When you look at what the Toronto Supercross means to this sport in Canada, you first have to take a look back at the long history of the event. Whether you examine the races that took place under the steel roof of the Rogers Centre, or you go way back and look at the races at the old Exhibition Stadium, the Toronto Supercross is an event that gets the entire country excited about dirt bike racing. Like the Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals presented by Motovan, the Toronto Supercross is a race that helped put this country on the motocross map all over the world.
After the long 365 day hiatus, it was recently announced that the Toronto Supercross will return on March 12th, 2016. Over the last ten years the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series has become such a global entity with fans in almost every country. With star riders from as far away as Germany and Australia, it only makes sense to hold events outside the United States. Of course, a supercross wouldn’t look good to the fans in attendance or to viewers on television with just a dozen or so factory riders on the starting line. So any event needs to be made accessible to both the factory teams as well as the privateer rider who is struggling to make it to each round. This is just one reason why making Toronto a stop on the supercross tour makes perfect sense.
This latest announcement definitely comes as a bit of a surprise because if you’d asked me a few months ago if Toronto would be back in 2016 I would’ve said no way. After talking to a few teams about travelling to Toronto again for anything other than a vacation, they all said it didn’t interest them as crossing the Canada/USA border with their team trucks has proved to be such a hassle over the last ten years. However, money and fan support has obviously won the battle as the 2014 Toronto Supercross was the sixth best attended round that year, with fans coming from all over Canada as well as neighbouring States. The race has become a major spectacle, as has the annual pilgrimage to the City of Toronto by our large motocross family to not only watch the race but also to hang out and commemorate the approaching end to Canada’s cold winter.
Now we can all look at the 2016 schedule and see Toronto inked in for March 12, the weekend after the Daytona SX. Let’s take a look back at a few of the really cool moments that the Toronto Supercross has given us over the years.
For those who have attended this race since its inception in 1980, you definitely got your money’s worth. Does anyone remember the very first Toronto SX that took place in the pouring rain and deep mud? After an excruciating and shortened main event, relatively unknown American Yamaha rider Donny Cantaloupi took home the victory. I was lucky enough to be there, sitting in the south stands, wrapped up in garbage bags and trying to stay dry. It was quite the evening!
A few years later in 1988, with the help of Yamaha Canada and Don Valley North Toyota, a cocky 15-year-old kid by the name of Damon Bradshaw flew up from North Carolina and cemented his very first pro victory. Bradshaw was so talented and so ahead of his time in the late ‘80s. I know we talked about how talented the kids of today are, but imagine if a 15-year-old won a major SX in this day and age? I doubt it would happen! Damon Bradshaw was just that good.
Soon after Bradshaw’s 1988 riding demonstration, the event moved East down Lakeshore Blvd. to the brand new and spacious SkyDome. This change in venue also coincided with the economic slowdown of the early 1990s, and when long time event sponsor Molson Breweries pulled out, the Toronto SX was put in a holding pattern. However, before that could happen, fans got to witness top riders like Larry Ward, Doug Dubach and Mike Larocco all compete in the new stadium.
One Toronto SX that went very much under the radar even though it was an awesome race, was the 2001 event. That night we saw Casey Johnson, Josh Woods and JSR all on top of their games and battling for the win. We also got to see Damon Bradshaw back after his early retirement from the sport, charging about as hard as we’ve ever seen. In the end it was Casey Johnson who took the win, however the highlight of the evening was seeing Bradshaw recovering from a bad start and almost passing Johnson on the final lap. After that race Bradshaw was definitely not happy and blamed everyone in the building for him not winning. It was pretty comical from one of the most competitive racers of all time.
After that 2001 event the Toronto SX once again went on vacation until Feld Entertainment brought it back and officially made it part of the Monster Energy AMA/FIM Supercross Series in late 2004. For a decade, fan attendance slowly grew until we saw almost 45,000 in 2014. That night fans got to witness one of the greatest come from behind rides in the history of supercross as James Stewart started the main event in 15th place and charged all the way to the front for a very popular win. It was an incredible ride. Unless James is able to return to form after his suspension this season, that night in Toronto could be one of James Stewart’s last big victories.
So after a year off to give the Rogers Centre crew time to renovate the iconic stadium for this summer’s Pan-Am Games, we will get to see Supercross return in 2016. I’m guessing that the event will be bigger than ever, because in Canada watching supercross on television has become a little more difficult. Canadian fans will no doubt be eager to see the sport live once again.
Until then, we have the 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals presented by Motovan this summer to watch. Beginning on May 31st in Kamloops, BC, top riders like Brett Metcalfe, Colton Facciotti and Matt Goerke will go head to head for Canadian MX1 supremacy in what could be the greatest summer of racing we’ve ever seen. Will any of these riders line up in Toronto next March? Maybe, or maybe not. Hopefully a few top Canadian riders decide to take on this event as over the last few years that element has been missing. Our riders are definitely good enough to compete in the Toronto SX, however it takes a lot of courage and preparation to just jump into the middle of a series and expect to do well, especially in the most demanding series on the planet.
With the 2015 supercross series now history and outdoor motocross front and center on both sides of the border, fans will just have to wait until next year to get excited about supercross again. In the meantime, go and attend an outdoor national this summer and watch our top riders compete in the discipline that started this sport years ago. Indoors, outdoors, pro racing or amateur racing, the sport of motocross is as exciting as it’s ever been and it needs the support of the greatest fans in the world.