Weekend at Gopher Dunes by Mike McGill

I don’t race nearly as much as I used to but I always try to make it out to Gopher Dunes for the weekend of the National to watch the Pros go at it and do a little racing myself. And this year was no exception.

The family and I headed out Friday afternoon for the Gopher Dunes Round of the Rockstar Triple Crown Outdoor National Series and got to the track around dinner time. The place was already pretty much full and looking very impressive. The Schuster family has really done a nice job over the years in developing this facility into a top-notch venue for a motocross National. Their continuous efforts to make improvements and willingness to make changes, even if they don’t always work out according to plan, are commendable, in my opinion.

This year was no exception as a totally new track design and layout greeted the Pros when they arrived. I guess the biggest difference from years past is the amount of new and massive jumps that have been added to the circuit. The start had been changed as well, which gave the spectators a great view of all the stars as they queued up in the staging area, and the starts as the gate now drops right in front of the fans, not back in the corner of the track as it had previously.

It was awesome watching Liam O’Farrell battle his way to a top ten finish at Gopher Dunes. Photo by James Lissimore

Ontario summers can be extremely hot and humid. Those of us who live here know it well and those who don’t find out quickly when they come to Gopher Dunes for the National. The forecast for the weekend was looking gnarly, for sure. Temperatures in the low 30’s with humidity factored in making it a potential 40 plus degree steam bath. The riders were in for a tough go, for sure, and the teams knew it as every semi had a kiddie pool full of water sitting behind it waiting for the guys when they got off the track. 

The racing itself wasn’t great but it was certainly an eye-opening performance by Jess Pettis in the 250 class as he completely decimated the field in both motos. Pettis led every lap in both motos, and I was told he had a 45 second lead on 2nd place by the end of Moto 2. Wow! Nobody else was even close so I’m thinking this must tighten up the decision-making process for 250 riders for the Canadian MX of Nations Team as well as the points chase in the 250 class. Previous red plate man Shawn Maffenbeier had an okay day but wasn’t close to Pettis’ pace in either moto.

It was fantastic to see Tyler Medaglia win the 450 overall. Who doesn’t love this guy as he’s all heart and pure moto. My son and I were doing the math in the second moto after Matt Goerke went out with a mechanical issue and figured Tyler had the overall as long as he could bring it home in 1st. No problem as he looked smooth and fast for the whole moto. I must say I was a little surprised at how long it took for the 2-lap board to come out as I was expecting it to be a couple of laps sooner, but Tyler, to his credit, kept it pinned right to the checkers and brought it home in style. Everyone was pumped for the guy as it was his first 450 National win in ten years, his last being Gopher Dunes 2008, and only the second of his career. Some things really do get better with age.

All in all, it seemed like a great National for Gopher Dunes. Attendance seemed very good to me. I’ve been to pretty much every one here and I can’t really remember seeing too many more cars in the parking lot than there were Saturday. They’ve opened up the infields a bit more now so there are a lot more viewing areas other than the surrounding berm, which is cool. I was critical with the change to Saturday for the Nationals this year at first but it seemed to work out quite well in this case, and I did learn on the weekend that there is some method to this madness in regard to live TV next year, so it makes more sense now. The new back drop for the starting area with the scaffolding and viewing area above is really cool too. Very professional looking. Very Euro, in my opinion.

Jess Pettis and his 1-1 finish at Round 6 was one of the smoothest Gopher Dunes rides of all time. Photo by James Lissimore

It clouded over and rained a bit Saturday afternoon, which no-doubt helped the Pro riders as the temperature seemed to drop by about 10 to 15 degrees when the sun went behind the clouds. No such luck for the Triple Crown Amateur Series riders on Sunday however. It was stinking hot by 8:00 am and didn’t let up all day. There were not a tremendous number of riders in attendance so I was kind of surprised that there were actually 15 classes. Perhaps a few could have been combined to shorten up the day but everything went off without a hitch. I rode 40+ and had a great day for my first race of the year. Solid first moto, but unfortunately I had a tip over late in the second moto and my cross-bar pad came off. There was no way I could continue after that so I called it a day and popped a couple cold ones. 

It would have been nice to see a few more of my vet buddies out on Sunday but the word on the street was the higher than normal race entry fee for this event and the higher than normal size of the jumps kept a lot of them away. Too bad as it really was a beautiful day for racing motocross and having a couple of post-race beers and bench racing. 

After watching the pro riders battle it out on Saturday, we ended up having a great family day racing the Parts Canada Amateur Open on Sunday. Thanks to Gopher Dunes and the Jetwerx crew for an awesome weekend.

Once again, the National Weekend at Gopher Dunes did not disappoint. On a side note, for those of you who are into cycling, as I know many of you are, my wife, who is training for her first Ironman, which takes place in August, tells me that the country roads surrounding the track are fantastic for a nice long bike ride. So, there you go. One more reason to make this National a must see event.