Words by Ryan Lockhart
In the months leading up to the 2017 Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals presented by Motovan, fans and media alike have been excited at the thought of the MX1 class this summer. With riders like Colton Facciotti, Kaven Benoit, Matt Goerke and new addition Christophe Pourcel on the starting line at Round 1, there will be at least six riders capable of winning. From Kamloops to Regina, these MX1 riders will be tested as they never have before in the opening four rounds of the 2017 series.
As well as seasoned MX1 veterans like Goerke, Facciotti, Medaglia and Alessi, this class will also feature former World MXGP Champion Christophe Pourcel. Pourcel will have to adapt very quickly to these Canadian tracks that he has never seen before. He will also have to get used to his new competition, as well as his new Canadian surroundings. When the gate drops in Kamloops for Round 1, the ground will be shaking as one of the most talented group of MX1 riders ever to line up in Canada blasts off.
Another item that all of the MX1 riders will have to deal with is the diversity of track conditions at the western rounds. At Round 1 in Kamloops, the riders will be tested with a very rough, sandy track, which will test their endurance right from the first gate drop. At Round 2 in Prince George, the race is a new addition to the series that everyone is excited about. This hilly and harder packed track will be sure to challenge every rider. At the third round in Calgary, the riders will have to navigate severe elevation changes and massive jumps before the western swing concludes at the high-speed track in Regina. If the MX1 riders want to have successful rounds in the west of the 2017 Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals presented by Motovan then they’ll have to be focused and prepared to adapt quickly to changing track conditions. As we’ve done for the past three years, we called upon Ryan Lockhart to give us his predictions as to who might take the top five positions during the opening four rounds of the MX1 class.
1. Colton Facciotti- Honda Canada GDR Fox Racing Team
With the deep field of riders that will be lining up at Round 1 in Kamloops, it was obviously very hard to pick who will be the champion by summer’s end. Although our last year’s champ, Davi Millsaps, will not be racing in Canada in 2017, there is still a great list of fast riders just waiting to take his place on the top step. This year I’m going with one of our Canadian heroes, Colton Facciotti, to win the 2017 MX1 Championship. After a sub-par season last year, which saw him get injured with a few rounds remaining, I feel he will be back with a vengeance this summer. Not only is he coming into this season 100% healthy for the first time in a long time, but he’s also armed with the all-new 2017 CRF450R Honda. This new Honda is much improved over past models, so look for Colton and his new bike to be best friends the moment the gate drops. Also, I know it’s hard to believe, but Colton is now considered one of the oldest riders in the MX1 class, so he brings a wealth of experience to this year’s series and I think that will help, especially in the second half of the season when the tracks get rough and the weather can be extreme. As I said, Colton isn’t getting any younger, so I think the time is now and 2017 will be his year to win another MX1 title!
2. Kaven Benoit- KTM Thor Racing Team
In keeping with my love for Canadian riders, I’m picking Kaven Benoit to finish second in this year’s MX1 title chase. This was another tough decision as I do believe that Benoit will battle for the championship in 2017. We all witnessed what he could do last year when he held off Millsaps to win his first MX1 National at the Deschambault round in Quebec. Benoit rode great that day in front of his hometown fans, and trust me when I say this, good things always seem to happen at the Deschambault track. Benoit’s biggest challenge in 2017 will be to get off to a good start in the series on the western tracks. History has proven that Benoit is much better in the east. This has served him well in the past, but if he wants to win this title he will have to be better in the west. Although Benoit got injured back in January at a German SX event, he has now healed and has been training very hard for the 2017 series. With virtually the same KTM450SX-F as last year, as well as the confidence gained from his incredible MXoN ride in Italy last fall, Benoit is going to be very tough to beat this summer. Even with all of these pros, I still believe Benoit will come up just short in 2017 and will finish in second.
3. Mike Alessi- Monster Energy Alpinestars Kawasaki Team
I know what you’re thinking, how could I think that Mike Alessi is capable of finishing 2017 in third place when he was so far off the pace last year? Well, let me explain to you as this is my preview. First off, there is no doubt in my mind that Alessi will be much better this summer. If you remember, last year was Alessi’s first time ever racing a Kawasaki so it took him a long time to adjust to the new bike. Judging by his results in 2016, he never really did and struggled all season long. However, for 2017, Alessi has been testing quite a bit and I believe that his confidence has never been higher coming into a series. Not only will Alessi and his team be much more prepared, but he also knows our tracks very well. Mike Alessi is also getting older and I think he’s becoming more appreciative of his opportunities. When you factor in all of these things, I think he will be very good this summer. If Alessi can get off to a quick start to the series in the west then look out. A moto win early will give him even more confidence, and we’ve all seen how good and confident Mike Alessi can be. I’m very excited to see how Mike Alessi does in 2017 as I’ve always loved watching him ride.
4. Matt Goerke- Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha Team
To put one of my favourite riders in fourth place in the 2017 series was a very tough decision for me. We all know how good Goerke will be at the opening round in Kamloops on the sandy and rough Whispering Pines track, and we all know how great he’ll be at Gopher Dunes and the two Quebec rounds. Goerke loves sand, and quite honestly, I think he’s one of the best sand riders in the world. However, that still leaves the rest of the tracks that are more hard-packed and out of Goerke’s comfort zone. Now, I’m not saying that he won’t be fast on these hard packed tracks, I’m just saying that his competition might be a little better. After a very difficult AX series this past winter, Goerke is coming into 2017 healthy and very motivated to win his third MX1 title. It will also be interesting to see what happens this season with Goerke being the true leader of the Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha Team. Last year, he had Brett Metcalfe to measure himself against, and the year before he had Bobby Kiniry. For 2017, Goerke’s teammate will be Tim Tremblay, who will no doubt be fast but more than likely not challenge for the top five in the MX1 class. I’m looking forward to seeing how Goerke does this summer. He’s healthy, he’s fit, and he has everything he needs to be a champion. When all is said and done and the ten round MX1 series is complete, I have Goerke finishing in fourth due to a few inconsistent moto finishes on the tracks that don’t suit him.
5. Christophe Pourcel- Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Team
It seems like each year in Canada there are always one or two riders that come into a series with a lot of mystery surrounding them. Last year it was Davi Millsaps and we all saw how things played out for him. Right from the drop of the gate at Round 1, Millsaps was unreal and he carried that speed right on to the 2016 MX1 title. Coming into this season I believe the mystery rider is Christophe Pourcel. The Husqvarna rider began the 2017 season racing the Supercross series in the USA before deciding that it just wasn’t working out. After breaking his neck twice last year, yes, I just said twice, Pourcel just wasn’t physically ready to race SX in January. After taking a few months off to heal, Pourcel comes to Canada this summer as the rider who will more than likely show the most raw speed. With two World Championships and a Supercross Lites title to his credit, not to mention numerous top five finishes in the 2016 AMA Outdoor Series, Pourcel knows how to go fast. He is also a master at dissecting a difficult track in order to find the smoothest and most efficient way around it. These God given skills will serve him very well this summer, as the moment he steps off the plane for Round 1, everything will be new. He will also be armed with his trusty factory Husqvarna 450, so he will definitely have one of the best machines in the paddock. I can honestly see Pourcel winning the 2017 MX1 Championship and I cannot wait to watch him ride in Canada, but I think he will struggle with consistency and finish up in fifth overall. If Pourcel wins this title, you heard it here first. If he finishes fifth, I called that as well. The MX1 line-up will once again be incredible in 2017 and I’m pumped for the gate to drop in Kamloops!