Good day and welcome to another edition of the Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop. We have almost reached the end of February and that means the spring must be right around the corner. This coming weekend in Abbotsford, BC, the Honda Canada Racing GDR Fox Team will kick off their 2018 race season with Round 1 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series. MXP Magazine would like to wish Colton Facciotti and Dylan Wright good luck in Abbotsford, as well as for the rest of the season.
Before we get rolling here for this week’s Monday Gate Drop, I will warn you that this edition might be a little short. Today is Family Day in Ontario and like everyone, I want to get outside and spend some time with my family. Today in our small town we have a few different activities to choose from, and with the weather being nice, spending time outside is a must. I hope you and your family have a great day as well.
So, this coming Saturday is the opening round of the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown in beautiful Abbotsford, BC. We’ve all been waiting for the race for some time now, and although there are still a few unanswered questions surrounding this weekend’s event, it does feel really good to have a meaningful race in Canada this early in the year. The racing promises to be very interesting inside the Abbotsford Arena as almost all of our top riders will be there. Last week I spoke to KTM Thor rider Cole Thompson about his off-season, as well as how he’s feeling on the eve of the opening round. With his vast indoor experience, Cole is definitely one of the favourites to win this weekend. During my interview with him he also spoke about how excited he is to finally be back in the MX1 class for 2018. With his cerebral riding and smooth style, he is very well suited to the 450 class where you can’t just pin it to win it. Remember a few years ago Cole was originally in the MX1 class and was one of its top riders. Now, at 24-years-old, he’s older, wiser and stronger, so I think he’s a threat to win races both indoors as well as outdoors in 2018. With Cole, Colton Facciotti, Matt Goerke, and Dillan Epstein all confirmed for this weekend in the MX1 class, the battle for the win should be an intense one.
Moving on from our Canadian series to Saturday night’s SX in Arlington, TX, as it’s been in the 250SX west series, the 250SX class was the most exciting race of the evening in Big D. Defending champion Zach Osborne coming from behind to win the main event was definitely the highlight of the night. I’m not a huge fan of Zach’s style on the motorcycle, but what I am a fan of is the way he never stops charging. Even when he slid out early in the main event and dropped back, you knew that he was still going to make his way to the front. It was also very cool to see Jimmy Decotis grab the first podium of his career in Dallas. Jimmy D rode an incredibly smart race and simply put himself into a position to succeed. Thankfully, most of the top riders were able to avoid the first turn carnage, which caused Martin Davalos to crash very hard. In the replay of the mishap it appeared that Josh Osby came into the first turn a little fast and clipped Davalos, causing the Kawasaki to get sideways and crash hard. I know it was the first main event of this series and all of the riders were a little amped up, but this crash was completely avoidable. As any rider knows, the first turn is a very congested area as riders try to make space for themselves, as well as try to hold onto their own space. In most cases, the riders are in an unstable position as they try to slow down from a high-speed start straight. They’re so focused on what’s ahead that they’re simply not prepared for any hit from behind. Osby’s move was incredibly dangerous and I hope it’s dealt with by the AMA, whether with small fine, or at very least a stern warning. This was a surprising move by a rider like Osby, who just last summer was on the other end of it after he ran off the track when he collided with Dylan Wright in Truro, NS. Osby was injured in that crash so he definitely knows what can happen when the racing gets a little too close for comfort. Hopefully Davalos is okay and will be in Tampa this coming weekend.
With the Monster Energy Supercross Series heading back to Tampa this weekend, it definitely brings back some memories from twenty years ago. Back in 1998, I was down in Florida doing some training for the upcoming season when we decided to make our way down to Tampa from Ocala to race the SX. I can’t remember if it had rained the night before, or if it started raining in the morning of the race, but I do remember that right from the start the 1998 Tampa SX was a mud race. In those days, only the top riders got seeded directly into the night show, while the rest of us had to race qualifiers in the afternoon. These qualifiers weren’t just timed practices, they were actual four lap races. As you can imagine, these short races were incredibly intense as you just didn’t have that much time to make things happen. Due to the rain, the afternoon qualifiers were fairly muddy as all of the Canadian riders made it through to the night show. As we were all waiting for the night program to begin, the skies once again opened up and it poured rain for the rest of the night. The Tampa track was an absolute quagmire and I remember them being the toughest conditions I had ever raced in. The ruts were so deep and the mud so thick that it was virtually impossible to get any momentum. Also, because the ruts were so deep, it was really hard to change lines, so you were basically in the same rut for most of your lap. I had only been down south for two weeks so I wasn’t in great shape, plus my bike was completely stock, which didn’t help matters. Seeing as I was a very good mud rider in those days, I wish I could’ve done better that night and perhaps not only made the main event, but had a good finish as well. However, like everyone, I was just happy to get out of Tampa that night in one piece. I also remember it took us two days to clean all of our stuff in the days that followed. There is nothing like some good old moto memories to get you excited for the weekend.
Well, that is it for me this week as I now have to head outside for some Family Day events. In closing, let’s give a little congrats to Tanner Ward who once again finished inside the top ten in the latest round of the 2018 Amsoil AX Series in Florence, SC. Tanner now sits 5th in the 250AX East Series, which is amazing for the young Ontario rider. Tanner will be in Abbotsford this weekend racing in the Lites class. Also, this past weekend at the Toronto Motorcycle Show Yamaha Motor Canada introduced the all-new 2018 YZ65 to the media. This new blue machine is ultra-trick with almost all of the same features of the bigger Yamahas. Look for the new YZ65 in dealers very soon as it will be sure to be a big seller. I hope everyone has a great week and an amazing Family Day. This coming weekend I will be in Abbotsford to kick-off the 2018 Canadian racing season. It’s finally time to drop the gate.