We are now at the mid-way point of the 2019 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. With four rounds down and four more to go, Colton Facciotti and Phil Nicoletti are tied atop the 450 class points. As much as a lot of things are completely unpredictable in Canadian pro motocross this year, Facciotti and Nicoletti being so close in points after four rounds is not one of them. With both riders being fast, fit, and determined to win this championship, it’s no surprise that they are in such a dogfight now for the 2019 450 MXTour Championship. With eights motos to go, let’s take a look at what might be in the immediate future as Facciotti and Nicoletti battle for this championship.
Both riders appeared to come into Round 4 with completely different mindsets of how they wanted their race to go. With only stories and videos to base an opinion, the only way left for Phil Nicoletti to truly experience what a national was like at Gopher Dunes was to actually line up and race. After Round 2 in PG, Nicoletti told me that he couldn’t wait until the series moved east to rougher tracks and more challenging conditions. Considering that he trains each week at Clubmx in South Carolina where it’s been mega hot for three months, Phil said that during the opening three rounds he couldn’t get warm. With those cool race days behind him, Nicoletti showed up at Gopher Dunes very excited to tame the roughest track in Canada.
Facciotti, on the other hand, has raced many laps at Gopher Dunes so there are very few, if any surprises remaining for the 5-time 450 Champion. Because of his familiarity with the track, Facciotti came into Saturday knowing exactly what to expect. He knew that Round 4 is one of most important races of the series as there is just so much that can go wrong. With Gopher Dunes being so hard on each rider’s body, as well as their machines, the national at Gopher Dunes usually goes really good or really bad. Facciotti was well aware of this so he came into Saturday with the mindset to score some good points, stay out of trouble, and leave still in possession of the red plate. Judging by the results from Round 4, I’d say that both riders had a pretty good day at the Dunes.
Now we have a four-race sprint to the finish in the 450 class with both Facciotti and Nicoletti deadlocked in points, and after his big win on Saturday, Mike Alessi is just 17 points behind. I would normally say that Facciotti has a clear advantage as he’s raced at the final four tracks many times in his long career. However, so far in the series Nicoletti has been very good at learning our national tracks quickly. If Nicoletti has had any weakness in his race craft it would have to be his starts. In more than one moto this season Nicoletti has started behind his main competitors, which has hurt him. Although the remaining tracks in the MXTour will most certainly suit Nicoletti, all four are very difficult to pass on. This is one advantage that Facciotti does have in knowing these tracks and how crucial good starts are.
So, what happens from here? Nicoletti has zero experience on any of these remaining tracks. However, he’s talented enough to learn them quickly and he’s proven to be very good at figuring out where the best lines are. Also, because he’s mostly started behind our series veterans, he’s been able to watch where they go in the early laps and then make the most of what he’s learned. Nicoletti is hungry, fit and very motivated to win the championship. Now that he’s had a taste of the red plate, he will not want to give it up.
Facciotti, on the other hand, has more championship experience than most of the 450 riders do combined. In the past, he’s been unbelievable at managing every championship he’s won. Of the four tracks that remain in the MXTour he’s been very good at three of them in recent years. Last year he won the overall at SDL with two hours of sleep the night before (remember he got very sick the night before), he’s won three of the last four motos in Deschambault, and Walton Raceway is his favourite track of the series. Colton will have to draw on all of his past success if he wants to win his sixth championship in 2019 as Nicoletti will most certainly take this fight down to the final moto at Walton. Throw in last weekend’s resurgence of Mike Alessi, Cole Thompson’s recent success on the eastern tracks, as well as Matt Goerke, who could be a spoiler in these final four rounds, and we definitely have a fantastic conclusion coming to the 2019 MXTour Series. It all gets back underway this Saturday at the Sand Del Lee track, located just outside Ottawa, ON.