Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. Recently Yamaha announced numerous changes to their 2022 two-stroke motocross line-up. This includes and redesigned YZ125 for the first time in 15 years, also an all-new YZ85LW (large wheel) to compete in the Supermini class. Both of these products are welcomed in the sport and should be very popular among riders.
Well, what a weekend it was at the Sand Del Lee track and facility, located just outside Ottawa. With some good amounts of rain leading up to Saturday and Sunday, the track had lots of moisture built up in the sandy soil so the conditions were excellent for the riders. My family and I departed our home early on Friday morning to begin the five-hour journey to SDL. We always love travelling to this track as not only is the MX101 crew extremely hospitable, but my son considers it to be one of his favourite tracks. Thankfully the drive was uneventful as we made it through the Toronto traffic unscathed and then onto the track. We ended up arriving at SDL just after lunch and by that time the paddock was already filling up with pro teams as well as the amateur riders who were racing the Parts Canada Open event on both Friday afternoon and then again on Saturday. I love arriving at the track on Friday as there is always a cool vibe in the pits. Kind of like the calm before the storm vibe. Anyway, at that point, it was time to walk around and talk to people as well as take in some of the amateur racing that was taking place on the track. Like the Friday before at Gopher Dunes, it was fun to sit back and watch some of our talented 50cc and 65cc riders ride on the same track that the pros race on Sundays. Our kids are so far advanced these days and I’m always amazed at how little they seem unfazed at some of the big jumps or tricky corners that make up our tracks. This is just another example of the evolution of our sport.
After a few hours at the track, we then headed to our hotel in nearby Kanata and then to dinner at the Baton Rouge Grill. I’ve never been to one of these eateries before so it’s always fun to try something new. With Ontario moving to Stage 3 in its Covid-19 recovery plan Friday was the first day back to limited indoor dining. The staff was excited to be welcoming people back inside the restaurant allowing people to eat inside has been long overdue. I still get a kick out of having to wear a mask from the front door to your table but once you’re seated you can remove your mask and act like normal. With so many of us now vaccinated can we please just do away with wearing masks everywhere. I think this is one reason why these opening three rounds have been so enjoyable because while at the track no one is wearing masks. I mean, I always have one in the pocket just in case, but overall we’re free of masks and life feels like normal again. So dinner was great and so was browsing through the Golf Town store that was located in the same plaza. Next to Sportchek, I’m not sure if there’s a more overpriced sporting goods store on the planet than Golf Town. Everything from golf balls, golf clubs, apparel, and even golf tees was priced high. But yet the store was busy and it appeared like people didn’t mind the prices. After that, it was back to the hotel to get some sleep and rest up for the Parts Canada Amateur Open and AMO Racing OPC on Saturday.
To start with, the weather on Saturday was absolutely perfect for racing dirt bikes as the sky remained overcast and without the sun shining it didn’t get very hot. Also, with rain falling in many parts of Ontario I feel like we got spared what could’ve been a very wet and sloppy day. As always, Kevin Tyler and his MX101 crew had the track prepared perfectly, and once again Ryan Gauld had the AMO event running smooth. Actually, the entire day ran smooth and except for a few crashes and sadly some injuries, the day was uninterrupted and everyone had a great time. On a personal note, my son had a great day and finished up with his best overall this year in the Supermini class. To think that back that in 2013 we travelled to SDL with a PW50 in the back of our truck to race Amateur Day and now eight years later he’s out on the same track battling for a second-place finish in the Supermini class just blows my mind. My dad always told me that time flies, especially when you’re having fun. Well, ain’t that the truth!
With a safe and successful 2021 Amateur day in the books we headed back to our hotel for another well-deserved night’s sleep and then it was time to wake up and go back to work at SDL. Last week, Kyle Thompson from the Triple Crown Series ask me to help him do the TV announcing for the Sunday morning WMX and Pre-Mix classes on the Flo Racing live broadcast. Well, I guess I didn’t suck too bad so Kyle asked me to do it again this weekend at Round 5. I’m not really a natural TV guy so I do get a little nervous prior to the crew inside my headset say the words “Okay, we’re live” but once we get rolling I begin to feel more comfortable. At the end of the day, all you’re really doing is watching some exciting racing and commenting on it. Easy right? Well, not really, but it’s certainly fun, and congratulations to all of the WMX and Pre-Mix riders who competed yesterday.
With the WMX and Pre-Mix racing, as well as my TV duties all done it was time for the 250 and 450 motos of the 2021 Triple Crown Series. I know that in the past we’ve seen some close racing and some incredible battles over the years in Canadian motocross. However, I don’t think we’ve ever seen both classes have some parity at the front of the pack before. After five rounds of this series the 250 class our two teenage sensations Jacob Piccolo and Ryder McNabb are leading the 250 class, while in the 450 class Dylan Wright leads Jess Pettis by just one point. With three rounds remaining both series could go either way. And let’s not forget about riders like Tanner Ward and Marshal Weltin who are sitting back in third waiting for any mistake from the Top 2.
With hot and humid temperatures yesterday as well as a very challenging race last Sunday at Gopher Dunes, I think we witnessed a few riders come out flat yesterday. Top riders like Tanner Ward and Shawn Maffenbeier were fast in qualifying but weren’t able to translate that into the results they wanted when it mattered the most. For Ward, he came into Round 5 with the points lead in the 250 class but for whatever struggled yesterday with his starts and was unable to run near the front. Jacob Piccolo also looked a little off yesterday and although he ran near the front in both motos, he didn’t have the same raw speed that we’ve seen from him in recent races. I mean, this kid won the final 250 moto last weekend by almost a minute. Sometimes riders after a very challenging day like they all had to deal with last Sunday at Gopher Dunes aren’t able to recover fully during the week and then they come out flat the following weekend. We’ve seen it in the past and I think we saw it with a few riders yesterday. It’s not a reflection of their level of fitness, it just happens and as a rider, you have to deal with it. Other than McNabb and Marco Cannella, two other 250 riders that impressed me yesterday were Darian Sanayei and Sebastien Racine. Two riders that are at complete opposite points of their racing careers. For Sanayei, I thought that we saw him riding better than ever yesterday as he looked engaged and aggressive in both motos. Unfortunately, a couple of untimely errors prevented him from getting his first moto win of 2021. His speed is getting better and hopefully, Sanayei can win a moto or two, or even three before the series concludes. As for young Sebastien Racine or “Seabass” as my son calls him, what a great first-ever pro race he had yesterday on his home track. This hard-working kid was fast all day long and he also showed a lot of heart and courage as he battled the top riders in the 250 class. To come out and go 5-5 in your first pro national is pretty special so congratulations to Seabass and his entire family. All of which are great people and truly deserve a ton of credit for helping guide their son and grandson to where he is today.
So while the teenagers continue to win motos in 2021, one of the 250 class title favourites Marco Cannella is having a roller-coaster season. After a tough start to the series at Walton Raceway Cannella regrouped and came out swinging last weekend at Gopher Dunes, winning his first-ever pro moto and almost winning his first overall. This weekend, Marco’s up and down season continued as he dominated the opening 250 moto on his MX101 Yamaha’s Team home track, only to TKO himself in a crash while trying to pass McNabb for the lead in Moto 2. Marco would DNF the second moto yesterday and then had to drive home nursing a bad headache. From a rider who is normally so smooth, so calm, and so focused, I’m shocked to see so many unforced errors from Marco this summer. His crash yesterday was a big one and he’s lucky to walk away with only a suspected concussion. Hopefully, he’ll be okay and we’ll see him at Round 6 in Quebec, but his title hopes are over, and like I said, considering he was one of the favourites to win this championship, to me it’s really sad. Also, what do you do with Marco moving forward? These kids keep getting faster and fitter and more determined each year. Riders like McNabb and Piccolo and now Racine are only going to get better. Can Cannella beat these young aggressive phenom’s in 2022, or if your Yamaha do you take the smooth, ultra-fit, and calculated Marco Cannella and move him to the 450 class? He’s proven at the amateur level that he’s a great 450 rider, can he duplicate that riding at the pro level? I don’t see why not as others have before him. I’m not his agent, coach, or sponsor, but I would seriously consider moving Cannella up to the 450 class for 2022 if that is what he wanted to do. After seeing how well Jess Pettis has adapted to the 450 so far this summer, I think Jess might be paving the way for other riders (like Cannella) to follow.
I’m going to save talking about the 450 class until tomorrow but I will say that it was another bar banging afternoon of racing in the premier class at SDL. This track has always brought out the best in our top riders and over the years we’ve witnessed numerous great battles. Yesterday was no exception as there were multiple battles throughout both 450 motos. Highlights included Dylan Wright coming from behind to win the opening moto and then once again going from almost dead last to second in Moto 2. Jess Pettis once again looked smooth and in complete control on his KTM 450. Pettis also continued to show that his reflexes are far superior to everyone else’s as he now has pulled 90% of the holeshots so far this summer. And then there’s Marshal Weltin who continued to show why he’s one of the best American riders we’ve ever had in Canada. Weltin is not just great on the track, but he’s also a great example to all of our young riders as his post-race podium speech really impressed me. After battling with Wright on the final lap and getting blown off the track (both he and Wright came together and both went off the track) and having to settle for third, Weltin not only was calm and collected on the podium but also was humble and didn’t talk crap about Wright or any of this competitors. That’s how you do it kids, you leave it all on the track. I did a great audio interview with Weltin after the race which I will post tomorrow.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone enjoys their week and I hope everyone has a safe week riding. Thank you for reading this column and if you have any comments or questions please free feel to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.