As I mentioned in my Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop, Sunday’s AMO race at Walton Raceway was an absolute beauty. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze to keep the lid on the heat, the track was in good shape, and with over 600 entries there was great racing in each class. This race marked the second round of the AMO Ontario Provincial Series and the first race this season at Walton Raceway. Obviously, with the Covid-19 Pandemic racing has been delayed right across the country (actually all over the Globe), and sadly in certain Provinces events haven’t even began yet. It’s a sad state of affairs, so trust me when I say that we in Ontario feel extremely fortunate that we’re able to race while other Regions cannot.
After a successful opening round two weeks ago at Gopher Dunes, the OPC Series rolled into Walton with a good deal of momentum. With last weekend’s race at Moto Park cancelled, everyone got a week off before Sunday’s event at Walton. Moving forward I think this every other weekend schedule is gold as it gives everyone a break or a chance to practice and improve. In recent years we’ve seen a fairly steep decline with people wanting to race and compete, but on the flip side we’ve seen an increase in people who just want to ride. Now being an old school guy (this is my 42nd year at the track) you’d think I’d want it to be 1996 all over again when there were races every weekend. In contrast, I’m actually the exact opposite and I now believe that if we can create more of a demand for racing then more people will want to do it. That is no more evident than what we’re seeing right now as for two months there was nothing and everyone began to starve for racing. Now that it’s here everyone wants to do it. Let’s face it, as much fun as riding a dirt bike is, at some point we all want to compete and see how we stack up against our fellow riders. We’re inherently competitive and racing scratches that itch, I just don’t think we need to do it every weekend. As long as there’s a good balance then I think most riders and families are happy. As far as the future race schedule goes, Round 3 of the Ontario Provincial Series is on July 12Th at Gopher Dunes, then a week later we’re back at Walton Raceway, then the following weekend is the opening round of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series at Gopher Dunes. It definitely gets busier in the next few weeks as summer kicks into high gear and we approach the opening round of the Triple Crown Series. Let’s now take a look at a few riders that stood out at Walton Raceway on Sunday.
Between being a moto dad and trying to watch certain races on Sunday, I must admit that I didn’t get to watch all of our talented riders compete on Sunday. In fact, since this was only the second race of the season I honestly don’t know who all of the fast riders are. Thankfully, I was able to watch some of the races with my son and he’s pretty wise to who the riders are on the track. It’s funny how our kids always seem to know what is going on. Anyway, as I’m sure everyone saw on Sunday, Cole Thompson was the dominant rider in the Pro class. Since Cole was a young boy he’s always ridden well at Walton Raceway. Since the soil is similar to what he practices on at home he’s always had little trouble navigating the deep ruts that the Walton track produces. I love watching Cole ride the Walton track, and what impresses me most is his patience, throttle control and balance. Doing all of these things well is a must if you want to be a good rut rider and if you want to turn fast lap times at Walton Raceway. Even though these are three different aspects of riding a dirt bike, all of them coincide with each other on a challenging track like Walton. If you’re not patient and smooth with your throttle through the deep rutted corners your balance is affected which causes you to pause and lose your flow. Cole has great flow and that is why he’s so good at Walton. Anyway, it’s great to see top Canadian riders like Cole out at these Regional events as they try to scramble for some gate drops prior to the Triple Crown Series.
Behind Cole was a freight train of riders like the ageless wonder Liam O’Farrell, who appears to be getting faster with age. Liam is a great guy and I love that he’s able to ride well in every condition . Sand, ruts and mud, give Liam any condition and he’ll do well at it. On Sunday, Liam was slightly off the pace of Thompson but he did his best to battle with Tanner Ward in both motos. Tanner is another rider who has always had success at Walton Raceway as he grew up racing there. Tanner is entering a very important year in his racing career as he must do at least better than he did in 2019. From talking to him, he said that he’s enjoying his new Honda and that he’s looking forward to testing his full race bike in the coming weeks. These pre-MXTour races are great for riders like Tanner who are looking for as much preparation as they can get. Hopefully Tanner can get off to a good start in the opening motos of the MXTour and then carry that momentum through the series. I’m predicting that he wins a moto or two in the opening rounds and has a great 250MX series. Tanner Ward’s GDR Honda teammate, Ryder McNabb, was also fast on Sunday, however so-so starts had him always battling from behind. McNabb is a charger, and whether it’s the first lap or the final lap, he’s always pushing as hard as he can. I love watching McNabb ride and I have a lot of respect for both how he is on the track as well as off of the track. He may go through a lot of tear-offs later this summer in the 250MX series, but he’s sure going to be fun to watch. You could make the argument that he’s being rushed a little bit as last year he was racing in the Supermini class, and in a few weeks, he’ll be lining up at a Pro National. But I think he’s wise beyond his years and much more mature than his birth certificate states. If he can remain healthy then he’ll be fine. Also, with Colton Facciotti as a mentor this will help Ryder immensely with his decision making and race craft. I did notice Facciotti on the starting line with Ryder for the second Cash Class moto where he was lined up on the inside gate. I assumed that this was Colton’s gate choice for Ryder and it was most certainly a smart one. No rider was more cerebral when they race than Facciotti so if he can pass even a fraction of his knowledge on to Ryder then the kid will be in good shape moving forward. I have to also give a nod to Sam Gaynor who was also very fast on Sunday, but suffered from some good old bad racing luck. The final Cash Class results don’t do justice to how fast Gaynor was riding. All in all it was a very entertaining pro race on Sunday. I think this class will be even more competitive on July 12th at Gopher Dunes.
As I said at the beginning of this column, I didn’t get to see too many of the other classes on Sunday as I was busy being a Moto Dad. Also, with all of the Social Distancing rules it was probably a good idea for me to hang around our own trailer as much as possible. However, from the racing I did see, the Ontario Region is in very good shape when it comes to fast amateur riders. Next to Ryder McNabb, Wyatt Kerr is the fastest Intermediate rider and he proved that by winning multiple motos on Sunday. Sebastien Racine appears to have adapted well to the big bikes as he took some moto wins in the 250 and Open Junior classes. Sixteen year old Josh Bryan was also flying on his KTM 150 and 125, and took wins in the Schoolboy and Two-stroke classes, even passing Drew Roberts on the final lap to win the second moto. Look for both Racine and Bryan to do very well this summer in both the Pre-mix class at the MXTour Nationals as well as the Walton TransCan in August. Both young riders are fit and very fast. As we move to the smaller bikes it looks as though Dylan Rempel will be the dominant 85cc rider in Ontario this season. So far the talented kid from Aylmer, ON hasn’t lost a moto and if he continues to ride like he has been, he may not lose one all summer long. Rempel won both the Supermini class as well as the 85cc 12-16 class on Sunday. In the 65 class, I only saw one of their motos. Blu Cru rider Ben Kongmany was way out front, looking extremely smooth. I didn’t see any of the 50cc motos or the races on the small track, but from what I heard those classes were full and exciting to watch.
It was obviously a great day at Walton Raceway and for most it was also a safe day. Now we’re on to Gopher Dunes in two weeks for Round 3 of the AMO OPC, and we start building towards the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. With almost all of those rounds taking place in Ontario the amateur classes should be very well attended. I hope everyone had a great weekend, and Happy Canada Day tomorrow. Thanks for reading!