By Danny Brault
It’s almost here, it’s almost here! In only one more sleep, the sole Canadian round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series kicks off in the beautiful, concrete filled city of Toronto, Ontario. Since 2004, the biggest dirt bike racing series in the world has been visiting the Rogers Centre. Before that, the CMRC—and before them, the CMA—hosted indoor events inside the ‘Dome.’ Ontario’s capital certainly has a long history with supercross action, beginning in 1980 when Carl Bastedo and Brian Miles introduced stadium racing to the city. In 1989, they moved the action into the Rogers Centre (then Sky Dome).
From Ross “Rollerball” Pederson and Jim Holley, Damon Bradshaw and “Mad” Mike Jones, Chad Reed and Ricky Carmichael, Toronto has featured almost every era of supercross greats. For 2014, we’ll see the likes of Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen, Justin Barcia, James Stewart, Blake Baggett, Adam Cianciarulo, Martin Davalos, Blake Wharton, and the list goes on. In my recent memory, the best race I’ve seen in Toronto was the battle between James Stewart and Chad Reed in 2007, when, after going and back and forth, Reed bumped into Stewart, sending him flying off the finish line jump and into the next lane. The two have had a long history of rubbing paint, and that was probably one of the best of them.
Looking further back, when I was a youngster racing in the Lakeshore Dirt Riders Motorcycle Club (LDRMC), the big highlight for us 80cc racers, was earning the honour to race in the Toronto Supercross support class. Whoever finished top 3 in the ‘Spring Series’ was awarded a spot in the Big Show, earning a chance to ride under the lights like our SX heroes. The year (1996) I had an opportunity to race inside The Dome, I missed out by one spot, finishing fourth overall in the Spring Series. Instead of crashing my brains out, I sat in the stands, watching Joseph Rose, Derek Riseby (sp) and Jay McKinnon roll pretty much every jump on the track. Those who know me, know I’m ‘full of it,’ but I swear to this day, I would have jumped at least one of those tractor-trailer-table-top jumps. I’m not saying I would have stopped in time for the next corner or keep it on two wheel, but I would have went for it. (Always looks easier watching from way up in the stands, eh?)
We don’t have a gate full of Canadians to cheer for at Toronto, but we’ve got a few … well two, in Cole Thompson and Davey Fraser in the Lites class, and also semi-Canuck Dean Wilson who continues to ride out his arm pump in the 450 class. There’s no shortage of Canucks in the crowd, though, as tickets are almost sold out and superfans from all corners of Canada are flying in to catch the action (and drink the city dry). We also have young Canadians to cheer for the in the KTM Junior SX Challenge.
This week, I checked in with KTM Canada’s Kaven Benoit, who is currently training and riding at the Georgia Practice Facility (GPF). I was curious to know if he’s made up his mind on which ‘stroke’ he’s racing during the MX2 Nationals this summer. “Right now I’m riding the 250 two-stroke,” he says, “But I have a 250F coming here soon and after riding it for a bit, we will decide on which bike to go with.”
As a former marketing rep at KTM Canada, my bet is we see Benoit racing a KTM 250 SX-F. Why? Well, KTM’s Race Manager, Andy White, already has Ingalls, O’Farrell and some others on 250 two-strokes, so the brand surely needs to have at least one fast guy on a thumper. Two-strokes are still alive, but KTM can’t forget to promote and market their four-strokes, which have received quite a few updates and four-strokes remain the top priority for most OEMs. Unless, of course, Benoit is going that much faster on a two-stroke, then things may change. Or maybe he’ll race both, depending on track conditions?
Normally Benoit stays in race shape competing in snocross events during the winter, but following some accidents and injuries over the last two years, he’s kept far away from skis and tracks this winter. He’s now in Georgia until May, before returning to Canada to begin final preparations for Round 1 in Nanaimo, BC. Can Benoit take down defending champ, Monster Energy Leading Edge Kawasaki’s Austin Politelli? “No injuries and I can do it!” he replies. With Jeremy Medaglia possibly dropping back down to MX2, we’re sure to see great racing between him, Benoit and Politelli.
In changing things up a little this week, here are some random thoughts and topics regarding Canadian moto:
I saw some chatter on the forum this week regarding the Western Canadian Amateur National in Raymond, Alberta. I’ve been fortunate to attend and race at the WCAN a few times, and while the event is fun and challenging, it doesn’t offer the same pomp and pageantry as say, Walton. I know there was talk about Brett Lee and his Tite Racing team managing the WCAN, with the goal of developing more flare to the WCAN but the locals weren’t keen on the idea. “We had sponsors lined up, even for this year, but they weren’t interested,” says Lee.
The manufacturers show love for each of the three Amateur Nationals in Raymond, Walton and Deschambault, Quebec, but I feel that we could put concessions into place to drive more interest, riders and fans to each of the events, specifically the Western Amateur National in Raymond and the Eastern dance in Deschambault, which don’t receive quite as much attention as the Grand Daddy in Walton.
How do we do this? I don’t have a clear-cut answer, but something that rewards riders who attend all three. A ‘Triple Crown’ of sorts, where riders earn championship points between Raymond, Deschambault and Walton, and the winners or top 3 point-getters are given a Crown complemented by a life-time supply of Rockstar Energy Drink … something to that affect. Each of nationals feature very different track and dirt conditions, a unique cultural feel and by engaging more riders to attend each, it would only strengthen the Canadian amateur scene.
I would like to hear readers’ comments and suggestions on this one. Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. What would cause you to participate in more than one amateur national?
JAKE THE SNAKE
Unbelievable. Ryan Gauld became a father on Wednesday. He and his girlfriend, Amy, welcomed a healthy baby boy named Jake into the world. Some may be thinking, ‘This should be interesting …’ but Ryan has a big heart and I know he’s going to be a great dad. Jake Gauld is going to live an interesting life, that’s for sure, and I can’t wait for the day he beats his old man around the motocross track.
THREE 20s, INSTEAD OF TWO 30s?
Back when I first started telling tales of Canadian moto, I remember Mr. Rob McCullough, a former Canadian pro who had qualified for AMA Supercross and Motocross main events, tossing out the nutty idea of running three 20-minute motos, instead of two 30 minute + two lap races at pro nationals. At the time, I didn’t agree with his suggestions, since motocross traditionally has held longer races to test riders’ conditioning. It’s part of what makes motocross the most physically and mentally demanding sport on earth.
These days, however, I’m warming up to that idea because as we all know, the best part of a race normally happens in the early stages of a moto. Very rarely do we see a good battle extending the full 35 minutes. More often than not, it’s the drop of the gate, first corner and opening laps where fans are the most engaged.
Like when the red line was removed and two-line passes were permitted in hockey, this may strike some as a crazy idea, but is it? We all love seeing a good race and paint being rubbed, and the key to drawing in new blood is to keep things exiting. I for one hate spending time and money on attending an NHL hockey game, only to watch no goals being scored and little entertainment. Shorter motos would mean more intensity, and really, how many guys out there can ride a 450 four-stroke hard for more than 20 minutes? Don’t get mad if you disagree, it’s just a thought.
Not as much juicy gossip for you readers this week, but I’ve got my notepad packed and recorder charged for Toronto this weekend. We’ll get some good dirt for you to include in next week’s Notes. No doubt about it.
“Yellow is mellow; red is dead; green is lean, but blue is true. Go team go. Never surrender.”
– Peter Swanton, Yamaha Motor Canada’s National Sales Manager and Superfan