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The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

I guess I will begin this week by wishing everyone a Happy Spring! Although it doesn’t feel like spring in most parts of Canada, the season that all of us moto-loving folk love; has finally arrived. Now, all we need is some milder temperatures to melt the snow and thaw the frozen ground. Last week was March break here so on Thursday we decided to do a day trip to the Switchback track in Butler, PA. I was told on the phone before we left that both the indoor as well as the outdoor track would be open for practice so we thought why not make the six-hour drive. When we arrived, we found out that sadly the outdoor track was closed and the only option was the indoor track. My son still ended up having a great ride and it was the first time he’s thrown his leg over a bike since just before Christmas. It was a lot of driving in one day but, as every parent knows it’s always worth it when your child gets to ride. So, with 12 hours of driving on Thursday and a snow storm here on Saturday, we opted out of making the five-hour drive to watch the Detroit SX on Saturday. There was something about sitting in front of a fire watching the race on television that seemed like a good idea.

As there was last year inside Ford Field in Detroit, the action was intense right from the heat races until the final moments of the 450SX main event. First there was the Star Racing Yamaha teammate drama with Jordon Smith and Haiden Deegan coming together in their heat race. I think coming into the 2023 250SX East Series, a few things were completely predictable. Hunter Lawrence dominating almost all of the main events thus far was probably the first thing that even the most naive fan could’ve seen coming. The eldest Lawrence brother is riding better than he ever has and right now I’d almost put him on par with his brother. Both ride their Honda’s so perfectly, that makes you wonder how high these two can set the bar with their riding in the next few years. The second predictable item is with regard to the Star Racing Yamaha Team. With three riders racing in the 250SX East Series it was inevitable that at some point at least two of them were going to come together and cause problems. That brings me to my third predictable news item for the 2023 250SX East Series, Haiden Deegan being right smack dab in the middle of the drama. Not that I think Saturday night was all his fault, but with all the success that this kid has enjoyed (and earned) in his amateur career, he’s also had to deal with his share of drama. So you just knew that at some point we were going to see what we saw on Saturday night. I just didn’t think it would be in a heat race where all the riders are trying to qualify for the main event.

The Deegan/Smith battle looked okay until it wasn’t. Photo by Matt Wellumson

I also think that we can all assume that after watching Deegan and Smith trade blue paint in their heat race and listening to Deegan’s post-race comments, that even coming into Detroit there was little or no love lost between these two. Whether a specific incident happened at the Star Racing Test track, or whether it was something that has been building for a while, teammates don’t usually do that to each other in a heat race. For Deegan, he’s obviously a young racer with a long career ahead of him. He already has a large fan base with a specific demographic that Supercross needs if it wants to continue to grow. This is no doubt why he’s been part of opening ceremonies when normally, that is only saved for the top ten in the 450SX class. In watching the replay of the back and forth between them I don’t think Deegan did anything wrong; other than perhaps getting too aggressive with a teammate. As for Jordon Smith, I can totally see him being pissed off with what happened, at the time he did look like the faster of the two riders. Because of this, you would like your teammate to give you a little extra room and allow the pass to happen, seeing as it is a heat race and you did catch him from a few seconds behind. However, even with getting the short end of the stick and going down, there was no way that Smith should’ve went from that to eventually not qualifying for the main event. Even with his frustration level being off the charts, Smith is a veteran rider and you’d assume he would’ve regrouped and put himself into the main event. I obviously don’t know either rider personally, but like Deegan and his history of being involved in drama, Smith has a long history of making crucial errors for no reason at all. Overall, if you’re looking to blame someone for this incident it could be spread evenly between the two riders and I’m sure the vibe around the Goat Farm is a little different on this Monday than it was last Monday.

This was a heart breaking moment for Aaron Plessinger and his team. Photo by Matt Wellumson

In the 450SX class, two things stood out to me while watching the race on Saturday night. First, how good was Aaron Plessinger riding in the main event. I mean, he got out front and built a solid lead over the best SX riders on the planet. He had it in the bag before crashing on the final lap and making us all feel bad for him. Plessinger deserved the win and to see him so upset in his post-race interview was heartbreaking. It was strange to see Plessinger crash the way he did. Dean Wilson also had a similar crash and last week we saw Sexton catch his inside foot on a rutted, turning jump face and go down. Simple mistakes by three very talented and experienced riders are surprising for sure. The other thing that stood out from Detroit was that while Plessinger was cruising out front in the 450SX main event, behind him was an entertaining all-out battle for second place. Watching this battle on television definitely made me wish that we had braved the snow and driven to Detroit to watch the race in person. These days the television broadcast is good, but when a battle like that is happening, nothing replaces being there live to feel the energy and see what the cameras aren’t showing you. With the Webb/Tomac points battle, Sexton’s obvious speed, Plessinger finding his groove, Barcia’s resurgence, and Anderson getting better, the second half of this 450SX Series is going to be fun to watch!

If all goes well this week Gopher Dunes will be opening on the weekend.

So, even though yesterday was Sunday, I reached out to Honda Canada GDR Fox Racing team owner/principal, Derek Schuster to inquire about the somewhat controversial two-stroke rule. It has become public that Derek was very vocal about his stance on it and led the charge of team managers who are not pleased with the ruling during pre-season team managers Zoom calls. Whether you’re for the rule or against it, the fact that we’re once again talking about this seems counterproductive. Anyway, I asked him for a quote regarding this two-stroke / four-stroke battle that we’re all going to get to witness this summer in the 250 class. He said okay, let me know when you’re ready. So, I got my pen and paper ready and said okay, I’m ready. Derek replied, “See you at Round 1!” I asked him if that was it, and he said, “I’ve said what I needed to say and our focus is now solely on racing and defending championships” Fair enough I thought, and I thanked him, and moved onto the next topic.

Derek also mentioned that with the great weather in the forecast that Gopher Dunes will be open for this upcoming weekend and he is very excited to get the new season kicked off at Gopher Dunes. Keep an eye out on their social media this week for full details!

Kaven Benoit coming out of retirement this summer makes for a pretty good story in Canadian moto. Photo by James Lissimore

My feeling on allowing 250 two-strokes in the 250 class is that if the rule states you can then go for it. At the end of the day whether you’re on a two-stroke or a four-stroke 250, I believe the deciding factor on who wins will still be who is running the throttle. Does the added horsepower give the 250 two-stroke (especially the new EFI KTM 250) the advantage on certain tracks? I would say yes it does, as they do perform well on softer tracks like Kamloops, Gopher Dunes, SDL, and Deschambault. Those tracks make up half of the 2023 Triple Crown Series, so if you’re running a team that is supported by an OEM that simply doesn’t make a 250 two-stroke, then yes there is cause for concern. But, in order to get the best out of a two-stroke you have to know how to ride one and how to make it work to your advantage. I can see both sides of this as we head into the 2023 Triple Crown Series. But I also like the whole Benoit comeback story and I’m happy to see that he’s decided to come out of retirement and give it another go, regardless of what bike he rides. Remember, back in 2016 Benoit was at the top of his game after being one of the only riders to beat Davi Millsaps in the 450MX Series. His win in front of his hometown Quebec fans at Deschambault was one of most memorable moments of the past decade. After that, Benoit went on to thrill every Canadian fan with his glorious ride at the 2016 MXON’s in Italy. Sadly, an off-season crash while testing in California for the 2017 season caused an injury that Benoit was unable to recover from and by the end of the 2018 season he decided to retire. Now he’s back and I believe our sport and the series is better off for it. As I said, I like the Benoit comeback story and I’m happy to hear that he’s currently down south training hard to make sure he’s ready. Will he be the 250 title favourite on this two-stroke coming into Round 1 in Edmonton? No, I don’t think he will. That honour will still go to our defending champion Ryder McNabb, or his rivals from last year in Mitchell Harrison and Jacob Piccolo. Throw in riders like Justin Bogle, Sebastien Racine, Tyler Gibbs, and Quinn Amyotte and without a doubt Benoit is going to have his hands full this summer. However, from a fan and media point of view it’s all going to make for an exciting story line all summer long. So as Derek said, enough is enough and let’s all focus on the opening round in early June.

It’s great to see these Canadian moto legends enjoying life!

This past weekend we also saw a few of our Canadian motocross legends get together in the mountains of BC to enjoy some early spring snow biking. Ross Pederson, Doug Hoover, Darren Sharuga, and Glen Nicholson all met up this weekend to doing some snow riding and no doubt talk about old times. I bet the bench racing was more entertaining than the actual riding.  These four legends have a lot of history together. As you may or may not recall, Pederson and Hoover were fierce rivals in the 1980’s and unlike today where most of the top riders are friendly off of the track, in those days Pederson and Hoover never spoke. So, to see them together and having fun after all of these years is amazing.

How good was the battle for second place during the 450SX main event in Detroit? Photo by Matt Wellumson

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and let’s all hope that Mother Nature begins to improve her mood. Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please email me at chris@mxpmag.com.

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