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The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

Good day! I hope everyone had a great early September weekend. For the most part, it was a quiet weekend at Palms Springs, although on Saturday Daniel Elmore came over and we spent the first part of the day riding some SX. Also, my son Ayrton is back riding now after his early summer injury so it’s great to be able to ride with him once again. After that, we watched the opening SMX Playoff race from Charlotte and that was a lot of fun. I’ll talk more about that race in a moment, first I’d like to pay tribute to all those affected by the terrible events of September 11, 2001. I think we all remember where we were and what we were doing on the fateful morning as we watch things unfold on television. At first it was disbelief and shock, then anger and even more shock. Our lives, and the world changed on that day and that is why we should never forget what happened on 9/11.

So, as I mentioned above, Saturday afternoon we saw the first-ever SMX Playoff Round leave the starting gate at zMax Dragway, located on the outskirts of Charlotte, NC. Honestly, it’s about time that we saw SX racing return to this motorsports loving city, it really is the center hub of racing in the USA. I’ve been to Charlotte many times over the past several years as we have close friends that live in nearby Fort Mill, SC. Every time we drive past downtown Charlotte on I-77 and see the beautiful Bank of America Stadium, we wonder why there isn’t a round of Monster Energy Supercross there? I don’t know why there isn’t, but I do know that there should be, and that is one reason why it was great to see these new SMX Playoff Rounds come to the Charlotte area.

Overall, I thought the racing was decent on Saturday, as each class raced two longer motos, instead of the traditional SX format where the riders have to qualify for one main event through a series of heat races. I mean, sure at times the races felt like they dragged on a little, especially if there weren’t any battles going on. However, at the end of the day it was good to be able to watch some exciting racing in September. I think with a few tweaks here and there to both the program and the track, these races have the potential to be pretty special. Also, it was good to see Chase Sexton finally get the second place monkey off of his back, and take the win in the 450 class. After seeing the back of #18’s jersey for most of the Pro-Motocross Championships, it must have felt great to go out and dominate on Saturday. Ken Roczen was another rider who rode fast and smooth to finish on the podium, and I thought he looked great at the opening round. Sexton rode well, Roczen and Ferrandis rode well, and for the most part, even though he didn’t win, Jett Lawrence rode well also. Right now, I think Jett needs some time off, and then a full off-season of 450 SX prep and he’ll be just fine come Anaheim 1 in January. It was also great to see Jo Shimoda continue his winning ways as he grabbed the overall in the 250 class. Jo’s confidence has to be at an all-time high right now, and with him moving to factory Honda next year, there is no doubt that he’s going to be the favourite to win a title or two in 2024. With good weather expected this weekend in the Chicago area, Round 2 of the SMX Playoffs should be just as exciting, perhaps even more exciting now that everyone knows what to expect from the track, as well as the format.

Tom Vialle had a solid night in Charlotte and rode strong on the hybrid track.

One rider who struggled to find consistency in Charlotte was Haiden Deegan. Dangerboy (how long do we have to call him this ridiculous nickname) had a big crash in qualifying, and then after winning the opening race, could only manage a 5th place finish in moto two. Also, Deegan is struggling right now to find consistency is the hearts of minds of his USA fans after announcing that he didn’t want to go to France to represent his country at the MXON. This certainly came as surprising news, as several times this summer Deegan mentioned on the podium how cool it was to be an American, and be on the 250 class podium. This was taken as a shot across the bow to Australian rider Hunter Lawrence, as well as Japanese rider Shimoda, and Tom Vialle who calls France home. Both the 250 class and 450 class are certainly diverse with talent from different countries and backgrounds. There is nothing wrong with being a proud American on the podium, but then to turn around and decline an invitation to race for your country is a little puzzling. Perhaps, it was more a team decision as Deegan’s Star Racing Yamaha Team simply could not find the budget needed to send Deegan over to France? Whatever the reason was, it did not look good for the Deegan Marketing Machine, and since then it seems like more and more riders and teams have said no to going over to France. So much so that it appears that now the USA may not even send a team over to the 2023 MXON. This would be a massive blow to this event as not since 2001 has Team USA not been at this prestigious race. But, it’s not surprising as I wondered about Team USA’s interest in going to France once these three SMX Playoff events were announced. The top USA riders who should be on the team are either recovering from injuries (Tomac), switching bikes for 2024 (Sexton/Webb), getting married (Cooper), or deciding they need a break (Deegan). It’s a tough ask and you could go either way on whether you agree with it or not. One thing is for sure though, even if Team USA did send a team to France they’re going to be in tough company with both the home team, as well as Team Australia. Personally, I cannot see anyone beating either of these teams next month, and unless the USA were able to send top riders like Tomac, Sexton, and either Deegan or Cooper on 250’s. Even then it would be a challenging task for Team USA to repeat as MXON Champions.

Haiden Deegan has opted out of the MXON but will instead travel to Australia in November for the final round of the WSX Series.

However, as they say, “the show must go on” and whether Team USA is in France or not, the gate will still drop on this iconic event. Team Canada will be there and if they can get a little luck with their gate pick on Friday, I think we have a chance to have our best finish to date. Team Manager Kourtney Lloyd announced this morning that she has now reached her fundraising goal of $65’000 so as of today Team Canada is officially going to France! Our team of Dylan Wright, Jess Pettis, and Ryder McNabb will now begin to get focused and begin preparing for this big race. Dylan has been over in Greece on Vacation for a week, but once he’s back this week, it will be back to training. Jess has been riding and training in Quebec, and this weekend he was mountain biking with former Canadian MX Champion Carl Vaillancourt and his family. I spoke to Ryder McNabb last week and he was just about to get back on his bike to begin preparing for the MXON. All three of these riders are not scheduled to race next weekend at the Gopher Dunes SX, so for them it’s all about Team Canada, and going to France!

Thanks to everyone who has donated to Team Canada as Kourtlney Lloyd announced this morning that she has now met her fundraising goals. Photo by James Lissimore

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and if you’re racing one of the remaining Regional events this weekend, good luck and be safe. Finally, as I leave you today, let’s make sure we take a moment to reflect on the events of September 11th, 2001. Thank you for reading this week’s Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop and if you have any questions or comments, please email me at editor@mxpmag.com.

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