-race favourite Matt Goerke had also gone down early and had a lot of time to make up as Millsaps was looking smooth out front. But then, just as it always seems to happen at Gopher Dunes, most of the exciting action was saved for the final ten minutes of the moto. Millsaps, who was racing with sore ribs from a practice crash last week, began to suffer a little out front as Goerke had found his rhythm on the rough track. With a few laps to go, Goerke made his way to the back tire of Millsaps and was just waiting for a mistake. That mistake came with gusto as Millsaps let the back wheel of his KTM step out a little at the wrong time and he hit the deck hard. Lucky for our points leader, Millsaps wasn’t injured and he bounced back up to finish in third. However, his first mistake of 2016 allowed Goerke to motor by for the win and also let new local hero Colton Facciotti to grab a very quiet second.
With the sun blaring and the track looking like the beach at Normandy after D-Day, the MX1 riders blasted off for the final moto of the day. Although Mike Alessi got the holeshot, right behind him, a very motivated Brett Metcalfe got off to an excellent start. However, before Metcalfe could get to the front of the pack, he first had to deal with a hard charging Kaven Benoit who also wanted to win his first moto of 2016. Benoit passed both Metcalfe and Alessi before washing his front end out in a self-proclaimed ‘stupid crash.’ It’s funny sometimes how motocross works as Benoit passing Metcalfe early proved to be part of the reason why Metcalfe would go on to win this moto. Metcalfe told me after the moto that when Benoit passed him he was able to see a few of the Quebec rider’s lines. Metcalfe used a few of these lines for the rest of the moto to pull clear of the pack. Behind Metcalfe, Goerke threw his chances of going 1-1 away as he crashed, which allowed Millsaps, who was riding cautiously for the first time this summer, to move into second. Up front, Metcalfe rode smooth to take his first moto win of the year, Millsaps did what he had to do to make the most of an off day, and Matt Goerke made a late moto pass on Benoit to finish third and secure the overall win for the day. In his three visits to Gopher Dunes, Goerke has been victorious all three times.
It was a great day of racing in both classes as the Gopher Dunes track provided its usual drama. Now the riders must recover and get ready for another tough round this weekend at one of the oldest tracks in Canada, the rough and scenic track in Ulverton, QC. I hope everyone enjoyed the race yesterday at Gopher Dunes and hats off to the Schuster family for putting on such an awesome event. Finally, let’s give a big congrats to Tim Tremblay for his impressive performance at the Southwick National. Tim finished 13th in moto two; anytime you can get close to the top ten at a US National you’re doing something right. I’m assuming Tim will be lining up this weekend at Ulverton so look for him to be in the mix in the MX1 class. I hope everyone has a safe week and please keep enjoying the summer!