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The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

Greetings! I hope everyone had a great weekend, and I hope you were able to stay warm as the temperatures have plummeted right across Canada. After a slow start, winter has certainly announced its presence with authority. Anyway, bundle up, be safe, and try and enjoy it the best you can.

The track crew did their best to keep the SF track dry, but at some point the tarps had to come off. Photo by James Lissimore

Speaking of bad weather. I’m sure you all saw the conditions the riders faced this past weekend in San Francisco? Why the Monster Energy Supercross Series keeps trying to go to the Bay area in January is beyond me. I’ve seen various weather models but, on average that area receives rain every other day during this time of year, so the chances of having a dry round of SX is nearly impossible. Saturday was a disaster for everyone involved, and I can only imagine how much clean up and rebuild work is going on as we speak. Even for the series itself, cleaning up the signs and tuff block covers must take days. It was just a nightmare all around. But, it wasn’t the first muddy SX of the series, and it won’t be the last. Other than perhaps trying to avoid San Francisco or Oakland during the wettest month of the year in the future, racing in outdoor stadiums leaves you at the mercy of Mother Nature. Look at the NFL playoffs this past weekend. It was frigid in Kansas City on Saturday, and they’re still trying to get the game going in snowy Buffalo. Finally, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, however, the forecast isn’t looking great for the San Diego area this coming weekend. Please Mother Nature, no more mud!

The conditions were extremely bad by the time the gate dropped for the main events. Photo by James Lissimore

I’ve been a part of two muddy SX races, and ironically they both were in 1998. The 1998 Tampa SX was in my opinion even worse than what we saw this past weekend in San Francisco, as the mud was thicker, and the ruts were deeper. I recall having to pick one rut wisely at the beginning of each lap, as you were pretty much stuck in that rut for the remainder of the lap. It was also difficult in Tampa to build up any speed or momentum, so your tires were always packed with mud, so there was little to no traction. I remember being excited about the mud in Tampa because at the time, I considered myself a good rider in those conditions. But, unfortunately my mud riding skills didn’t help my results there as it was more about surviving than racing. The second muddy SX race of 1998 came later that year in Montreal. If I recall correctly, the roof was off and being repaired, so when the rain started just before the night show, it made 80% of the track (the parts of the track in the middle of the floor that weren’t covered) very slippery. Throughout the evening the mud didn’t get deep and rutted like it did in Tampa, it just got super slick and sloppy. Looking back, nothing is as challenging as trying to race a SX in muddy conditions. As we saw in San Francisco, the conditions actually got better for riding the more it rained. Yes, it was a complete mess, but the rain at least kept the dirt from getting really sticky. Or, at least that is how it appeared on television. When you see the top riders in the world simply lose front end traction and fall over like a beginner, it’s only because their front tire was full of mud. As I mentioned earlier, that is the hardest part of riding a muddy SX track. It’s so difficult to go fast enough to spin the mud off of the tires.

It was great to see Eli Tomac bounce back after a sub-par opening round to finish second in San Francisco. Photo by James Lissimore

As far as the results go from Round 2 in San Francisco. There weren’t really any surprises as once the conditions get that bad, anything goes. The track crew did the best they could to keep the track somewhat rideable, although I would’ve liked to see them clean up the first turn area before the start of each main event. Even in the muddy conditions the riders built up some decent speed down the start straight, and then to had to come into turn one and deal with a foot of slop, that was dangerous. In the 450SX main event start we saw a few riders go down hard in turn one. The track crew in SX is pretty good with things like this so maybe they had their reasons on why they couldn’t remove, even a few inches of mud through the first turn area. It was good to see Chase Sexton, Eli Tomac, and Ken Roczen bounce back at Round 2. For Tomac and Roczen, they really improved their results from the opening round, so that obviously helped them move up in the points standings. Jett Lawrence looked good in qualifying, but struggled in the 450SX main event, finishing 9th and losing the red plate to Sexton. But, Jett’s poor finish on Saturday evening didn’t seem to affect him mentally. I feel like Jett’s ability to not be bother by something like a 9th place finish at Round 2 is one of his best attributes. He knows it was an anomaly, and that he’ll most likely be back near the front of the pack next weekend. So why dwell on it. Hopefully, San Diego is dry this weekend as we can get back to witnessing some great racing in the 450SX class.

Cole Thompson once again led the Canadian train at Round 2 by finishing 15th in the 250SX West main event. Photo by James Lissimore

As far as our Canadian riders go, all three did their best on Saturday in the city by the bay. Cole Thompson fell four times in the 250SX West main event and finished 15th, but he was happy to survive, and score a few points. Julien Benek wasn’t planning on racing Round 2. However, since he was on his way back to BC to heal up and recover from mono, and his thumb injury, he decided to stop in San Francisco and race. Normally, Julien is a good mud rider, but with his health not 100% he didn’t have a good day. St Cyr, had a great race going in the LCQ, and with half a lap to go was running 4th. But, a small bobble cost him the final transfer spot to the main event. It was hard to watch as he was oh so close to qualifying. Now, the 250SX West riders head back to Southern California with Star Racing Yamaha rider Jordon Smith as your new points leader.

It sounds as though Wild Rose MX Park in Calgary will kick off the 2024 Triple Crown Series. Photo by James Lissimore

In some Canadian moto news, the 2024 Triple Crown Series Schedule is being released today so we can all look forward to that. The opening round is going to be at Wild Rose MX Park (we know that much for sure), which will be great. The city of Calgary has been a great host to the opening round in the past, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be again. From there, the series is going to visit Lethbridge, and Pilot Mound in Manitoba, before heading East to the same venues as always. As far as teams go, almost all of them have their rider line-ups firmed up, with the exception being the MX101 Yamaha Team. I spoke to Kevin Tyler this morning and he said that he’s still looking for a 450 rider. He almost had Zach Osborne all locked up, but in the end they weren’t able to come to an agreement. Kevin wants a 450 rider who can challenge for race wins and the championship this summer. So where can he find a rider who can enter the Triple Crown Series, figure the Canadian tracks out quickly, fit in with how we do things here, and then battle with the likes of Dylan Wright, Jess Pettis, Tanner Ward, and Josiah Natzke each weekend? It’s certainly not easy to find a rider who checks all of those boxes, and fits within the budget that our Canadian teams have to work with. I don’t envy the position that Kevin is in right now, but I hope he finds that diamond in the rough type rider who can travel North this summer and battle for race wins. Stay tuned as I’m sure we’ll hear some news very soon from the Blu Cru!

It was tough night for Jett Lawrence at Round 2, but he didn’t seem fazed by his poor finish at all. Photo by James Lissimore

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a good week, and thank you for reading my Monday Gate Drop column, which continues to be presented by Yamaha Motor Canada. I always find January goes by slow, but then once we’re into February, time speeds up and before we know it, it’s spring! Let’s hope the same happens this year!

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