Honda Canada Racing Presents The Monday Gate Drop

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As the summer of 2016 rolls on, Honda Canada Racing has been tearing up the race tracks right across Canada. Whether it’s young Austin Watling in the amateur ranks, or Colton Facciotti in the pro class, Honda has been at the front of the pack. In the 1990’s it was Carl Vaillancourt and Marco Dube who rode a Honda to their Championships. From 2001 to 2006, it was Blackfoot Honda’s Jean Sebastien Roy and Dusty Klatt who reaped the rewards of riding red. Fast forward to 2016 and it’s the Honda Canada Fox GDR Racing Team of Colton Facciotti and Jeremy Medaglia looking to add to Honda’s rich history of success on the track. We would like to welcome Honda Canada as a proud new supporter of this Monday Gate Drop column. If you want to see all of Honda’s line up for 2016, just log onto www.motorcycle.honda.ca.

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The Tragically Hip’s final set list from Saturday night.

Good day and Happy Monday!! As always I hope everyone out there had a great week and an even better weekend! As we look at the calendar, we are now only two short weeks away from the unofficial end of the summer of 2016. It has certainly been a very interesting summer for me both professionally as well as personally. While there are definitely moments that I hope I never have to deal with again, for the most part I hope next summer is just as exciting and fulfilling.

As most of you saw (or heard) on Saturday night, The Tragically Hip played their final concert in front of their hometown Kingston, Ontario fans. Thankfully, the CBC carried the concert, both on television as well as on the radio. I wasn’t able to watch it, but I did tune into CBC Radio via the internet and caught the final hour of the show. I’m not jumping on any band wagons here and saying that I’m a die-hard Tragically Hip fan, however, over the past 25 years some of their songs have provided a soundtrack to what I was doing at that time. Even today whenever I hear a certain song like ‘Three Pistols” or “Bobcaygeon,” I can vividly remember exactly where I was and what I was doing with my life, and I’m sure it’s like that with a lot Canadians. I love how music can do that. While the Tragically Hip isn’t the only Canadian band that can that can transport us through time, their Canadianna-inspired music has something for everyone to relate to. Like any band’s final performance, the Hip’s was epic with a plethora of their hits and an unheard of three encores. In case you missed it, the band closed with the playful childhood song “Ahead by a Century,” a fitting conclusion to what has been a great three decades of music.

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The rumor this past weekend was that Cole Thompson has resigned with the KTM Thor Racing Team for 2017. Photo by James Lissimore

Another thing we said goodbye to last weekend was the final round of the 2016 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals. From the opening round in Kamloops back in early June to the RJ’s eight days ago, our top pro riders battled a few of the top American riders in both the MX2 and MX1 classes. Even though we saw two run away champions after 20 motos, the racing all summer was intense. Of course, as we close the book on the 2016 series, we can’t help but look ahead to next year and who will be riding what when the gate drops. There was a rumour floating around yesterday that Cole Thompson has resigned already with the KTM Team and will once again race in the MX2 class to defend his title. I definitely can’t see KTM letting Kaven Benoit go as he’s like family, so I would expect him to be back under the orange tent. I doubt Davi Millsaps will be back in Canada in 2017, but a year ago I never would’ve guessed that he would’ve been here this past summer in the first place. Anything is possible and I hope that he comes back to defend his MX1 title as I very much enjoyed watching him ride.

We know that Brett Metcalfe and Matt Goerke will be returning next summer so I doubt there will be any changes with the Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha Team. Obviously, Colton Facciotti will be back on a Honda and looking to redeem himself after his tough summer. The big question is whether or not the GDR Honda Team will sign another MX2 rider or get someone to ride alongside Facciotti in the MX1 class. MX101 Yamaha will most likely remain the same for 2017, as will the Redemption KTM Team. That leaves the Monster Energy Alpinestar Kawasaki Team. I’m almost sure they will bring back Mike Alessi to ride in the MX1 class, as well as another top rider like maybe a Jake Weimer or even Justin Brayton. I would love to see Joey Crown ride for them in the MX2 class but it really depends on what route Joey wants to go in 2017. It will also be interesting to see what new, young faces will be lining up in 2017. Casey Keast, Austin Watling and Marco Cannella are all ready to race in the pro class so hopefully some teams step up and gives these kids an opportunity. Even though we’re only a week into the off-season, the talk has already began.

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All week the Walton Raceway crew worked their butts off to keep the track in prime condition, despite the massive amounts of rain that fell.

So as we sadly say goodbye to the awesome summer of national racing, as well as a life changing era of Tragically Hip music, we also celebrated 25 years of the Parts Canada TransCan this past week. Now I haven’t been there for all 25 years, but I have been a part of this event as either a rider, a worker, or as a fan since 1994. During this past week I thought a lot about my first Walton experience back in 1994 as Mother Nature didn’t cooperate back then either. However, the big difference this past week was that the track crew knew exactly what they were doing as they kept the track in great shape all week, despite the massive amounts of rain that fell on Tuesday, Friday night and then again on Saturday night. After not raining much for almost two months, you just knew Mother Nature was getting restless. Well, she did her thing and the crew at Walton Raceway were kept busy all week.

Even with the adverse weather all week the racing in almost every class was exceptional. As we saw at both the WCAN and then again at the GNAC in Deschambault a few weeks ago, amateur racing in Canada is better than it’s ever been and this past week at Walton Raceway was no different. From the battle in the Intermediate class between Marco Cannella, Austin Watling and Chris Fortier, to the Piccolo, Mann, Tricco battle in the Supermini class, all the kids were on the gas. I love watching today’s fast kids give their all on a challenging track. They work hard all year for a chance to race in the spotlight. I said this at the start of the year – the more big amateur events we can have in Canada the better as far as I’m concerned. This is one reason why some of the kids in the USA are so fast, because they race against each other numerous times over the course of a season. I even like the points system that is used in the USA that provides a ranking system for amateur kids. This could work in Canada, but not before a few things change. So the 25th Annual Parts Canada TransCan is now history. I was able to win the Plus 40 title again, which was a lot of fun as for this year I had switched to racing a KTM. After all of the success that the Orange Brigade enjoyed this summer, I was glad I could be a part of their success.

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Even though it got little muddy at the 2016 Parts Canada TransCan, the kids still managed to have some fun! Photo by Heather Davison Greig

Congratulations to all of the riders who won titles and also to everyone who survived the week. If I had to pick two riders that stood out for me during the week and ended up having surprise performances, it would be Honda rider Brad Nauditt, as well as young KTM rider Cole Pranger. Brad not only won the Plus 25 Championship during the week on his big 450, but he also held onto 2nd in yesterday’s Pro Open final. Cole Pranger had a great week finishing third overall in the 50cc Open class, 4th in the 50cc 7-8 class, and sixth overall in the 65 7-9 class. It was a great week for Cole who when not riding his dirt bike is a very talented hockey player. Cole is a great rider but definitely came into this year’s TransCan a little under the radar. Sometimes, though, that is the best way to do it as there is very little pressure.

So that is it for me this week. I hope everyone enjoys the final few weeks of summer and good luck to everyone heading to Madoc this weekend. I for one need a weekend off from the track so we’ll probably just relax this weekend. Finally, congratulations to Kaven Benoit on winning yesterday’s Parts Canada Pro Open final at Walton. Benoit didn’t exactly have a ton of competition as there was only a few riders capable of running his speed. Benoit holeshot the final and never looked back, proving why he finished third overall in the MX1 class in this past summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals. Have a great week, and a safe week.

2016 Canadian Amateur Grand National Champions