By Stephen St. Pierre
After a two week break in the action, the Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals presented by Motovan will resume this weekend at the Gopher Dunes Raceway in Courtland, Ontario. The time off is an opportunity for the riders and their teams to regroup after the first four rounds in the west, as the series moves to Eastern Canada for the final six races before crowning our series champions.
The riders will have to battle more than their opponents this weekend in Round 5, as the sand facility at Gopher Dunes is very different from what they have experienced in the west. Gopher Dunes has been called the roughest track in the world because it provides no smooth lines, and there is nowhere to rest in the gnarly, knee deep sand. The punishing roost off the back wheels of these motorcycles makes the start very important, and if you are not running up front after the first turn, goggle management becomes a key issue for the riders.
KTM Canada Thor Racing’s Davi Millsaps hopes to keep the momentum going as the series moves east, and build upon his 24 point lead in the series. Millsaps has looked very comfortable on his motorcycle and was very dominant in the West, topping the podium in 3 of 4 rounds. Davi has been able to put himself into the lead early in each moto, regardless of whether he exits the first turn up front, sprints for a few laps building a comfortable lead, then paces himself to the finish line. The talented American rider is from the Southeast USA and should be very comfortable on the sand tracks in Eastern Canada.
Sitting in second place in the series standings is Monster Energy Alpinestar Kawasaki’s Mike Alessi who will be going for his fourth podium finish in a row this weekend. Alessi has been called the best starter in the world but has only one Holeshot so far this season. He is managing to keep Millsaps in sight, and was able to get a few days of practice in at the Dunes during the break. In his last appearance here in 2014 Mike won a moto, and is looking more and more comfortable with his new team each weekend.
The only other rider to have stood on top of the podium this season is Honda Canada Racing Fox GDR’s Colton Facciotti, who won Round 2 in Nanaimo. After finishing on the podium in the first two rounds, the Canadian hero struggled in Rounds 3 and 4, and comes into this weekend sitting third in the series standings. Colton will have the fans on his side this weekend as he calls Gopher Dunes his home track. After winning here in 2014, he missed the podium by only one point last year. Colt 45 is coming out of the west in a good position as he goes for his fifth National Championship, and knows how important it is to start winning races as the series moves eastward.
The MX1 defending Champion, Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha’s Matt Goerke Goerke, is coming to a circuit he shines at; he swept both motos here last year. The Florida native is very comfortable in the deep sand and has been called the fastest rider to ever navigate this track. Goerke has finished on every step on the podium except the top one this season, and sits fourth in the series standings. The break has given Matt the opportunity to heal a severely blistered hand injury from Round 1, and we can expect the former champion to be competing for the win this weekend.
Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha’s Brett Metcalfe rounds out the top 5 in the series standings and is only 6 points back of third place. Metcalfe swept both motos at Gopher Dunes in 2013 and finished secondoverall last year. Brett switched teams this year and has already been on the podium twice this season. We can expect more podiums for the likeable Australian as he gets more comfortable on his new motorcycle.
As the series moves east, KTM Canada Thor Racing’s Kaven Benoit will be returning home, so expect the race fans in Quebec to be cheering loudly for their local hero. In his rookie season, Benoit has shown that he can run up front with the leaders, and is challenging Colton Facciotti for the title of fastest Canadian. Kaven has had more bad luck than others in the class, unable to finish twice with mechanical issues, but we can anticipate a podium finish is not far off for the talented Frenchman who swept both motos at the Dunes last year in the MX2 Class.
Parts Canada Husqvarna’s Tyler Medaglia has to be happy to return from the West as he was unable to crack the top 5 during the first four Rounds. Medaglia has had a lot of success at Gopher Dunes, finishing on the podium last year and in 2013, and was fourth in 2014.
KTM Canada Thor Racing’s Cole Thompson comes into Round 5 with a comfortable 50 point lead in the series standings. After finishing second at the season opener in Kamloops, Thompson has stood on the top of the box in every other round and will be looking to keep the ball rolling as the series moves east. Last year Cole finished third in the first moto at the Dunes while competing in the MX1 class, but was forced out of the second moto with a mechanical issue.
After suffering heartache in his home race in Regina, Redemption Racing Big Steel Box KTM’s Shawn Maffenbeier will have to put that behind him and regroup as the series moves east for Round 5. Maffenbeier won the first moto in Regina in a dominating performance before having the win taken away by a penalty for jumping on a Red Cross Flag, and then was forced to retire from Moto 2 with a mechanical issue. Shawn won the opening round in Kamloops and followed that up with second place finishes in Rounds 2 and 3. He has had a number of top 5 moto finishes in previous years at Gopher Dunes.
Triple Effect/Strikt/Stewart’s Kawasaki rider Brandon Leith Leith has been a good surprise this season and sits third in the series standings. The talented young American racer has been very consistent this year but it doesn’t look like he will be coming east to finish the series. Let’s hope that his plans change and he finds a way to line up for Round 5.
After getting off to a rough start in the season opener, SG Power/Shift/Scotty Motorsports/ Honda’s Brad Nauditt has finished on the podium twice, and sits in fourth place in the series standings. Nauditt got the first moto win of his career at Round 4 in Regina, and finished seventh last year at Gopher Dunes.
MX101 FXR Yamaha’s Dylan Wright has had more highs and lows during the first four rounds this year than most riders experience in a whole season. The super-fast young Canadian rider got his career first moto win at the season opener, and has followed that up with both second and third place moto finishes. A series of crashes, gate jumping, and a flag violation have cost him in the series standings where he sits fifth. Dylan passed series leader Cole Thompson straight up during the first moto in Regina and has the speed to finish on the podium this weekend like he did last year at the Dunes.
After being helped off the track following a first moto crash during Round 2, Honda Canada Racing Fox GDR’s Jeremy Medaglia will line up this weekend after being cleared to race again. Jeremy knows the Gopher Dunes racetrack well, and has had multiple top 5 moto finishes there, but has lacked consistency at the brutally rough, sand circuit.
The first four rounds of The Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals presented by Motovan have taken place in good weather conditions and the forecast for Gopher Dunes this Sunday looks like the trend will continue. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets you can buy them online easily at the mxnationals.ca website. If you are in another part of the country and are unable to attend the race you can see all the action live by downloading the free Conx2share app and live stream every moto on your mobile phone or computer.
MX1 Point Standings 2016
1. Davi Millsaps (KTM) 222pts
2. Mike Alessi (Kaw) 198pts
3. Colton Facciotti (Honda) 188pts
4. Matt Goerke (Yam) 182pts
5. Brett Metcalfe (Yam) 182pts
6. Cade Clason (KTM) 146pts
7. Tyler Medaglia (Husq) 137pts
8. Kaven Benoit (KTM) 133pts
9. Morgan Burger (Yam) 119pts
10. Keylan Meston (Yam) 119pts
MX2 Point Standings 2016
1. Cole Thompson (KTM) 230pts
2. Shawn Maffenbeier (KTM) 180pts
3. Brandon Leith (Kaw) 166pts
4. Brad Nauditt (Hon) 154pts
5. Dylan Wright (Yam) 141pts
6. Mark Worth (Kaw) 133pts
7. Jesse Pettis (Yam) 133pts
8. Casey Keast (Yam) 124pts
9. Mc Cough Brough (KTM) 116pts
10. Ryeley Gallup (KTM) 107pts
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