Exactly one year ago, the newly formed Canadian National AX Tour was set to make it’s debut in London, Ontario. This new series was going to be to South Western Ontario what the Future West AX Championships has been to BC for over a decade. For every rider that competed in the 2015 AX Tour Series, it was a good experience as AX is still a fairly new thing for most. Well, here we are a year later and Justin Thompson and his JetWerx crew are all ready for their sophomore season of this thrilling new series. With the returning venues in Sarnia, Penticton and Calgary, new stops in Barrie and Moose Jaw, plus new series sponsorship from Rockstar Energy and Royal Distributing, 2016 is going to be a great year for AX in Canada. We caught up with Justin Thompson to see how everything is coming along before the series kicks off in two weeks.
MXP: Hey Justin, the clocking is ticking on the opening round in Sarnia on October 8th. How is everything coming along?
JT: Things are progressing pretty good, like you said the opening gate drop is two weeks away, so now it’s definitely crunch time.
Going back to last year and with this series being brand new to Canada, are you a little more relaxed heading into year two?
Yes and no. I mean, even though last year was the first year we did this series in Canada, we’ve been doing for a long time in the USA, so we knew what to mostly expect. But, having said that, there are always unknowns when you’re entering a new market. We were extremely happy with the response we got last year, everyone was very happy with the series in Canada, so we’re excited to get it rolling again.
You told me last year that this wasn’t just a one or two year plan that you have with this series, this is a long term vision you have?
For sure, anytime you’re asking sponsors, venues and riders to support a series, you have to think long term and that is how we’re treating this series. I love indoor racing and I think it’s vital to the industry in Canada, so my plan to be around for awhile and try and create some stability with regards to indoor motocross. The same way that Future West has with AX in BC, as well as the Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals, both of those series have been around for along time and we hope to also.
You mentioned the Future West series in BC, this year you’re partnering up for the round in Penticton BC. How did that come about?
Well, we actually tried to do it last year but it just didn’t work out. I don’t want the Future West Series to be our rival, not at all. I want to work with everyone to grow indoor racing and this sport right across the Country. The more we all work together towards one common goal the stronger we are as a sport. So with the Penticton round, we’re going to share it with Future West and I hope it turns out great.
You also have a new title sponsor with Rockstar Energy, that is very exciting news?
Yes it is, without a doubt. Rockstar Energy has been very supportive of this sport in Canada for the past few years, whether it’s been with the Nationals or the OTSFF Yamaha Team, so we’re very happy to welcome them to AX. I think Rockstar Energy sees the value in our product and our series, and I hope this is the beginning of a long relationship.
Can you talk to us a little about what exactly is your product. Why would someone what to either race AX or go and watch one of the rounds?
That’s a great question Palms, I think we saw last year with some of the amateur riders, as well as a few of the pro riders, that racing AX was new to them. These days, I think it’s so important to learn how to ride in types of conditions, indoors and outdoors, it simply makes you a better rider. I witnessed improvement last year with these riders just during the day at some of the rounds, they quickly adapted to the tight confines and learned how to do it. This made them better riders and I think everyone could gain something from racing AX. For instance, look at someone like Dylan Wright last year. He came to a few rounds, and while I don’t know his background exactly, I’m assuming that he hadn’t ridden too much indoors. However, he figured out everything real quick and he did great. As you know, racing indoors is non-stop action and whether you’re on the track or in stands, it’s very exciting.
The 2016 series kicks off in Sarnia, last year this was the best round attendance wise, so you must be excited?
For sure, Sarnia is a motor head town and last years event was very popular. For 2016, we’ve gone to one night at each of the rounds, so I think Sarnia is going to be packed. The track is also a little bigger in Sarnia, so that is even better for the fans and for the riders. I think it’s going to be a great event and a great beginning to an incredible series.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the new venues is the Barrie Molson Centre, the home of the Barrie Colts OHL hockey team. How do you go about getting an AX in a popular building like that during the hockey season?
Buildings like that aren’t just hockey arenas, regardless of the time of year. These buildings are entertainment facilities and they’re used for many different events throughout the year. Once they see that we know what we’re doing and that we can move a track in and out without doing any damage, they treat us no different than say a concert or something like that. They put a sub-floor down to cover the ice and then we go in and build the track. Then once the event is over, we have it all clean out be three or four in the morning.
Sounds like a very smooth operation Justin. It also sounds as though the 2016 series is going to be bigger and better than ever! Final question, what are the names of a few of the pro riders that we can expect to see lining up in Sarnia?
I think we’re going to see a lot of top riders for sure. Matt Goerke and Cole Thompson are confirmed, Keylan Meston, Jess Pettis, hopefully Dylan Wright if his knee is better, Kyle Swanson, Colton Facciotti has been practicing AX so I’m hoping he shows up, Ross Johnson, Tyler Medaglia, Kaven Benoit, Joey Crown, Nathan Bles, Tanner Ward and Austin Watling. The list will probably get bigger and we get closer to October 8th, but that’s a pretty good start. The racing is going to be very exciting and I cannot wait for the first gate to drop.
I agree, it’s going to be great. I personally cannot wait and I know a long list of amateur riders who are chopping at the bit for this series to begin. We’ll see you in two weeks Justin, thanks for doing this.
Anytime Palms, we’ll see everyone at round one in Sarnia.