Yamaha Motor Canada Presents MXP Chatter With Shawn Maffenbeier

Over the years, Shawn Maffenbeier has been one of our top pro riders both on the track, as well as one of our most professional athletes off of the track. From the outside, it’s been fun to watch Maffenbeier transform himself from just a kid from Saskatchewan trying to make a name for himself, to a 250MX National Champion, and most recently a 450 class title contender. It’s been a long and successful road for Shawn Maffenbeier on the Canadian national circuit. But after another solid season in 2020, he found out that his Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha Team was closing its doors and wouldn’t be fielding a team in 2021. It was shocking news to Shawn and to the entire industry as no one saw it coming. However, after taking some time to let the news process, Shawn got to work and began looking for a ride. We caught up with him to see how this search has been going.

MXP: Hey Maff, I know it’s early out there so thanks for taking my call.

SM: No problem Palms.

I guess as a homeowner now there is always something to do around the house?

Exactly! You know what it’s like. It’s been good though as it’s kept me busy and allowed me to recharge everything. With what’s been going on I think that if I didn’t have this house to keep me busy then I might be going crazy.

So that brings me to my next question. Was the OTSFF Team news as shocking to you as it was to the rest of us?

Yes, it definitely came as surprise to me when I found out. I thought as a team we had a great season and I just assumed we’d go back at it next year. I know the decision to close the doors wasn’t based on how things went this summer, but it’s still had to take.

Is there any bitterness on your part?

No, not really. I’ve learned over the years that it’s useless to worry about things you can’t control. I feel like as a team we did our jobs and did them well, so there isn’t anything we could’ve done differently. This was a decision made at the top and although I don’t agree with it, I can’t change it so it’s time to move on and find something new. Funny thing is that a few weeks before I found out the team was shutting their doors I received an offer from another team. Obviously, I thought it was great to get an offer but at the time I was happy with where I was at.

Shawn Maffenbeier had a great 2020 season and was shocked to hear that his OTSFF Yamaha Team was closing its doors. Photo by James Lissimore

It’s never good for a series to lose a team, especially a big team like the Rockstar Energy OTSFF Yamaha Team, but like the Geico Honda Team in the USA, when you lose vital sponsorship dollars there isn’t much anyone can do?

Yes, that, unfortunately, is the business side of the sport that you never want to think about. Andre Laurin and the OTSFF Team had a great run and he did a lot for our sport in Canada. I think for him it was just time to move on and do something else. But I’m very thankful for all of the support that the OTSFF group gave me.

Our sport needs more people like Andre and it’s sad to see him go. Like you said before, you did your part this year and there’s nothing you can do to change anything. Can you take me through this past season? You appear to be getting better with age Maff?

Aren’t we all Palms? I felt great this year and I had some real solid motos. It would’ve been nice to get a moto win, but Dylan and Phil were riding well. We had a great off-season and with the series not beginning until July we had a lot of time to prepare. Everything was good, the bike, the team, and the series, even though it was just Ontario based, it was also good. It wasn’t easy not to be at home all summer, but at the same time, it was nice not having to fly back and forth across the country each weekend. I know this sport isn’t supposed to get easier as you get older as the wear and tear on your body takes its toll, but for me, right now I feel great and my confidence is really solid.

Shawn and his OTSFF Yamaha Team had a lot of laughs over the past two seasons together. Photo by James Lissimore

I think you’re in a good position to get another ride for 2021. You’re not only one of the top Canadian riders, but you’re also not sitting there demanding a lot of money to go and race a dirt bike?

Yes, there aren’t many of us who are proven front runners in the 450 class so I do feel I’m in a good position to get something signed here soon. Obviously, budgets are tight and a few things are up in the air with the series for next year, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to find something that makes sense.

Are there any details you can give us about what bike you might be riding in 2021?

Not really! And it’s not because I don’t want to, it’s just that I really don’t know. The biggest issue right now is that the teams don’t know what the series is going to look like next year so it’s impossible for them to go to the OEM’s and get support. The OEM’s want to know what is going to happen next year before they decide how much support they want to give. Is the series going to be back to normal with rounds in multiple provinces, or are we going to just remain in Ontario again? I know it’s not ideal to just race in one or two provinces, but I still feel like the series was pretty good this year. I don’t know, hopefully, the series schedule can begin to take shape soon, and then the teams can get their deals done.

I don’t think we’ve ever seen a series schedule released before January 1, but I can see the OEM’s point as there’s never been this much uncertainty surrounding what that schedule will look like. It’s always been assumed that the outdoor series is going to be 9-10 rounds with races in different parts of the country. That info has at least given the OEM’s and Team’s a certain framework to go by. As of right now, I don’t think anyone knows.

Exactly, right now no one can predict what the 2021 series is going to look like and that’s the problem.

Regardless of where Shawn ends up next year, you know he’s going to do everything he can to win races and challenge for the 450 Championship. Photo by James Lissimore

I’d hope that the series in 2021 will be able to expand slightly from how it was this year as far as fans attending and venues. Don’t get me wrong, this year was incredible and Jetwerx did the absolute best with what they had. But with other pro sports, as well as Monster Energy Supercross in 2021 finding ways to have events with at least a certain number of fans, hopefully, our series can do the same. I know from talking to a few of the OEM’s that they want fans back for next year!

Our sport here is still so spectator driven that we need to have some fans back for next year. I think with all of the races being in an outdoor setting I don’t see why we couldn’t do it safely.

So, I guess you just have to wait until things get sorted out?

That’s about it right now. After the final round of the SXTour, I came home and starting to unwind after the busy summer. Then I found out about the OTSFF Team closing its door and since then I’ve actually been pretty relaxed. I’ve been keeping busy with doing stuff around the house and going for bike rides, I was thinking about going out to Chilliwack to race but I decided against doing that. It’s just been a relaxing time and it’s given me a good chance to decompress and recharge.

Maffenbeier was a podium rider all summer long. Photo by James Lissimore

So, you’re not too worried at the moment?

Not really! As you said, I’m in a good spot as far as my results have been during the past few seasons and since the other two top Canadian riders already have rides for next year, I guess I’m next. I’m confident that I’ll find something soon and when I do I’ll begin to do everything that it takes to win races in 2021. I feel like my best days are in front of me and we’ll see what happens. If I don’t get anything then I guess it’s time to go and find a real job.

Well Maff, I think you’ll be able to put off getting that real job for a few more years. Something tells me that you’re going to be okay for 2021. I really appreciate you taking some time to speak to me. All the best and good luck with everything.

Thanks Palms, and thank you for reaching out. We’ll definitely keep in touch.