By Danny Brault
Photos by James Lissimore (who else?!)
Even though they only hold four motos on national race weekends, MX2 and MX1, there are actually many races going on within those 30 minute motos. It’s not only riders themselves battling for points, wins and bragging rights, but also the ones footing the bill and building the machines these warriors fight with: the motorcycle manufacturers.
Don’t be fooled. Even it seems like (and they are) spending less money to go racing, the manufacturers still want to win. A lot of the people working for these companies have racing in their blood and they enjoy gathering around the coffee machine and talking about the latest race, whether it’s supercross, motocross, Canada, the US or elsewhere. They like seeing their colours up front, it gives a sense that your team is winning. You’re now ‘part of it’ kind of thing.
It’s true, winning on Sunday doesn’t mean sales rocket on Monday … or Tuesday … or Wednesday … you get it. At the end of the day it’s marketing and trying to expose your brand to as many eyeballs as possible. But as we said, the heart of the matter isn’t lost; every manufacturer wants to win.
So it begins, the unofficial ‘Manufacturers Cup’ of the Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals. The biggest investors of the series are the five main ones on the market today: Yamaha, KTM, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki (and Husqvarna was almost in this year). Four of them have major teams, but not Suzuki. It’s true MotoConcepts Racing’s Mike Alessi is racing a Suzuki 450, but there’s not much a connection as far as sponsorship goes. It’s just the bike the team has chosen to race. A bonus for Suzuki, really.
Let’s break it down by colour to where each bike manufacturer stands going into Round 2 of the CMRC Canadian Nationals.
Blue is true
I do have a good amount of Blue running in me so maybe I am biased here (but I also have orange and red running in me too), but it’s good to see Yamaha making a push with strong riders and teams in both classes.
We’ve got the good fellas of the MX101 crew operating the MX2 program of Yamaha Motor Canada, with Canadians Dylan Wright and Shawn Robinson, and super friendly, super fast import from the US, Jesse Wentland; Rockstar Energy Drink OTSFF managing 450 duties with Bobby Kiniry and Kyle Chisholm (Izzi was close to come as well), and they’re also entering year two with Saskatchewan’s Shawn Maffenbeier; and of course we have the Devils Lake Riverside Yamaha team out of Edmonton, Alberta, with Dylan Kaelin and David Gassin in MX1, Josh Clark in MX2 and defending Ladies champ, Hailey Larson.
Well, good to hear you say but what about the results? Not too bad. Maffenbeier proved he is for real and his win at Walton last August was no fluke. He rode the heck out of his YZ250F (which a lot of the fast guys are saying the motor is unbelievable) and kept pace with KTM’s Kaven Benoit during the first moto. He proved it with a 3-2 for second overall (Benoit won, Politelli third). Wentland finished just off the box in 4th overall, the rookie Wright took a very respectable 6th overall for his first trip to Nanaimo, and Robinson rode his 250 two-stroke to an 11th overall.
Some bad luck to BC’s Brock Hoyer, who took 6th in the first MX2 moto but didn’t finish the second. A tough go for Devils Lake Josh Clark ended the day 19th overall. There’s always next weekend, right?
In MX1, Yamaha had a so-so day in Nanaimo. OTSFF teammates Kiniry and Chisholm finished 5th and 6th, and Dylan Kaelin put in a great ride for 8th overall (kid worked all winter and still came out swinging. Keast would be proud). While Yamaha didn’t have a podium in the 450 class, they did put a lot of blue in the top 20 (7 of them were on blue. Tied with Kawasaki for most 450s).
How many points did Yamaha walk away with from Nanaimo?
MX1 – 143 points
Top 10 – 4 riders
MX2 – 154 points
Top 10 – 3 riders
Total points combined: 297
Yellow is mellow
Where did you go Suzuki? Correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m sure Stallybrass will correct me) but Suzuki Canada supports the series, financially, but doesn’t really offer a whole lot of support or interest into a race team. They did for years, most recently with Andre Laurin’s OTSFF program, but for the last two years they haven’t featured a big ‘factory’ team. It’s too bad as their RM-Z450 and 250 are great handling bikes with a solid motor. As Mike Alessi proves, that 450 works just fine even in white instead of yellow.
Good for them on saving the bucks on a semi and still getting some love with Alessi winning on his 450, even though to the untrained eye you may not know what brand of bike it is.
So, without getting too involved at the racing level, did Suzuki still make out all right at Round 1?
MX1 – 45 points (all from Alessi)
Top 10 – 1 rider (Alessi)
MX2 – 0 points
Top 10 – 0 riders
Total combined points: 45
Green is Lean
Go green or go home, baby. Kawasaki may have lost defending champ Brett Metcalfe, who is filling in for Ryan Villopoto in the AMA series, but they are still in the title hunt with Josh Hill and Teddy Maiier looking fantastic in Nanaimo. Even though defending champ Austin Politelli didn’t win, he still took third overall and will no doubt be a contender again in this series.
Monster Leading Edge Kawasaki has been fielding the Green Team’s program since 2010, which is run under the eyes of Jason Hughes from Kamloops, BC. The team really doesn’t go too hog wild in the off season testing, but they’ve managed to find the right guys to build the motors and suspension, and the right ones to make them work on the track. Both Maier and Hill touched the podium in Nanaimo (Maier moto one, Hill in the second) and have what it takes to win.
But beyond those two heavyweights, we have Star, Idaho’s Austin Kouba, Ryan Lockhart and Todd Minnie playing the supporting cast.
Where did Kawasaki finish up?
MX1 – 137 points
Top 10 – 3
MX2 – 60 points
Top 10 – 2
Total combined points: 197
Orange is … orange?
KTM Canada’s factory race effort has been taking a brutal beating over the last winter. They lost Red Bull and then Cole Thompson to injury, but even when all is said and done, I bet those two moto wins by Kaven Benoit felt awesome last Saturday. Convincing wins too. They also had Topher Ingalls running a 250 SX two-stroke, who grabbed a holeshot and ended the day 5th overall in MX2.
In the 450s, Tyler Medaglia is KTM’s top gun. He had a good weekend in Nanaimo, but not what he or the team expect. Like many, many others, Tyler is not a lover of The Wastelands. He’ll take that 7th overall from last Saturday, and turn into a podium this weekend in Kamloops. I can feel it.
Longtime KTM rider Ryan Millar is back, which is great because he makes for a flawless photo. He’s fun to watch and just a nice kid from Southern Manitoba. He rode hard to an 11th overall in MX1, and not far behind him was Jake Anstett in 13th.
Let’s also give a shout out to privateers Michael DaSilva, Daniel Mathe, Seth Rarick and Eric Jefferies of Redemption Racing, who all also scored points in Nanaimo.
KTM’s weekend results:
MX1 – 66 points
Top 10 – 1
MX2 – 94 points
Top 10 – 2
Total combined points: 160
Nope, Big Red isn’t dead. Honda Canada made a return to the Nationals last year, and now they’re going bigger than ever with the GDR Troy Lee Designs team. Not since Blackfoot in 2006 has Honda poured this much attention and money into a team. We missed having them at the party and welcome them back, especially when we have them supporting a champ like Colton Facciotti and then building up an amateur sensation like Weston Wrozyna.
The Wastelands was certainly no waste for Honda. Everyone watched as Facciotti gave the big gun from the US, Mike Alessi, a bump to the ground in the first MX1 moto before reeling off his first win on his new Honda. Alessi would get the better of Colton in the second moto, but the two are still tied in points with 45. At this point they’re even.
Facciotti’s young teammate Wrozyna did just fine for his first official pro outing. Ignore the 17th overall (23rd in first moto); the 16-year-old rode well for a 13th place finish in the second moto.
MotoConcepts runs a Honda CRF250R with Vince Friese in the MX2 class, and that combo netted Big Red a 5th place in the first moto for a solid 16 points. Expect more production out of Friese in the coming rounds; he had a crap start in Nanaimo and then suffered a blown up bike in moto two.
MX1 – 51 points
Top 10 – 1
MX2 – 50 points
Top 10 – 0
Total combined points: 101
And your current leader of the ‘Manufacturer Cup’ is … Yamaha with a whopping 297 total points from MX2 and MX1! I suppose it should be no surprise as they have the most riders in the field, or maybe they just know how to pick’em?
Manufacturer Cup Results from Nanaimo (points):
Yamaha – 297
Kawasaki – 197
KTM – 160
Honda – 101
Suzuki – 45