Nanaimo BC: A Special Place
Well, here we are, after months of bench racing and hype the opening round of the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals has finally arrived. The teams will be pulling into The Wastelands Track tomorrow and the riders shortly after, the weekend that everyone has been working towards for six months is upon us. Anytime a new season begins it’s an exciting time, think of opening day in baseball or the puck dropping on a fresh 82 game schedule in the NHL. Although there are rankings from the previous year, every rider who shows up to Nanaimo this weekend has a clean slate and a summer full of racing ahead of them.
At some races in this series driving to the track is just a been there, done that journey of highways and back roads that everyone has driven on a thousand times. However, getting to Nanaimo is half of fun as the trip there is jammed packed with scenic wonders and means of travel that motocross riders rarely get to experience. While some riders and team personnel fly straight into CYCD (that’s the official airport code for the Nanaimo Airport) for the weekend, most opt to drive or fly to Vancouver and then take one of the BC Ferries over to the Island. I’ve actually been lucky enough to do both and although the 12 minute flight aboard a Dash-8 is quick and painless, taking the two hour ferry ride is one of the coolest things on the circuit.
For logistical reasons pretty much every team uses the Tsawwassen to Duke Point ferry as it’s the easiest when you’re using a big truck and trailer. However, if you ever get the chance you must try the Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay route out of West Vancouver. I’ve taken it a few times back in the late 1990’s and the scenery is even more amazing. On one trip we even got the call from the Captain that there was a Pod of whales off the starboard side of the ship. Once we figured out which side starboard was we ran over and got to see the whales swim by. Whichever way you chose to get to Nanaimo, I don’t think you can make a bad choice as just getting there is the important thing.
There are a number of hotels in the Nanaimo area that are nice to stay in, the Best Western, the Inn on Long Lake and the Grand are the most popular among the teams. You can’t go wrong with any of them as there all close to the track and restaurants. If you want a chance meeting with one of your favourite riders then I suggest eating at either the Keg, Earl’s or even the Cactus Club as many industry people hang out there.
Even though most of your time will be spent at the track, if you do have a few free moments than there are few options. Obviously sightseeing and hiking are at the top of everyone’s agenda, but if you’re feeling really brave you can travel 20 minutes south and try your hand at Bungee Jumping at Wild Play Elements Park. Seven or eight years ago this used to a must stop for the riders and mechanics to see who was the bravest away from the track. So as you can see there is a lot to do while you’re on Vancouver Island, this one is what makes this stop of the series one of the best.
The Wastelands track is a very unique one to the series as it’s unlike anything else they’ll see. Built on the side of a slight upslope, the track uses the natural landscape provided but also has a few cool jumps, nothing too big just enough to give the riders and the fans some thrills. The real secret in going fast on this track is the corners. With the sometimes slippery dirt, getting in and out of the corners quickly is what separates the leaders from the mid-packers, well that and the start. Getting a good start on the cement starting pad is crucial for any success. Since the track runs clock wise around the property the track has a lot of right hand corners, these are generally tougher on a rider than left hand corners because you have to remove your foot from the rear brake in a right hander. This means a rider has to do all of their braking before they sit down and stick their leg out, some riders are good at this and some aren’t. A rider like Colton Facciotti excels at this technique and that is one reason why he always does well on this track.
On most race days the Wastelands track doesn’t get very rough and the temperature outside never really gets hot, so fitness and endurance isn’t really a factor here. However, this track is extremely tiring mentally as you simply can’t afford to make a mistake. The lap time difference between first and tenth is very small so you have to stay completely focused for the entire moto. The final item that makes this track very challenging is the roost from the other riders. It’s not uncommon to see the riders after the race cut and bleeding simply from the roost. It hurts and there’s no way to avoid it unless you get out front off the start.
So the keys to this race is as always, get a good start, stay out of trouble, nail your corners and don’t make mistakes! The rider that does these things the best will stand on top of the podium at the end of the day and will have given fans the show they were looking for. I hope everyone enjoys round one of the 2014 Rockstar Energy Motocross Nationals. If you can’t make it to Nanaimo, then you can listen to the races live on the internet. Just log on to mxpmag.com at 11:30 local time on race day for the MXP Live Internet Radio Show with host Brian Koster.