Like any event or cool vacation, the anticipation is always at a fever pitch and if you blink, you can miss it. This was most certainly the case with the 2020 Walton TransCan as it was talked about and planned for many months, and now just like that, it’s over! Last week at Walton Raceway was a glorious time for not only all of the riders and families, but for our sport in general. To bring that many people safely together during this Covid-19 Pandemic all in the spirit of competition was truly amazing. The 2020 Walton TransCan obviously took a lot of planning, it always does. But this year there were definitely a few more hurdles to jump through for the Walton TransCan crew, but they pulled it off and they should all be very proud. For a post event chat, we called up Brett Lee to get his thoughts on how everything went.
MXP: Well Brett, you guys did it! I know we’re only a few days removed from the 2020 Walton TransCan, but how are you feeling?
Brett: Yeah, we did! It was a huge sense of relief for Melody and I for sure. It was very big for our Walton team. Barry and his crew, gate staff, medic, officials, everyone has been planning and making sure we have done everything right for the past number of weeks. So it feels good to have done it correctly and very exhausting too.
From the moment everyone arrived last week the entire facility looked great. How long does it take to get Walton Raceway looking that way?
A good month of set up and then two weeks after cleaning up everything.
And your crew came up with a few track changes that were very cool!
Yeah, the idea to change it up came into play after the Walton 1 National was decided. We have done more practices this year so, we didn’t want anyone to have a competitive advantage over others. And we wanted to spice it up a bit between the two national weekends, that way the Pro guys had a different look between races. Barry Hetherington and Jamie Mitchell really took the bull by the horns removing trees and cutting new sections. They looked back at the 2013 track for inspiration and put in a lot of work for Walton 1 track. By the time we were done the Walton 1 and TransCan we had 90 hours on the dozer alone!
This was bigger than other TransCan with a pro national bookmark on either end. How were you able to pull this off?
Planning. We just kept planning the arrival of people, equipment and site prep. We have a really good experienced staff and we have always said that is what made this happen. We definitely underestimated things like trailer pump-outs, water needs and even how hard this was on track equipment. That is where staff and even racers themselves jumped in. For the most part, we never changed our master plan from day to day, it just was performed over more days.
I spoke to some of the teams and they like that they could stay set-up all week and not move to a different venue. Can you see this happening again in the future?
It could for sure. Things are going to change a lot in the future. No one knows what restrictions will exist in 2021, so that will play a role in what the entire series looks like. Doing a restricted entry, no spectator national is way different than doing a full blown crowds and amateur racing style national that we have seen traditionally. For sure it could be done but it would require a lot of thought put into it.
You had riders from right across Canada make the trek to Walton Raceway last week. I believe you had over 700 entries with riders of all ages. Considering what we’ve all had to go through with this Covid-19 Pandemic, those are just amazing numbers.
We have seen high numbers all year in Ontario, but it was really satisfying to have people commit to driving distances. For some out of province people this was their first gate drop. Think about that…driving across the country for your first and only race of the year. I really have a lot of respect for riders who competed with that pressure.
That really is amazing, and I heard a few stories like that. Other than the obvious difficulty you went through to even have this event happen, what is the most challenging aspect of putting on an event as large as the Walton TransCan?
I have to say the emotions. You are in these adrenaline induced days. Your emotions are just under the surface where you are worried about how people will react to the event, how inspections go, how the weather will be. It’s late nights and early mornings. You have friends and family around who want time and you want to give them time as well. It is what we love, but it is also the hardest part to ride the emotional wave leading in, throughout the event and down the back of it.
I know there were some issues with neighbours and certain local businesses objecting to this event. Other than that minority, how was the vibe surrounding the event from the everyone in and around Walton?
For the majority it was incredibly supportive. We did not cut corners on the safety of our community or our racing community. Everyone wants to feel safe and confident in the plan and procedure we had in place. Some businesses did not feel comfortable hosting new guests, while others really embraced it. Ultramar in Blyth had their largest week since they opened in 2016. The owner, Brent Scrimgeour,, is a good community guy and takes the precautions seriously. It felt great to see his business do so well in these times.
I could be mistaken, but other than some of the BLM protests we saw a few months ago, the 2020 TransCan might be the largest event to happen anywhere in Canada since March?
Maybe, I don’t know for sure. I can understand why many events choose not to go. It is a lot of work, a lot of planning and a lot of scrutiny. We are a business, so the decision to go was driven by that to some extent, but we also believed that we could do it safely. We believe that things are not going to change back anytime soon with restrictions, so we all have to learn how to operate and function in a safe way.
This was a very historic moment for not just Canadian motocross but for Canadian sport in general.
Melody made that comment this morning. It doesn’t feel like that to me, but I am hoping others can learn from what we did and start rebuilding all our lives. We need to live life, move forward with life and we are going to have to get used to doing it differently. That means finding safe, healthy ways to do the things we love, with people we love. I am sure we will all celebrate this moment more down the road.
What was your proudest moment of the week?
First moto leaving the line. It always is. This year when the gate dropped Melody and I both felt like we couldn’t be stopped then.
Well Brett, we thank you for your service and for all of your efforts in making the 2020 Walton TransCan happen. It was definitely an unforgettable week.
This is a complete partnership with Melody. We share everything in our lives and without her this would not have happened. She did some really heavy lifting in some intense and difficult situations. I am very proud of her. Same with Barry Hetherington, he stepped up and picked up loose pieces from our plates around the farm so we could sit in on meetings or fill out forms. And then the entire team that surrounds us. We ate dinner like a family in the back yard for over a month talking about everything to do with the raceway. Never did anybody ever suggest we couldn’t do this, it just continued to be a process of solving the day’s hurdles.
Well, like I said you should be very proud and so should everyone in our sport. We really are like one big family. Any final words?
Of course, we are thankful to sponsors and supporters. We will make sure in the coming weeks we share their story more. Right now though, we are grateful to riders and families. The kind words but also trusting us with this event. People invested in this event know we had our work cut out for us to do it. They travel from across the country and without that support we would not have had the week we did. We see everyone, and we appreciate every entry that comes into the race. This year was most special because there weren’t crowds, there were just racers and their families. That was special. We are very grateful to everyone who came through the gate this week.