Yamaha Motor Canada Presents The Monday Gate Drop

Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. This weekend at the Gopher Dunes National MX101 FXR Yamaha rider Marco Cannella won his very first pro national moto stunning fashion. During the opening 250 moto yesterday Marco came from behind to take the lead with just a few laps remaining and then held on for his first-ever victory. Congratulations Marco and the entire Blu Cru.

Shawn Maffenbeier rode well this weekend on the rough Gopher Dunes track. Photo by James Lissimore

Well, I can tell you that there are some very sore riders waking up this morning after one of the toughest Gopher Dunes National we’ve seen in a while. Thankfully for everyone, it was not hot as the temperature didn’t get above 18 Celsius at any point in the day. However, with a wet week leading up to Round’s 3 and 4, pro and amateur racing on Saturday, and more rain all day yesterday, the Gopher track really showed its teeth. We’ve seen this before when there is a lot of rain leading up to the event as the wet sand tends to pack up more and make the bumps even bigger than normal. Also, when it’s wet the Gopher Dunes track tends to rut up more in certain areas. Basically, the weather conditions and track conditions created a perfect storm yesterday and Round 4 will be remembered as one of the most challenging Gopher Dunes National in recent memory. Regardless of the results yesterday, all of the riders who rode the WMX motos, the Pre-Mix motos, as well as the pro motos deserve a ton of credit for their efforts. As I said, thankfully it wasn’t hot also, that might have been too much.

Let’s begin with this past weekend as like Walton the previous weekend, this one also lasted multiple days. With two pro motos taking place on Saturday morning, AMO Racing was forced to move 12 of its youngest classes to Friday afternoon. This was a great move as not only did it free up time to fit the rest of the classes in on Saturday afternoon, but it also provided some great racing entertainment on Friday as most of the classes, even the 50cc riders, rode on the main track. With roughly 12 amateur classes on Friday and the remaining 12 on Saturday afternoon, everyone was able to get ample track time and the AMO Racing/ Parts Canada Amateur Open was enjoyed by all.

It’s been fun this year to watch riders like Marco Cannella get their first pro national moto wins. Photo by James Lissimore

Coming into the 2021 Triple Crown Series many thought that 250 class was going to be the more exciting class to watch this summer. With no clear-cut title favourite, a few very fast teenagers, and a couple of experienced 250 riders, so far through four rounds this class has lived up to its pre-season billing. In the first six motos of the 250 class series, we’ve witnessed not only some exciting racing but also four different moto winners. In fact, of the Top 5 riders, only Darian Sanayei has yet to win a moto in 2021. Yesterday, in the opening 250 moto we watched Ontario rider Marco Cannella come of age as he won his first-ever pro-national moto. It’s been a long time coming for Marco as he’s been close on a few occasions. But he was finally able to get it done and with him being far behind in the 250 class points (thanks to a tough final moto at Walton as well as a DNF on Saturday) this win was very timely. Unfortunately, Marco was not able to back it up in Moto 2 as two crashes, the first while running third on the opening lap, pushed him back and he was only able to charge back to fifth. It was a great ride for Cannella, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who is surprised at some of the mental errors he’s making at key moments in the race. In the end, Cannella was tied for the overall win at Round 4 with Jacob Piccolo.

Jacob Piccolo’s riding and fitness have been great so far and now he will wear the red plates heading into Round 5. Photo by James Lissimore

Yes, you read that correctly. Last weekend, Piccolo got his first-ever moto win, this weekend he took home his first-ever overall national win, and now he’s one of your 250 class points leaders. This kid has always had speed and if we go back to one year ago you may recall that Piccolo holeshotted one of 250 moto at Gopher Dunes, led for a few laps before fading back to Narnia. Well, that was last year and now after a winter of training at ClubMX in South Carolina and a new committed to training, Piccolo, who won the second 250 moto by 52 seconds yesterday, will share the red plate with Tanner Ward heading into Round 5 in Sand Del Lee. Behind Piccolo and Ward in the 250 points standings is another fast teenager Ryder McNabb. At just 15 years old McNabb is mature beyond his years and after his big win at Round 3 on Saturday, he held the red plate for 24 hours. As I mentioned, this class has been exciting during the opening four rounds as before each moto we don’t know who is going to win. I also have to hand it to Tanner Ward who had a massive crash in the opening moto yesterday but was able to remount and finish third. This kid is as tough as a $2 steak and with half of this series remaining, I think Ward still has to be considered as the favourite to win this 250 Championship. In the past, Ward has been solid at SDL, he’s had great success at Deschmabault (of the Top 5 riders only he and Cannella have raced at this Quebec track), and he always seems to do well at Walton Raceway. Unless Darian Sansyei can find some speed, or Marco Cannella can start winning every moto, right now it’s Tanner Ward vs the kids as we head into the second half of this series.

Jess Pettis won the opening moto yesterday and then he and Dylan Wright had a great back and forth battle in Moto 2. Photo by James Lissimore

In the 450 class, we most certainly witnessed a few incredible things yesterday at Round 4. The first thing was that Jess Pettis and his 450 riding are for real. Considering he missed all of his normal pre-season training and testing due to his recovery from knee surgery, Pettis is locked in right now. Over the past few years, we haven’t witnessed too many riders make Dylan Wright concede a moto win. However, with three laps remaining in the final 450 moto yesterday Pettis had a 7-second lead and Wright appeared to be doing the smart thing and just taking a solid second-place finish. You know the saying, live to fight another day and all of that. Well, in the past we’ve seen either Dylan go for the win and make a big mistake, or we’ve seen the rider in front of Dylan simply give up and allow Wright to motor by. Well, yesterday it became evident that neither rider has any quit in them as Pettis had spent the second half of the final moto fighting off Wright and he looked to have the win in the bag. But with less than three laps to go a lapper slowed Pettis just slightly and that was all Wright needed to make the pass and take the win. Add in the fact that in Moto 1 Wright had perhaps the best moto of his career as he recovered from a first turn pile up to charge all the way back to second. It was a remarkable points saving ride for Wright and one that may end up saving this championship for him. Also, Wright’s 2:04 lap time on Lap 3 of the second moto (when the track was destroyed) will go down in Canadian moto history as one of the best laps ever. I don’t even know how Wright pulled off that lap time at that point in the day, but he did and it was spectacular and I’m guessing that there are only a handful of riders on the planet that are capable of riding a rough track that fast. To give you some perspective on how good that lap was. Wright’s next best time was the lap prior at 2:06 and after Lap 3 his best time was a 2:08. Pettis did a 2:08 on Lap 3, a 2:09 on Lap 4 (both were also incredible given the track conditions) but after that his best was a 2:10 on Lap 5. 

Watching the 450 riders battle through the tough conditions yesterday was sure entertaining. Photo by James Lissimore

So we know that Wright is fast and his tenacity got rewarded with a big win yesterday. We also know that Pettis is tough as nails and he’s only going to get better in the coming weeks. And since he’s been the most consistent starter thus far, he’s going to start upfront and get some more moto wins for sure. This Pettis/Wright battle is going to be fun to watch in the second half of the 450 series. Another thing we got to witness this weekend is that Marshal Weltin is one heck of a natural sand rider. I could watch him ride a rough sand track all day long as his technique is perfect. Weltin rode well this weekend and was able to get his first-ever national 450 win at Round 3 on Saturday. Weltin is also a great starter so you know he’s going to be challenging for the lead on the opening laps. With SDL being a track that in the past has been hard to pass on Weltin could win a moto or two this coming weekend. If he can then he will be able to make up some solid points as currently, he sits 17 points behind the red plate holder Wright. Like the 250 class, this class is shaping up nicely for the second half of the series, and we’re still yet to see Cole Thompson or Shawn Maffenbeier show their best stuff. Although, I will say that both Thompson and Maff rode very well yesterday and were just slightly off the pace of the leaders.

Wow, these teenagers are fast! Photo by James Lissimore

That was the 2021 Gopher Dunes National in a nutshell. In typical Gopher Dunes fashion, the track was a beast and tested every single rider all weekend long. The amateur racing was great on Friday and Saturday, the entire Schuster Family was there together and Frank even got to wish every rider good luck with a handshake prior to the opening moto. All in all, it was an amazing weekend at Gopher Dunes and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. Once again, congratulations to all of the riders who competed this weekend! Now it’s onto SDL and another fun but challenging track. Finally, I want to send my best wishes to Ty Shemko who unfortunately suffered a broken lower leg on Saturday when he was down and got hit by another rider. During the past few months, I’ve done some riding with Ty down at the Compound 138 Training Facility and I was able to witness how hard this kid has worked to get back into race shape. Hopefully, he’s able to heal up fast and return to pursuing his dream of becoming a Top 5 National pro rider. This sport needs riders like Ty, Ryan Derry, Max Fillipek, Parker Earles (just to name a few) to keep pushing and stick around this sport for a few more years. Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions please send them to me at chris@mxpmag.com.