Honda Canada Racing Presents the Monday Gate Drop
Good day and welcome to another edition of the Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop. As many of you saw this past weekend, the Honda Racing GDR Fox Team had a clean sweep at the final round of the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. Just as they did at Round 5 in SDL, Colton Facciotti won the 450 class and Dylan Wright won the 250 Pro/Am class at Walton Raceway. Colton Facciotti also took home the MXTour 450 Championship on Saturday, his fifth big bike title during his long and successful career. It was definitely a great summer for the Red Riders, and now they move on to the final leg of the Triple Crown Series next month.
Well, the 2018 Walton TransCan has now come and gone and I think most people who were there will agree that it was quite an adventure. I think I might have mentioned this to a few people on Friday afternoon, but I can’t think of too many things that we would do in life that involves hanging out in a field for almost a week, especially when Mother Nature isn’t kind to us. With the final round of the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series taking place on Saturday, the beginning of the new Walton TransCan was moved up to Monday. So from Monday afternoon until Saturday evening, Walton Raceway was the place to be in Canadian Motocross.
It was good to see the Walton TransCan return to the fold after a year’s hiatus. The people, the deep ruts, the chase for a National title, the wake-up rooster, Dave Bell talking non-stop for five days, all this and more pretty much describes what happens at the TransCan. With a large contingent of riders from out west, as well as a few from the east and the USA, this year’s TransCan was once again a true national event. Just like Colton Facciotti and Jess Pettis on Saturday, all of the TransCan winners were able to call themselves National Champions. Yes, there were a few top riders missing from some of the classes, but to win titles you have to first show up. So before I dig any further into this column, I first want to send a big congrats to all of the winners from last week at Walton. With Mother Nature unleashing her fury on Thursday afternoon, chances were pretty good that almost every rider had at least one mud moto, and we all know how difficult the Walton mud is to ride. With three motos over four days, on a tough rutted track against some of the best riders in Canada, as well as some adverse weather conditions, winning a TransCan title might just be the hardest thing you ever try to do on a dirt bike.
The week at Walton Raceway started off as it always does, Monday was for moving in, signing up, walking the track, riders meeting, and of course socializing. This year I assisted Tanner Ward and Eve Brodeur with the KTM track walk. Together with most of the KTM riders at the TransCan we took an hour late Monday afternoon to walk the challenging Walton track. It was a fun way to kick off the TransCan and I hope the Orange riders got something out of it. I even shared a few of my secret Vet lines so hopefully the kids were listening. Other than the usual first day activities, the rest of the time I was answering the question on why I wasn’t riding and defending my four (in a row) Plus 40 TransCan titles? Well, the truth of the matter is that for a few reasons I just wasn’t ready to line up behind the gate and battle on the Walton track. I have been riding a bunch this summer on my KTM450 and up until a few weeks before the TransCan I was going to race. However, three weeks ago I tweaked my back a little and was forced to stop riding to let it settle down. Then on the Friday before the TransCan I went riding and felt just awful on the bike. It was at that point that I decided that I would sit this one out and try to get ready to race the upcoming Delaware SX. When I started racing the Vet class back in 2013 I made a promise to myself that if there came a time that I just didn’t feel at least somewhat prepared, then I wouldn’t race. So with that in mind I decided that for this year it would be better to be a race dad as well as a race fan at the 2018 Walton TransCan.
On Tuesday, it was time for the bikes to hit the track for practice and then some of the first motos in the afternoon. The track on Tuesday was in pretty good shape and all of the riders seemed to be enjoying it. The only issue with the track was the new TransCan Triple (I think I actually made this name up) located on the straight after the third corner. This new jump was massive, and whether you were a pro rider or an amateur rider, it was a big leap! Like the big double at the Deschambault track a few weeks ago, my feeling is that jumps like this are completely unnecessary on outdoor tracks. When you build jumps like this you know riders are going to try to jump it, that is just the nature of our sport. Even during track walk on Monday you could hear kids asking each other, “Are you going to try it”? It doesn’t take long before this question filters through the pits, and in this case, instead of talking about deep Walton ruts or even the rebirth of this event, all people were talking about was this stupid triple. Unfortunately, it’s just inevitable that some poor riders are going to crash on this type of jump, and with it being so big, of course some will receive week ending or season ending injuries. I think the jump itself would’ve been fine if the landing had been just a large tabletop. This way you could either jump the entire thing or just land on top. For the riders that didn’t feel comfortable jumping anything, then they would’ve had a single and then a cool, safe tabletop. I just feel that when situations like this come up that we as a sport should be able to be more proactive instead of just waiting to see what happens. Anyway, after the fourth big crash and injury, the jump was removed on Wednesday. After that there were no more incidents in that section.
Other than that, and of course the rain on Thursday and Friday evening, the 2018 Walton TransCan was a big success, in my opinion. As I spent my limited free time walking around the pits and the infield area talking to people, everyone was excited to have this event back. As I mentioned above, with fast riders from all over Canada, a few from the USA, and of course one really fast kid from Bermuda, the racing during the week was superb. Heck, even the mud motos were somewhat enjoyable to watch on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. And even if I definitely wouldn’t have put up a fight if they had changed the Friday schedule and ran the 65cc’s in the afternoon, racing in those awful morning conditions made our kids better riders at the end of the day.
With the amateur racing all done, we all woke up on Saturday and it was time for the pro riders to take to the track. With both the 250 Pro/Am class and 450 class titles on the line, the excitement was high as the gate dropped on the final round. When the day began there were just three points separating Jess Pettis and Joey Crown in the 250 class, and twenty-two points separating Colton Facciotti and Cole Thompson in the 450 class. After four tough motos on the rutted Walton Raceway track, both Pettis and Facciotti did what they had to do and took home their MXTour Championships. For Pettis, this was his first ever Canadian pro championship, and considering that he was about to quit racing the nationals two years ago and go to work at a local Prince George sawmill, Pettis winning this title is really a great story. For Facciotti, this is his fifth 450 title, a feat that ties him with JSR. It’s pretty amazing to look back at Facciotti’s long career and think just how good he’s been. Will he come back for another season of racing in 2019, or will he call it quits on what has been an incredible career? I guess only time will answer that question and we’ll have to wait and see. I wouldn’t be surprised with whatever direction Colton decides to go with his future. I think he’s riding better than he ever has, and heading into next year he would most certainly be the favourite to win again. On the other hand, he’s been at it for so long that he might just be completely over the process. All I know is that during Colton’s final lap on Saturday I paid extra close attention to his effortless style as that lap might have just been his last outdoor lap on Canadian soil.
So that is it for the 2018 Walton TransCan as well as the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. Canada now has its outdoor national champions in all of the classes and it’s time to focus again on indoor racing. I want to say congratulations to all of the TransCan winners from last week, as well as to Jess Pettis, Colton Facciotti, and the MX101 FXR Yamaha Team and the Honda Canada GDR Fox Racing Team. I hope everyone enjoyed the racing this past week and I hope everyone has a safe final few weeks of summer.