Yamaha Motor Canada Presents The Monday Gate Drop

Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. We are now just a few days away from the opening round of the 2021 Triple Crown Series and the Blu Cru is ready to go. Led by the MX101 FXR Racing Yamaha Team, the Yamaha crew is ready to battle in the 250, 450, as well as the Ladies class. It’s going a great summer and it all begins this weekend at Walton Raceway.

As I mentioned above, the opening round of the 2021 Triple Crown Series goes this Friday at Walton Raceway. Over the years Walton Raceway has hosted many different types of events, however, it has never hosted the opening round of the Pro Series. This is a first for this iconic track and if all goes as planned it will be a Canada Day long weekend that we won’t soon forget. It all gets underway on Thursday with the opening round of the Off-Road Ontario XC Series. This should be an exciting race and I’m sure a lot of our Ontario motocross racers will give this event a try. On Thursday evening at 7 pm, there will be opening ceremonies where all of the Triple Crown Series riders will be introduced. With everything that is still going on in the world with Covid-19, starting this series almost a month earlier than last year is real progress. The folks at Jetwerx, MRC, the teams, the riders, the tracks, and all of the series sponsors should be commended on their efforts to make everything happen. Obviously, with any series of this size, there are a lot of moving parts that all have to come together simultaneously for it to work. However, when the gate drops on Friday for the opening moto of 2021 all of the hard work will seem worth it as we’ll get to witness the best riders battle on Canada’s most famous track, all on this Country’s grand birthday weekend!

Barry and the Walton Raceway crew have been busy preparing for this coming weekend. Photo by James Lissimore

Another piece of good news that was announced this past weekend was that this weekend Walton Raceway will be allowed to have spectators at 25% capacity. I believe that the 25% is based on the size of the venue so with Walton Raceway being spread out over a large area this means that a good number of people will be allowed in. The only catch is that you have to pre-purchase gate passes for please go on the Walton website (www.waltonraceway.com) for all of the information you may need. Finally, it looks as though Mother Nature is going to co-operate this weekend as the weather forecast looks promising. After not raining for the better part of three weeks in Ontario, since Friday afternoon it seemingly hasn’t stopped. It’s supposed to rain on and off this week and then by Thursday the sun comes out and remains out for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. With XC racing, Dirt Track racing, AMO Amateur racing on Saturday, and of course Pro Motocross on Friday and again on Sunday, and let’s not forget a massive fireworks show on Saturday evening. It’s going to be a great long weekend and if you want to hear Brett Lee talk about it he will be on the Track Announcer’s Notebook Podcast Show tonight with the legendary Pat Gonzales. Pat is one of the few people that has been around this sport longer than Brett Lee has so these two should have a great chat tonight.

Who is ready for the gate to drop this weekend? Photo by James Lissimore

As with any opening round, there is always excitement surrounding which riders are going to come out strong in their first motos. This weekend is no different as at least in the 250 class it’s hard to predict who will win the opening moto as well as the Championship. For the first time since I can recall there is no current or former champion lining up on the gate in 2021. In fact, there is only one former moto winner in the 250 class this summer and that is GDR Honda rider Tanner Ward. You all remember Tanner’s exciting win at Walton Raceway last summer, his first moto win and overall win of his career. Because of his win last summer you have to consider Tanner to be a favourite to repeat this weekend. I’m not sure if Tanner’s knee will be 100% by the weekend, however, I do know that his fitness is strong and his racecraft will be ready to go. Like every rider, Tanner needs to find success early and then carry through the summer.

Marco Cannella is one of the favourites to win the 250 title this summer. Photo by James Lissimore

Another Ontario rider who has also had some success at Walton Raceway, including multiple TransCan titles, is MX10 Yamaha rider Marco Cannella. Marco is considered by many to be the favourite to win the 250 class Championship this summer. I would most certainly agree with this prediction as for the past few seasons Marco has been steadily improving. Although he’s yet to win a national moto, you have to think that when he does, more wins will soon follow. Marco has been close on a few occasions to winning his first moto, but then a bad lap or two ends up costing him. I believe deep down that Marco is a confident person and overall he’s probably the fittest rider on the track. But being confident in your everyday life doesn’t always translate into ultimate success when you’re lined up against 39 other riders who want a piece of you. Cannella needs a moto win this weekend to prove to himself deep down that he can win. If he can do this then look out! Can Marco win this 250 championship? You bet he can! He just has to believe it!

Ryder McNabb is one of the young riders capable of winning races this summer. Photo by James Lissimore

I think that goes with all of the riders who have the speed to win races this summer. Ryder McNabb, Jacob Piccolo, and Darian Sanayei are also riders who I think have to speed to win. For McNabb, it will be interesting to see if he can become a consistent starter. At this level, you’re not going to win very many races by starting outside of the Top 10 and sadly McNabb had his share of bad starts last summer. But that was last summer and I think considering it was this kid’s rookie year, you have to cut him some slack. Heading into this summer I would expect him to be much more confident and that should translate into better track position off of the start. Last summer we all got a glimpse of Jacob Piccolo’s speed as he ran up front on numerous occasions. I would expect Piccolo’s speed to be even greater this summer and from what I hear he’s a lot better shape than he was at this time last year. If Phil Nicoletti (who trained with Piccolo at ClubMX this Spring) says that Jacob is ready to win races then who am I to disagree with Phil. Like Jett Lawrence in the USA, Piccolo does things on the bike technique-wise that no other rider in Canada does. He’s is super-talented and if he can win early in the series then that could spell trouble for everyone else. I’m looking forward to watching Piccolo this weekend! The other rider I mentioned was Thor/ Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider and newcomer to Canada Darian Sanayei. He comes into this summer as a rider who has a lot of experience racing in the USA as well as in Europe. Because of his pedigree, I’m going to assume that Sanayei has a lot of speed as well as some very solid race craft. He’s also on a great team and should receive some solid guidance from Team Manager Chad Goodwin. However, I think Sanayei will need a few motos under his belt this summer before he feels completely confident and comfortable in this series. If he can get some solid motos in early in the series while he acclimatizes himself to Canada then he should be very good in the second half. Whether it’s these riders who end up making headlines this summer or if there are a few others that are also ready to shine, the 250 class is going to be exciting to watch. Stay tuned for more on the 250 class as well as my predictions on the 450 class tomorrow.

Congratulations to Shelby Turner on her podium finish this past weekend at the GNCC in West Virginia.

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and I look forward to seeing everyone at Walton this coming weekend. The 2021 Triple Crown Series is finally here and I cannot wait for the gate to drop. Have a good week and Happy Canada Day to all!