Notes and Photos: Toronto Supercross

By Danny Brault
Photos by James Lissimore

The 2014 Toronto Supercross has come and gone, and if you missed out on attending this year’s event, you’re now waiting until 2016 when it MAY return. Due to the Rogers Centre undergoing construction updates in preparation for opening ceremonies to the 2015 Pan-Am Games, Monster Energy AMA Supercross will not be held in Toronto for the first time since 2004. That said, it’s not to say we won’t ever see AMA Supercross in Ontario ever again, but if the series replaces Toronto with Montreal (which would be cool) or US stop–and that event makes money and features a good crowd–then odds are Feld won’t bring the series back. That’s only my uneducated opinion, however, and we’ll get some more concrete words written down later this week.

If this is, in fact, the last time we’re treated to Supercross in Toronto, it went out with a bang! We watched Rockstar Energy Drink KTM’s Cole Thompson score his best ever SX finish with a 5th place in the Lites classs, the ‘real’ James Stewart make an incredible charge from 14th to win the 450 class, and we even had living-legend, Ross “Rollerball” Pederson in the house and on the JumboTron with Jeff Emig and Ralph Sheheen.

Here’s a look at what went down in TO, through the Nikon lens of James Lissimore:

Rogers Centre

Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto, Ontario.

Old Faithful: At one time, the Rogers Centre (formerly, SkyDome) was one of the most modern stadiums in North America. It’s been standing tall next to the CN Tower since 1989, but it’s starting to show some wear, or at least enough that the city and Pan-Am Games organizers feel they need to spend a bunch of money (total budget is $1.4 billion for the games) polishing it up for the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Pan-Am Games. Of course, Cirque de Soleil is the opening act, and so things have got to be top notch. Money well spent?

stadium pits

The Toronto Supercross pits

It’s always an impressive sight to see the factory rigs parked across the street from the Rogers Centre. Unfortunately, because of the weather, lack of space and dangers of having fans criss-crossing the street, access to the pits is quite limited for taking in the ‘behind the scenes’ of supercross during Toronto.

opening ceremonies

It’s hard to beat the energy and excitement of opening ceremonies at Supercross!

My first AMA Supercross experience happened in 1997 in Pontiac, Michigan. A few things were different then, like two-strokes instead of four-strokes, but one thing that hasn’t changed since then is the feeling I get watching opening ceremonies. I nerd out a little bit during the fireworks, and start dreaming about what it would be like to be one of the supercross stars: riding out to an aggressive song of my choice, pulling a stadium-long wheelie and soaking in the crowd’s cheers. That’s living.

canada

Oh Canada!

Since 2004, when AMA Supercross first landed in Toronto, the crowd has grown every year, and in 2014, the stadium featured a near sell-out crowd. In the last two weeks leading up to the race, you were lucky to find two seats beside each other. Here’s hoping Feld Entertainment remembers this when the Rogers Centre is finished construction and it’s open again for business in 2016!

stewart and villopoto

It sure was exciting watching James Stewart (7) claw his way back from 14th to 1st, but would things have been different if we had a healthy Ryan Villopoto (1) in Toronto?

Both Stewart and Villopoto deserve much credit for their results in Toronto. For Yoshimura Suzuki’s Stewart, it was quite possibly one of his best rides ever, working his way up from 14th to win the 450 main event. For defending champ and current points leader, Villopoto, he dug deep to finish 6th after battling a serious food-poisoning ailment. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was feeling so sick, that he didn’t even put in one lap during practice! Even though the SX elite ride this stuff everyday, it would still be spooky lining up without having experienced a single bump, hump or rut on the track–and Toronto was one of the toughest of the year. Points-wise, RV still has a very comfortable lead (25 points over second-place Ryan Dungey) but it did allow Stewart to climb back into the hunt (he’s now 3rd in points, 32 points back of Stewart).

 

450 start

A 450 Supercross heat start (left to right): Chad Gores, Matt Georke, Justin Barcia, Weston Peick, and Ryan Dungey.

A pretty colourful starting line, but you know what? It seemed like there was more Orange on the track than any other brand in Toronto. To be sure, I ran through the top-40 riders who qualified for the night show and here’s what I found: 8 Suzukis, 7 Kawasakis, 7 KTMs, 12 Hondas, and 6 Yamahas. I guess I was wrong; KTM didn’t have the most bikes on the floor but they were tied for 3rd, and that’s pretty impressive for a brand that only had 1, or maybe 2, bikes on the line less than 5 years ago.

fraser

Nova Scotia’s Davey Fraser gave it all he had in Toronto. Depsite a serious lack of indoor racing experience, Fraser only missed the night show by 1 second. He’s a giver!

Let’s give it up for Davey Fraser! Yes, he didn’t make it into the night show but he was less than a second off from doing so. I kept an eye on the PR-MX Kawasaki rider during practice and he looked pretty good. He was pushing it and being aggressive (and took a few dirt samples along the way). With a little more track time, he could have made it into the night program. The Toronto track was definitely the most technical and demanding yet in this series, so hats off to Fraser for riding as well as he did.

rollerball

Canada’s greatest motocross and supercross racer, Ross “Rollerball” Pederson, Chris Pomeroy and “Mini-Palms” Ayrton Pomeroy hanging out in TO.

I kept saying it was so good to see Rollerball in Toronto, but truth to be told, I’ve never even saw the guy race (live) so I feel like a ‘poser’ making a comment like that. I suppose my happiness comes from the fact that I have read and listened to a plethora of mythical stories of Ross (on and off the track) and so it’s like seeing this Zeus or some other Greek god in the flesh. ‘Wow, he really existed?!’ Adding to that, Ross looked really good and healthy for an old warrior, and it was great to see him on the big screen with Emig and Sheheen, and sharing war stories with fans at the Canadian Motocross Legends booth.

thompson

Cole Thompson (52) snaking his way through one of Toronto’s tricky rhythm sections.

Sarnia, Ontario’s Cole Thompson joins a minority of Canadians who have cracked the top-5 in AMA Supercross racing. The Rockstar Energy Drink KTM rider brought his hometown/ country fans to their feet, earning his best ever SX finish in Toronto with a 5th place in the Lites class.

250 start

Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo (46) leads the Lites class into the first corner.

Pro Circuit Kawasaki normally dominates SX Lites action, but in Toronto, not so. The youngest of the Pro Circuit trio, Adam Cianciarulo, was leading the championships points heading into TO, but after two shoulder dislocations (one in practice, one in the whoops during the main event), he’s now second points, 4 back of teammate Martin Davalos. Things didn’t go much better for Blake Bagget (4). Although less painful, Baggett’s night came to an end after crashing and destroying his throttle tube. He’s now 4th in points, 24 out of first. (I can’t believe Davalos is now leading the points after crashing 224 times this season …. I guess that’s racing.)

crowd

“Awesome race–now throw us your goggles!”

It’s certainly a bummer that supercross isn’t returning to Toronto next year, but if Feld brings it to Montreal in 2015 instead of another round in the US, that’s all right by me. Quebec loves motorsports and you know they won’t be shy to fill the 50,000 + seats of Olympic Stadium.

preston masciangelo

Preston  Masciangelo was the top finishing Canadian in Toronto.

We may not have had many Canucks in the big bike classes, but we made up for it in the KTM Junior SX Challenge! No stranger to the bright lights of indoor racing, Preston Masciangelo has been racing AMA Arenacross this winter and that experience helped him to top the KTM 50cc intermission race.

swanson

Kyle Swanson, “busting big” just like Mike Metzger.

Privateer Kyle Swanson didn’t qualify for the main event, but he deserves a hand for lining up every weekend in the Eastern Lites SX series. Again, this makes me wonder why certain Canadians are not racing Toronto or other supercross events … when they have access to better bikes, more support and they have more speed (outdoors, at least) than Swanson.

wiebe

If she had room, I’m sure Miss Supercross would tuck The Wiebester into her pocket and bring him back to SoCal.

Not only is Toronto an opportunity for many Canadian photographers to grab some flawless pics of the world’s premiere dirt bike racing series, it’s also a chance for them to steal a photo with a Monster girl and update their desktop wallpaper.

wilson

Dean Wilson looks good on his new TwoTwo Motorsports KX450, but he needs to fight just a little harder to impress William Wallace.

Scottish born-Canadian raised-California resident-Scottish accent-Dean Wilson holeshot and led a good chunk of the first 450 heat race before finishing second to Justin Barcia. In the main event, Wilson rode OK to finish 8th. I really hope these first few races of Wilson riding a 450 aren’t a true testament to what he can do in the big bike class, because I always pictured him as better 45o rider. Not impressed so far.

stewart

Good ride, cowboy.

I have never cheered for James Stewart until this season. Why? ‘Cause he was always so dang fast and cocky. I typically switch around my ‘cheer fors’ to whoever is an underdog with some potential to win. In 2014 James Stewart is that guy, and last Saturday night, he came from behind, won the race and showed a good amount of humbleness that he didn’t display early in his career. I hope things work out for Lucky #7 to win this Championship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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