Honda Canada Racing Presents the Monday Gate Drop

amo honda

Good day and happy Monday to everyone! First off, I would like to thank Honda Canada Racing for supporting MXP Magazine and of course each and every Monday Gate Drop that comes your way at the start of each week. Obviously, with the events that happened in Canada this past weekend, lets get this thing going. Or as the announcer screamed on Saturday night at the Roger’s Centre prior to the first heat race “Let’s..drop…the…gate”.

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The Toronto track was one of the best of the season thus far. Photo by Krystyn Slack.

Lets begin with the incredible racing that went down inside the largest stadium that the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series visits each year. Other than the dirt being a little soft and rocky, I thought the Toronto track was one of the best of the series thus far. With a cool and unique design, the track on Saturday threw a little bit of everything at the riders, and provided some pretty exciting sections for the fans. First off, I love when there is a long start straight that allows riders to build speed and sort themselves out before turn one. I also liked the way first two turns were set up, as it appeard to allow the holeshot to come from almost anywhere (remember Broc Tickle holeshotted his semi from the outside gate). After turn two, the right hander let the riders carry speed into the following double-double section. Up next was a short whoop section that I personally could watch the riders skim through all day. It was just technical enough that the riders had to be on their toes, but also easy enough that the riders could attacked it every lap with the utmost aggression. Then there was a rutted right handed bowl turn followed by the most technical section of the track, and maybe the 2017 season so far. On a good lap the top riders could triple over the table, then triple onto the tallest jump of the section, and if they timed it just right and landed perfectly on the downside, this allowed only the bravest to triple again, before jumping into the following right hander. This entire rhythm section was rutted and treacherous and more than a few riders had mishaps, including Trey Canard who had the biggest crash of the day in practice. He never returned, so I’m assuming he’s injured once again. Prior to the 450 main event, the track crew groomed every section but not this one and it was a little concerning. However, whether it was foresight, or just plain luck, by leaving it rutted it provided a pretty exciting passing area on the track. The remainder of the track was made up of a big triple, a tough whoop section, a short but well thought out sand straight, a straight with a dragon backs on it, and then a massive finish line. All night I thought the racing was great, and the Toronto track even allowed for passing, as we saw with Ryan Dungey in the 450 main event.

So let’s talk about Ryan Dungey for a minute and just how incredible his ride was in the main event. I had him in at least 16th through turn two as he really messed up his jump off the gate. With a opening lap that was very reminiscent of James Stewart in 2014, Dungey aggressively pushed his way into the top ten by the end of lap one, and then amazingly into second by the end of the main event. With Eli Tomac long gone out front, the best the points leader could do was the runner-up spot in Toronto. In third was Broc Tickle, who scored his very first 450 podium of his career. Considering that he broke his back a few years ago in Toronto, I’m sure this was a night that he’ll never forget. If the main event had been just two laps, Tickle might have been caught and passed by a charging Chad Reed, who started just inside the top ten and cerebrally picked his way into fourth. With every pass Reed made, the crowd got louder and louder as if they were riding with him. He was the only rider who kept his lap times under a minute in the closing laps as he could taste his second podium of 2017. It was an incredible ride by the Australian legend who will be turning 35 this month.

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Racing in one of his favourite cities, Chad Reed put on an awesome show in Toronto to finish in 4th. Photo by Krystyn Slack

In the 250SX class Husqvarna rider Zach Osborne once again rode brilliantly to win his second main event in a row. During the off-season, Zach began training with the Aldon Baker crew in Florida and it’s obviously paying off. It was also really cool that fans got to witness our own Cole Thompson race SX again. Cole was racing for the second time in 2017 and from what he said after practice, he felt a lot more comfortable than last weekend in Atlanta. After qualifying for the main event directly from his heat race, Cole rode smart in the main event and took advantage of other riders making mistakes. When all was said and done, Cole would finish in 12th overall in the 250SX class. I still thought Cole looked a little cautious during the main event, but with a tough track and riders crashing everywhere, who could really blame him. With the top five in the 250SX class going so fast, it will be very tough for Cole to finish up that high in the next few weeks, but with a good start and some more patented smooth riding by him, a top ten finish is no doubt in his future. With Daytona being such a nasty SX half SX track, look for Cole to be very good as the worse the conditions, the better our MX2 Champ is!

All in all the 2017 Toronto SX was another massive success in my humble opinion. With great racing in every class, including the KJSC, where Ben Kongmany took home a very hard fought victory over Riley Clapp and Cooper Wallis. They announce the crowd at just over 49,000 which has to be one of the largest of the series. Sadly, I did hear talk of the future of this event being on shaky ground as the Roger’s Centre might go to real grass for the Toronto Blue Jays, if that’s the case then there is speculation that they won’t want SX in there anymore so close to the season opener. Who knows what will happen, hopefully this rumour turns out to be false as this event is great for the series, and for Canada. With such a talented crop of future Canadian stars coming down the pipe, it would be great of they had a chance to race in front of their hometown fans. Well, that was it until next year (hopefully), I hope all of you had as great a time on Saturday night as I did. Now, onto the big news from Friday’s Jetwerx press conference.

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Ben Kongmany held off a had charging Riley Clapp to win the Toronto KJSC race. Photo by Krystyn Slack

As I’m sure everyone knows by now, on Friday Justin Thompson and his Jetwerx team held a press conference to announce their future plans to work with the CMA/FIM for the Parts Canada TransCan, the Canadian AX Tour, a Supercross type event in Hamilton next year, and their future aspirations to go outdoor racing as soon as next year. During the press conference our Team Canada MxoN Manager Kourtney Lloyd also spoke about this year’s potential team, as well as their fund-raising efforts for 2017 event in England. One of the main topics was that all of these events beginning in 2017 were going to be CMA/FIM sanctioned, thus giving them more International notoriety. Now instead of lumping all of these topics into one paragraph, lets take a look at each of the big three announcements separately.

Parts Canada TransCan:

This part doesn’t surprise me one bit as this event has been recently forced to almost reinvent itself. For the first time last year there was no pro national to compliment the fine amateur racing that took place all week. This was obviously tough on them and their sponsors as the draw of a pro national added fans, money and lets be honest, a little more prestige to the event. Also, Mother Nature wreck havoc on each day of the event in 2016. The fact that they even got a full week of racing in was truly remarkable. Anyway, with the return of a national not happening in 2017, and the GNC moved out west during the same week as TransCan, the Walton crew felt they had to do something to make their event continue to stand out, and this was one of their few options. Now, for the first time ever the 2017 Parts Canada TransCan will be CMA sanctioned this summer, although no one will have to buy a CMA membership I am told. I never thought I’d see this day come as ironically it was the CMA who threaten to suspend any rider who dared to race the TransCan when it first started in 1992. Anyway, if this is what it takes for the TransCan to not only survive, but also to grow, then I can accept it. There also is talk that Walton Raceway may host a Loretta Lynn’s qualifier as soon as 2018, so that would be cool for our kids. Don’t worry everyone, the TransCan will continue to operate under their own rule book, as they have for a decade. This is great news as I don’t think Jake Lee and Andy Bokma could work together as head referee and assistant referee.

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On Friday afternoon Jet Werx announced some pretty big plans for Canadian moto.

 Canadian National AX Tour:

This is one is definietley a no brainer as this series already enjoys a soild foundation and a bright future, regardless of who sanctions it. With FIM affiliation now, the series can now work with the AMA and become part of the Road to Supercross program. This will allow any pro rider who races this series to accumulate RTS points as they gather experience to hopefully one day race SX. Canada needs a national indoor series that is well run by people who know what their doing. With over a decade under their belt in the USA, and two years now in Canada, the Jetwerx crew has given Canadian riders an indoor series that has always been needed. Again, if the FIM connection helps the process and can give Canadian riders a better opportunity on the world stage, then I’m all for it. There are also plans to run a larger indoor event in Hamilton beginning in 2018. This April event will be the first of hopefully many more SX type events in Canada. The pro and amateur portion of this new event will once again give our riders more of an opportunity to gain indoor experience and hopefully become better riders. All of this is great news as it shows that arenacross and supercross will continue to progress in Canada. As I’m sure everyone can imagine, these events are costly and they cannot be supported by the industry alone. They need outside sponsorship and plenty of it. Whatever steps are necessary to make this happen, go for it!

Outdoor Nationals in 2018:

This was obviously the most surprising announcement of the press conference as the plans were laid  out to not only build up the indoor racing in Canada, but also at the possibility of holding outdoor pro nationals in Canada as soon as next year. Even for the most experienced industry person this announcement seemed as ambitious and shocking as they come, and for a number of reasons! Not in the least that the Jetwerx AX series and the Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals share the same title sponsor…Rockstar Energy. With a rumoured three year deal already in place with the CMRC for their nationals, how can Rockstar Energy support another competing national series as soon as 2018. Well, I don’t think they can, nor can the industry as a whole. There simply cannot be two outdoor national series run at the same time in Canada. There isn’t enough teams, money, or fans to support both, so that is not going to happen. Of course, the question then becomes, what does happen? Well, this is something that will have to be sorted out by people other than myself. I do believe that with the amount of passion and vision that Justin Thompson has, he may indeed be the future of Canadian outdoor pro motocross. I was around when Mark Stallybrass took over from the then fledgling CMA and turned the sport around. I see the same look in Justin’s eyes that I saw in Mark’s back in the early 1990’s. The question just becomes when is the right time. The current CMRC series is running very strong and is coming off their most successful year ever as far as global recognition. Can this sport go through a war right now between Jet Werx and the CMRC, definietley not and I’m sure all of the industry wants no part of that. Fighting does nothing for a sports growth or for it’s ability to gain positive exposure.

We shall see what happens in the near and distant future as the parties involved sort things out. I for one love growth and progression is any aspect of our lives, that is what my father preached to me when I was young, and I now speak the same language to my son. The only part of this that has me practically rolling my eyes back deep into my head is the rebirth of the CMA. Not because of any one person involved, I like people like Pat Bastedo, Rick Bradshaw, Andy Bokma and even Marilyn Bastedo herself. Other than occasionally getting yelled at by Andy when he was a referee, I have respect for all of them. However, as a sanctioning body 27 years ago, the CMA lost sight of where this sport should be headed. Now, the economy was most certainly not on their side as the recession of 1991 slowed everything down. But it was their refusal to accept change, and to not listen to others on how to improve the sport that was their biggest downfall. Just as it is now, back then motocross was a customer service industry and if your customers aren’t happy than things are going to change! With the CMA being involved again now, will things be different? I think it has to be or their involvement will not be tolerated for long.

I first turned a throttle on a dirt bike 40 years ago so I have be involved in this sport for a long time, I also make my living in motocross and I now have a son who loves it as much as I ever did. My entire soul is ingrained in this sport and I want to see it be all that it can be. With that in mind, I hope everyone can find a way to work together and to move motocross into the next decade and beyond. I hope everyone had a great weekend and hopefully spring weather is just around the corner. I’m heading to South Carolina on Wednesday evening for ten days, so next week’s Honda Canada Racing Gate Drop will come to you from the sunny south. Have a great week and safe travels.

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Let’s hope the Toronto SX continues for years to come. Have a great week everyone. Photo by Krystyn Slack