Welcome to 2017 and another glorious year in Canadian motocross. As we focus our attention on the Monster Energy Supercross Series for the first part of the year, it will be interesting to see how new Honda rider Ken Roczen fairs in his first season riding red. Ken Roczen, and his teammate Cole Seely will be racing the all-new 2017 CRF450R in Supercross and everyone at Honda couldn’t be more excited. Once the supercross series is complete, we’ll turn our attention to the Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals where the Honda Canada Fox GDR Racing Team will hit the track with their talented duo of Colton Facciotti and Dylan Wright. What an exciting 2017 we have ahead of us and we couldn’t do it without the support of Honda Canada Racing. Now it’s time for your weekly Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop.
Good day and happy Monday! Just in case you haven’t notice, we’re now into the second half of the saddest month of the year. After all of the excitement of the holiday season, and the beginning of a brand new year, the long 31 days of January comes and then feels like it won’t end. This is why I’m happy to report that we’re now in the homeward stretch, soon it will be February (the shortest month of the year) and then of course, March. Thankfully, we have things like the Motorcycle Shows and the Monster Energy SX Series to keep us occupied.
This week I will begin with Canadian news in which I have both good and bad. I’ll begin with the bad news as I’m sure everyone has heard that our current fastest Canadian rider Kaven Benoit suffered a badly broken ankle/leg this past weekend at a supercross in Germany. After not making the main event of Friday evening, we’re sure Benoit was feeling much more comfortable on Saturday. Unfortunately, during the first lap of the main event Benoit got out of shape and got launched off the track, landing awkwardly on his feet. Sadly, Benoit’s ankle dislocated when he landed, and for that to happen, a lot more damage has to be done. Benoit also broke his Tibia and Fibula which required surgery in Germany. As everyone who has suffered this terrible injury knows, the recovery time is long and pain staking, just ask Kyle Beaton or Ryan Villopoto. Hopefully, Benoit had a good surgeon in Germany and he will be back on his feet in no time.
These days I can’t count the number of conversations I have with people in this industry about the old days; the difficult days when everyone rode two-strokes, the pros had to race two classes at each national, and we all had to walk to and from school into a head wind. Truth be told I’m the first one to admit how tough racing was years ago, however, to be perfectly honest, I’m glad I’m not a modern day pro rider trying to make a living in this sport. Just like Benoit did this past weekend, I travelled over to Germany to race a few one off supercrosses while in the prime of my career. I even had to ride a different brand of bike than what I rode back here, but the racing just didn’t seem to be as intense back then as it does now. In those days, the German SX consisted of older riders like Doug Dubach, Ron Lechein, Mike Jones, just to name a few. Oh sure, there were some young and aggressive local riders, but my point is that racing was just different. I watched a video on Saturday of Benoit racing his heat race in Germany before he got injured, and I was blown away by how technical and fast the Dortmund track was. There appeared to be very little room for error on the track, and that is without mentioning the stiff competition and how much more important bike set-up is now compared to twenty years ago. As I said, yes the sport many years was very difficult, but these days the riders have to deal with so much more if they want to be successful. I hope Benoit heals up quickly and I hope this won’t affect his preparation for the Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals in June.
So that was the bad news that I had, now onto the good news. Last week it was announced that for the second year in a row Kourtney Lloyd will be Team Manager for Canada at this year’s MXoNs in England. Kourtney did such a great job in 2016 that the CMA decided to bring her back again this year. This is great news for the Team and for our sport in Canada as the energy and organization she brought to the program last year was remarkable. With a top ten finish in Italy last year, the bar has been set pretty high for England in 2017, but with months to prepare, and a year of experience under her belt, I’m sure this year’s effort will be even better. On a side note, it was also announced last week that Ken Roczen will be available for the German team if they decide to pick him. I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be on the very difficult to beat German team in 2017.
This past weekend we also got to witness a great race at round two of the Monster Energy SX Series in San Diego. If Saturday night was a boxing match, we would have called the 450SX main event a heavyweight fight. Right from the opening lap, 2017 title favourites Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen engaged in a 20 minute brawl where they bobbed and weaved around each other trying for force a mistake. And while there weren’t as many passes as we’ve seen in past great battles, these two going toe to toe definitely had everyone on the edge of their seat. For the entire race, Dungey and Roczen were only feet apart as they made their way around the technical San Diego track. With Dungey appearing to be a little quicker in the corners, Roczen and his new Honda had the whoop section dialled in and used that section to pull a few bike lengths each lap. The two warriors almost split the track in half with Dungey being faster on one half, and Roczen mastering the other half. Back and forth they went with Roczen leading and Dungey waiting for a mistake. As Ricky Carmichael pointed out during the broadcast, Dungey appeared to be sizing up his German competitor while searching for an opening. Unfortunately for Dungey, that chance never came as Roczen rode an absolute perfect race to take his second win of the season. Dungey was only feet behind Roczen as they crossed the finish line, and to further show their domination over the rest of the field, third place rider Marvin Musquin was over twenty seconds back. If this is what the rest of the SX season is going to be like then we’re all in for a huge treat. There is nothing better than watching the two best in any sport go at it on their respective playing fields. Saturday also proved that all of the other riders are going to have to find some speed if they hope to win a race in 2017.
Well that is it for me this week. The 2017 Canadian Motorcycle Shows move west to Vancouver this coming weekend for their third show of the season. So far these shows have been well attended, and what could be better in January than a day inside at a bike show. The SX series heads back to Angel Stadium in Anaheim this weekend for round three where Jess Pettis is supposed to make his 2017 debut. Good luck to Jess, and to Brock Leitner, as they take on the rest of the 250SX west class. Have a great week everyone!!