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The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

We are now into March and with any luck we’ll begin to see some consistent spring temperatures and weather. As I compose this week’s Monday Gate Drop column I’m sitting in Ocala, Florida trying to recover from a wild Daytona SX on Saturday night. A week ago I was at Gatorback Cycle Park test riding the all-new Triumph TF 250-X, then on Tuesday I flew back to Ontario, packed up the family, and on Wednesday I returned to Florida. It certainly wasn’t the most efficient week of travel, but honestly it was a lot of fun. We are in Florida now for ten days, so there will be a lot less driving this week!

Last week I had a great time test riding the all-new Triumph TF 250-X

I will begin once again talking about the new Triumph TF 250-X. Now that I’ve had a week to fully process my day of riding at one of the most iconic tracks in North America, I’ve become even a bigger fan of this all-new bike. The bike has a ‘best of everything’ feel to it as Triumph has taken what they liked from all models, and then tried to incorporate it into this model. The engine looks and feels like an Austrian brand 250F, the handling is reminiscent of a YZ250F, and the comfort and rideability feels like a KX250F. Triumph knew coming into this project that there would be very little room for error when it came to making a first impression. This is just one reason why it took five years for this bike to go from an idea, to lining up a few weeks ago at the Detroit SX with team riders Jalek Swoll and Evan Ferry. However, they say that sometimes certain things are worth the wait, and that certainly is the case with the new TF 250-X. 

RC still can ride the wheels off any bike!

Not only did Triumph do their homework with their new MX/SX bike, but it also appeared as though they did some research on how to hold a media launch. Now, obviously they have hosted media on these types of events in the past, but never before has one been for motocross media. This was also a Global media launch, so Triumph had multiple waves of journalists and test riders attending all week long. However, since our North America market is the largest for Triumph, we were the first to ride this all-new bike. We all stayed at the University of Florida Hilton, located right across the street from the main campus. It was a great area, and an even better hotel. There was the usual intro dinner followed by the official presentation of the new bike. This included the schedule for our day of riding at Gatorback Cycle Park with the likes of Ricky Carmichael, Jeff Stanton, Ivan Tedesco, as well as my fellow media colleagues. The next day we were all up bright and early and heading to the track by 8am. When we arrived at the track I was surprised to hear that most of the journalists, even the seasoned ones, had never been to Gatorback. Most are California based so they rarely, if ever make it down to the Southeast. It was cool to see and hear their excitement as we drove into the main gate of the track. As expected, we all had a great day, and in between riding sessions it was so cool to sit and chat with RC, and Stanton. Both have had tremendous success at Gatorback Cycle Park, and they remember pretty much everything. Overall, it was a great experience and I felt honoured to be a part of it.

Daytona at night just feels special!

After travelling home and then back to Florida again, it was time to head to the Daytona SX on Saturday. I haven’t been to the World’s toughest SX since the last time I raced there in 1998. That was my fourth time racing the Daytona SX, and looking back I feel extremely fortunate to have lined up at this race several times. In those days, the track was a completely different animal as the track builders would build a few jumps out of trucked in clay, but the rest of the obstacles were just dug out of the ground. It was always rough, rutted, and with it being a day race in the 1990s, I always remember it being hot. Fast forward to this past weekend, and even before the intermittent rain showers during qualifying, the track had an old school look and feel to it. Even the top riders were struggling to find any type of flow or consistency with their laps. For instance, on one lap through the challenging rhythm section in front of the industry seating area, Ken Roczen made it through smooth and without any issues. Then on the following lap, he would hit an unexpected soft pocket of dirt, and it would throw him sideways and off of the track. It was like that for every rider, even Haiden Deegan would enter the danger zone with a mid-air dismount over one of the triples. Watching practice and qualifying instantly brought back memories of what it was like to be on the track and trying to find some sort of rhythm. The Daytona SX track is like nothing you have ever ridden before, and it takes some time to get used to the conditions. Saturday looked more like Gopher Dunes (on it’s worst day) with big jumps than a SX race. The main events looked more like survival than anything else, and then to witness both Aaron Plessinger and Dylan Ferrnadis have to part ways with their motorcycle in mid-air during the main event, and then instantly get back up and continue racing, was insane. Saturday’s conditions in Daytona made it look like these guys had forgotten how to ride a dirt bike. During the main events, I was thinking to myself that if the conditions looked bad from where I was seated ( 30 feet from the track at eye level) imagine how challenging it was to be out there trying to race on it! 

The paddock in Daytona was full of Canadians!

In the end, the two riders who were victorious in the main events were the ones who simply made the least amount of mistakes. For Tom Vialle, he didn’t get the best start but he made quick work of the riders in front of him to charge to second. Cameron McAdoo led early and looked to be in complete control, until a big mistake in you guessed it, the rhythm section, which allowed Vialle to pass. From there, Vialle rode brilliantly to take his first-ever 250SX main event win. Finishing behind the Frenchman was McAdoo and then Seth Hammaker. Deegan, who appeared to struggle all day long, ended up fourth with Pierce Brown right behind him. Points leader Max Anstie recovered well after a horrible start to finish 8th, and was able to hold on to the red plates.

The start of the 450SX main event saw Chase Sexton get out to an early lead.

The 450SX main event was a little more exciting as fans got to witness the battle between the young stars of the class, and the older generation. Chase Sexton led the field early, and after five laps he had stretched out a sizable three second lead over Eli Tomac and Jett Lawrence. All three riders looked somewhat comfortable in the early laps, but, you could see that they were all unsure where the best lines were in each section. After several laps Lawrence turned up the heat and soon became the only rider on the track with any type of flow. The momentum he began carrying around the track was incredible, and you could tell that he was headed to the front. Jett would pass Tomac in the aforementioned rhythm section, and then two corners later he was able to sneak by Sexton for the lead. From there, Jett would pull away and leave Sexton and Tomac to battle for second. Those two would end up having a pretty good battle that would last until the closing laps, when Tomac was finally able to get around last year’s champ. One of the things that I was looking forward to was watching Jett ride the rough Daytona SX track in person. Well, it was worth the wait, as he rode the rough track with the perfect combination of aggression and precision. His ability to stand up, keep his head over the front of the bike, and for the most part put it exactly where he wanted, is what separates him from the rest of the pack. During the late stages of the 450SX main event, Tomac kept with Lawrence through sheer determination, but it would’ve taken a big mistake from Lawrence to give up the lead. It was an entertaining main event, and overall a great day at the World’s most famous speedway. 

Tom Vialle rode great in the 250SX East main event and grabbed his first ever 250SX win.

As far as Canadian’s go, there was only one racing in Daytona, and that was Tyler Gibbs in the 250SX East class. It was great to see Tyler there racing in his first-ever Daytona SX, and I was hoping to see him do well. Unfortunately, he look uncomfortable right from the start of practice, and then was unable to qualify for the night show. He did get a little unlucky as the first 250SX East C session were able to get a few dry laps in before it began to rain. Since Tyler was in the ‘B’ session the track was muddy by the time he got out for qualifying. With that said, with all of the racing that Tyler has been doing during the past four months, he shouldn’t be missing the night show, regardless of the conditions. Hopefully, Tyler has better luck this coming weekend in Alabama. Daytona was also the sight of the second round of the 2024 SX Futures Series, and we once again had Dylan Rempel and Preston Masciangelo lining up. After battling through the challenging conditions, Rempel finished 9th overall, and Masciangelo recovered nicely after a bad start to finish up in 12th. Ryder McNabb was supposed to race the entire SX Futures Series, but he is just now starting to ride again after injuring his wrist in January. Tyler Medaglia wasn’t racing in Daytona, but he did race yesterday at the GNCC event and finished up with a solid third overall. Tyler is a beast and good on him for making it through the rain, mud, and just about everything else you could think of.

After Daytona it was time for my son to suit up and take his first ride of the 2024 season.

Something else that I’ve always loved about the Daytona SX is that you end up running into so many Canadian’s that are either on vacation in Florida, or down to do some riding. It was like that back in the 1990s, and it was the same on Saturday. Every time I turned around I saw someone from Canada, so that was a lot of fun. Also, it was nice to be able to be there with my family. My wife was with me in Daytona in 1998 so she’s been able to experience the Daytona SX vibe before. Obviously, the event has changed quite a bit over the years, but it’s still the Daytona SX! For my son, it was his first-ever time there so he was in awe all day long. Daytona was also my Dad’s favourite race to attend, whether I was racing or not. So, with him passing away late last year going back to Daytona this year was like a small tribute to him, a man who loved racing in general. The Daytona International Speedway is the official home of racing, and when you’re there it just feels like you’re somewhere very special.

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great first week of March. It was great to see that Gopher Dunes was open once again this past weekend. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or comments please email me at editor@mxpmag.com.

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