Good day and welcome to another edition of the Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop. Honda Canada’s top rider, Colton Facciotti, is getting ready to return home from GPF to finish his 2017 Nationals preparation at home. Armed with the all-new 2017 CRF450R, Colton will be very tough to beat this summer as he battles the likes of Christophe Pourcel, Matt Goerke and Mike Alessi in the MX1 class. Colton’s home track, Gopher Dunes, will be open for practice this week and of course this coming weekend. So head on down to Courtland, ON and have some fun in the sand.
Let’s begin this week’s Gate Drop with talk about the upcoming Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals. Last week there was both some very positive news announced, as well as some slightly controversial news. On the positive side, the Monster Energy Alpinestars Kawasaki Team put out a press release announcing their 2017 team of Mike Alessi and Jacob Hayes. This is great news for Kawasaki, the series, and all of the Mike Alessi fans that were looking forward to seeing the 800 on Canadian soil. Also, it’s going to be great to see Jacob Hayes get another chance to go for MX2 glory this summer. As you may recall, last year Hayes made it exactly 200 feet before blowing his knee out in the first moto in a first turn crash at the opening round in Kamloops. It was a crushing blow for Hayes and his team as they had high hopes of battling Cole Thompson for the MX2 title. If both of these American riders can remain healthy all summer, they should challenge for the titles in both classes. The line-up for both classes is shaping up nicely for the opening round in Kamloops. With just over two months remaining before the gate drops, I’m sure all of the riders are in very serious training mode as they get themselves ready for upcoming long and hot national motos. Last year the temperature in Kamloops was over 30c on race day and the searing heat made it tough on everyone.
Now to the other news that caught the attention of the industry last week, and that was the release of the Pro Rider Package for the CMRC Nationals. Other than a few minor tweaks, the rider package was the same as it’s been for the past few years. And while it was weird to see Prince George, BC on the schedule instead of Nanaimo for the first time, one item that caught everyone’s attention was the new Social Media guidelines set by the CMRC for this summer’s nationals. I believe these guidelines came about after last summer when a few riders used Social Media to voice their displeasure over being docked positions in the multiple red cross flag incidents. These days with Social Media, every comment, opinion, and pretty much what everyone is doing with their time is made public for the world to see. When you’re an athlete and part of a popular series with big sponsors, Social Media can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. Unfortunately, in most cases, the more controversial things you post, the more attention these posts receive, and the more followers you get and more popular you become. If you use Social Media as barometer for your own popularity and success in life, then this is a good thing. However, the last thing sponsors want is to be involved with an athlete who is unpredictable on Social Media. The wrong type of post can make a sponsor look bad to thousands of people within a few minutes, which is the good/bad power of Social Media.
From CMRC’s perspective, this is their series and they obviously have a right to run it as they see fit. Whether everyone agrees with how they do it or not, at the end of the day that really doesn’t matter. Every big series in any sport runs things the way they want, and on a few occasions, some of the rules have ruffled feathers. And like or not, athletes have to follow rules that they may think are unjust. For instance, in the NHL there are strict rules for the players and team personal regarding criticism of the officials at any point in the season. This practice was put in place after reporters were allowed in a team’s dressing room moments after each game to conduct interviews. As every athlete or coach can imagine, if you get a microphone stuffed in your face just minutes after you feel a bad call just cost you a win, chances are pretty good that you’re going to say something that you wished you didn’t later. In the NHL’s mind, if you’re saying bad stuff about the officiating, then you’re calling into question the integrity of the officials, and thus making the entire league look bad. As much as the CMRC guidelines may not be as specific as the NHL, I’m sure this is what they’re trying to say to the riders and team personnel of their series.
However, as a former rider I can totally see how these guidelines would be interpreted the wrong way and make the riders upset. These riders are great at what they do because they’re focused, incredibly talented and very stubborn, that is why they’re racing dirt bikes at this level. They put their bodies at extreme risk on the track while they battle tooth and nail for position. No one is getting rich and they don’t like being told what to do on or off the track. These attributes may seem hard to comprehend for some people, but that is what makes them good at what they do, why people pay money to sponsor them, and to go to watch them compete. No series or league would be anywhere without the ultra-talented athletes that compete day in and day out.
On the flip side of this, some of these guidelines are really just common sense. And whether it’s the CMRC, or a team’s valuable sponsors, no one wants controversial posts on Social Media criticizing anyone or anything. These days there is definitely a difference between free speech and what could be seen as hate speech. If a rider or team manager has an issue, there is a proper way to address it. Obviously, heading into this summer there are potential land mine issues like last season’s red cross flag and the severe penalty that came with it. Actually, over the course of the off-season there has been discussions over this rule and here are the revisions that have now been put in place for 2017.
6. WHITE WITH RED CROSS – Indicates a downed rider or the need for extreme caution. All riders must display a clear attempt to reduce their speed. Absolutely no passing, or no jumping with the purpose to clear any obstacle.
If both the Red Cross and yellow flag are displayed and if there is a pass or jump, the Red Cross flag supersedes the yellow, and a five position penalty will apply.
Penalty for jumping on the Red Cross flag:
1st infraction – 5 position penalty
2nd infraction – 10 position penalty
3rd infraction – moto disqualification
As I mentioned earlier, we still have over two months before the gate drops in Kamloops. Let’s keep the communication lines open between the teams and the CMRC, and let’s make sure both sides are happy prior to the season beginning. The only thing that we need to focus on this summer is the awesome racing on the track and the line-up of awesome riders. I cannot wait.
I didn’t make it to Ford Field on Saturday night for the Detroit SX as I had a hockey banquet to attend, as well as an alumni game to play in. Anyway, I followed the race on Social Media and then on Sunday morning I watched both main events. I’m sure everyone has seen what went on at Ford Field so I won’t go into too many details. All I will say is that I was absolutely gutted for Zach Osborne and what happened to him. Now Zach is forced to regroup and come back stronger than ever next weekend in St. Louis, where it will be a must win. Osborne definitely deserves to win this title as he’s been the fastest rider by far. His misfortune has without a doubt added to the incredible storylines from this season.
In the 450SX class, Eli Tomac continued his impressive march to the points lead as he once again took home the victory. Current points leader Ryan Dungey finished up in third place after a bad start and an intense battle with Davi Millsaps. I love the way Tomac is riding right now, and I love how hard Millsaps battled on Saturday night. However, I honestly don’t understand why Dungey has to fight so hard against his KTM teammates, while Tomac chips away at his shrinking points lead. I’m not suggesting that Millsaps or Musquin should just let Dungey by, but how valuable would second place points be to Dungey in the past few weeks? Millsaps raced him very hard on Saturday night, and while the racing was clean, anything could’ve happened. Also, once Dungey got into third late in the race, why wouldn’t Musquin be instructed to slow a little and see if Dungey could catch him? Again, this makes St. Louis another very important round this weekend.
As I say goodbye for another week, I’d like to say congratulations to all of our Canadian riders who raced so hard this past weekend in Texas. Our talented group of riders ran at the front of the pack all week as they raced the top amateur riders from the USA. I hope everyone has a great week and I hope that all of you are able to get out riding. In Ontario, Gopher Dunes is now operating on their normal schedule, and Moto Park is set to open this coming weekend. Spring is here and it’s time to ride!