MXP Chatter: Shawn Maffenbeier rolling out to BC Arenacross Series

“That’s the next goal, to qualify for an AMA outdoor or supercross. I really want to try and race Glen Helen and Hangtown at the start of next season. I’ve looked at the schedule and it all works out with them happening in May before the Canadian races. Even if I don’t make Hangtown, because it’s a bit of a drive, but Glen Helen is right in my backward where we train down in California. I hope it happens!

Rockstar Energy Drink OTSFF Yamaha rider, Shawn Maffenbeier. Clearly a Zoolander fan.

Rockstar Energy Drink OTSFF Yamaha rider, Shawn Maffenbeier. Clearly a ‘ Zoolander’ fan.

By Danny Brault
Photos by James Lissimore

This weekend marks the opener of the Canadian Arenacross Championships, and fans should be in for a treat. Every year the promoters and major supporters of the event make sure to line the pro starting line with a good amount of talent, to deliver tight racing in the main events, and hopefully controversy and sparks in the Dash for Cash.
    Joning the Canadian Arenacross fray this weekend is Shawn Maffenbeier. Leaving today from his home in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, the Rockstar Energy Drink OTSFF Yamaha rider doesn’t have a ton of indoor racing experience but he has won a main event before in Chilliwack. With three weeks of practice, Factory Connection taking care of him and his factory packed Sprinter van, Maffenbeier has everything needed to put the arenacross regulars over the boards this weekend in Armstrong, BC.
    We checked in with Maffenbeier this morning as he was packing up for his day-long road trip from SK to BC.

MXP: Hi Shawn, are you on your way to BC yet?
Shawn Maffenbeier: Drew (Roberston) convinced me to stay longer (at home in Saskatchewan) while traffic chilled out. That’s what I did and I got a workout in.

Nice. What did you work on today?
Just got loosened up and made sure we were limber for the race.

Have you had a chance to do some arenacross riding and testing before going to race this weekend in Armstrong?
I built a track in my hometown of Swift Current, and I’ve been riding that for three to four weeks steady. The guys at Factory Connection got me a decent arenacross setting so I’m feeling pretty comfortable for this weekend. I haven’t raced arenacross in a long time so I’m keeping an open mind. I don’t have a lot of expectations but I’m happy to keep racing this fall.

I don’t think you’re known as an indoor guy, but of course, you also don’t have much experience in that realm as well. How do you feel about riding indoors?
Of course, the more experience you have, the better you like it. Once you get used to it –  the whoops, rhythms and being quick out of corners—it’s a blast to me. I raced three years ago in Chilliwack and won an event so I don’t think I’m terrible at it. We’re lucky to have the series on the West Coast; the guys in BC have been racing it since they were on little bikes. I think if guys from Alberta and Saskatchewan start going there, they can do well.

I believe you’ve finished as high as fourth at the Montreal Supercross, correct?
Yeah, I got a fourth and fifth two years in a row. That’s really mostly my indoor racing experience. I’m more used to a big stadium than the smaller stuff.

Maffenbeier has his 'factory sprinter' all packed up, and is currently driving from Saskatchewan to BC, for round one of the Canadian Arenacross Championships. Photo courtesy of Maffenbeier

Maffenbeier has his ‘factory sprinter’ all packed up, and is currently driving from Saskatchewan to BC for round one of the Canadian Arenacross Championships. Photo courtesy of Maffenbeier

 

What have you been up to since the final national at Walton in August?
I took a month off and hung out with the family, hung out at the lake and went camping in BC. I did some local races in Saskctehwan. I knew I was racing arenacross right after, so I wanted to keep riding.

What’s the scene like in Saskatchewan right now? Good entries? I’m not sure what other regions are like that, but things quiet down in Ontario after Walton.
It’s the same here. There are certain guys going back to work, some guys are hurt. It’s not like the spring races. It stays pretty steady for the numbers all year though; a 200 entry weekend is pretty good. It’s a lot smaller than Ontario and Alberta but it’s fun racing.

Your teammates Chisholm, Kiniry and Goerke were part of a very stacked line up at the Monster Energy Cup, which ended with them and many other top riders failing to qualify for the night show. Were you following the action?
I was following it all day and was amazed at how many fast dudes were in the LCQ. It’s pretty wild, none of my teammates got in, but when you look at the results, you can’t be too too bummed. I think (team owner) Andre (Laurin) and everyone just took it for what it was and enjoyed their weekend in Vegas.

Have you raced an AMA National?
I haven’t yet, no. That’s always on my mind as the next step. That’s the next goal to qualify for an AMA outdoor or supercross. I really want to try and race Glen Helen and Hangtown at the start of next season. I’ve looked at the schedule and it all works out with them happening in May before the Canadian races. Even if I don’t make Hangtown, because it’s a bit of a drive, but Glen Helen is right in my backward where we train down in California.

In 2013 you were on a YZ two-stroke, this summer, a YZ250F. Did you ever find yourself missing the two-stroke? Some riders aren’t pumped on the idea of 250 two-strokes allowed in the class, and of course some manufacturers aren’t either since they don’t sell them. Your take?
There were times where I could have used a little more power here and there, but the 250Fs are so good now, I didn’t miss it too much. The darn thing would vibrate your hands so much, you couldn’t feel them by the end of the moto. If you get a good two-stroke rider—Kaven rode the bike as good as anyone and he was really good on it this year. Those other manufacturers … it’s weird because KTM and Yamaha are the only ones who make them. Obviously Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki aren’t going to want them on the track. I honestly believe they are fairly even, two and four-stroke 250s.

The battle is on! Vince Friese (719) leads Maffenbeier (22), Kaven Benoit (24) and Jesse Wentland (27) during a moto in Ulverton, Quebec this past summer.

The battle is on! Vince Friese (719) leads Maffenbeier (22), Kaven Benoit (24) and Jesse Wentland (27) during a moto in Ulverton, Quebec this past summer.

The Regina motocross community was thrilled to have the National series return this summer, but sadly, it turned into a mud hole and then the day got canceled. Aside from that, what was the vibe like with the nationals returning to your region?
Anybody that I talked to, they were bummed out, especially how it all played out. They were excited that it came to town though. They were excited to see guys like (Mike) Alessi on tracks they’ve ridden their whole life. The riders and fans want it to come back. I know there have been talks with the club and (series promoter) Mark Stallybrass, but I’m not sure what’s to come of it. It’s pretty cool for the local people to see me race at the national level and all of our local racers. I hope it comes back.

Do you feel they made the right decision, cancelling the day after the first set of motos?
In the first MX2 moto it wasn’t too bad; we were pushing a decent line. Once it started raining for that first MX1 moto we knew it wasn’t going to get any better at that point . It was too far gone and the ambulances had a hard time getting around. I think they made the right call but it’s hard to make everyone happy in those situations. There are two sides to it.

If rules change, I’d like to see two bikes per rider and tech both of them—it was talked about at the end of the year. If we did that, it would make it easier on everybody. The mechanics made a good point, we’re swapping motors in 25 to 30 minutes and there’s high chance something could be missed, which could lead to an injury. Even a privateer—no privateer shows up with one bike—they usually have two bikes if they’re pretty serious. Things like that would change the situation and the decision when it comes to mud races like that.

You’re back with OTSFF next year?
Yep. After a good year, I had a few chats with other people, but Yamaha has treated me great and Andre took a chance on me. I felt really comfy on the bike this year. It’s nice to stay on a bike for two years, start with a setting that you’re happy with and then build off that. I’m excited to be back on the Yamaha.

A lot of riders are happy with the new YZ250F. Seems to be a better foundation for teams to start with.
It’s a pretty big leap forward with EFI and the motor package. Anyone who has ridden it will agree. They’ve gotten the motor to where it needs to be.

What’s your ability like testing and making changes to the bike?
When I first came to the team, I wasn’t used to having a choice; we used what we had, type of deal. Having guys available to make changes was new to me. Bobby (Kiniry) and (Kyle) Chisholm both have helped me set up bikes and be more aware of what’s going on underneath me. Being sensitive to things, like Bibby K will come off and say his motor mount is loose. How do you know that? ‘Oh it’s flexing too much,’ he says. Learning that and how to give feedback, it really helps. We had a great session with Mike and Factory Connection in the spring. That was a big help.

What was your best moment this summer? Where do you feel like you were really ‘on it?’
Ulverton was my best track. That place replicated Glen Helen almost identically. I ride there all the time when training in California. I struggled in the western rounds; we thought we had a good setting but then noticed some things. We made some changes for the Eastern rounds, with chassis and suspension, and I settled in. I felt comfortable to push it and I think it showed. I finished third in almost every second moto on the East Coast. Ulverton is where I meshed the best with the bike and track.

Maffenbeier gives Benoit a post-race shower at Walton this August on the MX2 podium.

Maffenbeier gives Benoit a post-race shower at Walton this August on the MX2 podium. Having raced a 250 two-stroke in 2013, Maffenbeier is open to having both ‘strokes’ on the line, and offers kudos to Benoit on his two-stroke riding abilities.

Are you happy with your season in 2014?
You could pick it a part, I could have done better here and there, but we never finished outside the top 10, and were only outside the top 5 two or three times. I’m happy with my year. It was a lot of learning with the competion we had; Vince (Friese), (Jesse) Wentland, (Jeremy) Medaglia, (Kaven) Benoit, Dylan (Wright), there were epic battles right to the end of the race. Overall it taught me a lot about racing with those guys.

Yes, certainly no rest in that MX2 class. No point where you could settle in and relax for a lap or two.
You had to be on your toes until the last lap . Usually when the two lap board came up, that’s when a lot of passes happened. Always a guy in front of you and behind you.

Your folks, Randy and step-mom, Jackie, they’ve been a big part of your racing career. For years, they hauled around the big Yamahlube rig but now you’re on OTSFF and things have changed for them. What are they doing with themselves with all of their spare time?
For the first year, they didn’t know what to do. The last four or five years prior to me riding for OTSFF, they were helping me out at the nationals. They were confused (when they didn’t have to go every weekend) and didn’t know if they should go to the lake; they were watching Twitter and stuff and keeping track of my racing. They run their own business and are always on the move. It was definitely a relief for them to have me under Andre’s wing and being with the OTSFF team. Now they can relax and enjoy their summers a little more. My old man came to all the western rounds and was always calling me on the east, giving me tips on riding .

What’s your parents’ business, if you don’t mind me asking?
They own an ATM company.

Oh, right on. Good for them. Before I let you go, I assume you’re getting onto the track in Armstrong tonight for the first time?
I believe the track is rented tonight so we’ll do some break in with the bikes. I’m getting on the road and hopefully can get a session in on the bike tonight. The boys shipped me my race bike so it’s all loaded up and ready to go.