Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. Last week it was announced that Eli Tomac has now joined the Blu Cru as part of the championship-winning Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha Team. Tomac comes over to the Star Racing Team after a long run on the Kawasaki Team and by the sounds of it, he’s already loving the new 2022 YZ450. Look for Tomac to head down to Florida soon to begin testing with his new team.
So Tomac has gone blue, Jason Anderson has taken Tomac’s spot on the Monster Energy Kawasaki Team after a long stint on the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team. Anderson’s spot is being taken by Malcolm Stewart who signed with the Husqvarna Team last month. Stewart will be training at the Baker’s Factory so that will be a big change for his program. Also, it has yet to be officially announced but Aaron Plessinger is headed to the Red Bull KTM Factory Team to ride alongside Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class. Circling back to Anderson for a minute. I believe of all of these riders he’s the one you’re going to see the biggest improvement from in 2022. Last year his speed was so good at times but he just wasn’t able to find the top step of the podium. I feel like he’s really going to gel with the factory KX450F and together they’re going to find a lot of success. It will also be interesting to see how Stewart adapts to the Aldon Baker program. I think he’s either going to be really good or he’s going to struggle a little, especially early on in the season. We shall see, the opening round of the Monster Energy Supercross Series is only 13 weeks away.
In Canada, the big news that dropped last week was the confirmation that Dylan Wright is headed back to Italy for the final rounds of the 2021 MXGP Championships. Dylan will ride his GDR Honda under the tent of the Honda 114 Motorsports so he will be on very familiar equipment and he will some great support. This is obviously a great opportunity for Dylan and if he rides at the level he’s capable of, he should get some solid results, and then who knows what the future holds for him. Right now he’s under contract to return to the GDR Honda Team for 2022 but I’m quite sure that if Dylan got offered a good ride in Europe next year then Derek Schuster wouldn’t stand in his way. But first things first, Dylan has to head back to Italy and begin training for the final rounds of the MXGP series. I think Dylan is in a good spot as he prepares for these big races. The first thing is the confidence that he took from his Saturday performance at the MXoN last month will no doubt help him. On that day, on that track, on that bike, and in those conditions, Dylan’s speed was on par with the same top riders he’ll be racing against in the next few weeks. So mentally, Dylan should be able to feel comfortable right away and that should lead to some good races early in his return. I also think one of his best attributes is his ability to block out noise and not care who he’s racing against. Obviously, it’s easy to look around and see some of the big names on the back of some of the rider’s jerseys and then feel a little unprepared. But I don’t think that affects Dylan Wright as he doesn’t appear to ever care who he’s racing against. At the end of the day, this is just a really cool deal for Dylan and his racing career regardless of where he finishes.
Another one of our top riders who is also preparing to head outside Canada soon is 450 Triple Crown MXTour Series runner-up Jess Pettis. Jess has been in Quebec for the past week riding and testing and soon he will head back to Baker’s Factory in Florida to train for the opening round of the Monster Energy Supercross Series. I haven’t heard which coast Jess will be racing in the 250 class, but regardless of which one I think this is great news. Good on Jess for wanting to try this again and good on KTM Canada for supporting him again as he chases his SX dreams in the USA. With a summer of 450 racing under his belt I believe Pettis is in a much better spot than he was a year ago. Even though he’s coming off another injury suffered in his hard crash at Deschambault in early August, Pettis is heading to Aldon Baker’s training facility stronger, fitter, more confident, and wiser than he was a year ago. He also knows what to expect when he arrives in Florida so nothing will be a surprise. Jess has been at this 250 Supercross game for a while now and I hope that he’s able to remain healthy and show everyone what he is capable of in 2022.
When you look back at the past year for Dylan Wright and Jess Pettis, it’s shocking what these two have had to overcome to find the level of success they have. For Wright, he was forced to spend some time during the off-season rehabbing a knee injury he suffered in the SXTour Series last year. Then, just before the Triple Crown Series this year he injured his other knee and was forced to deal with that all summer. Also, at the opening round at Walton Raceway, he crashed and broke his baby finger. Also, throw in a couple of huge crashes including going off a 20 feet embankment and into a creek in Quebec, then later that day he had another hard crash and hard impact with the ground. Then he had a spectacular crash at Gopher Dunes on the opening weekend of the SXTour. However, through it all, he not only kept racing but he kept winning, and his determination to improve has never waivered.
For Pettis, his past two years have been more than challenging with knee injuries as well as his recent back injury. After having knee surgery to rebuild his knee in late 2019 Pettis would return last year to win the 250 Triple Crown MXTour Series title. However, halfway through that series he caught a rut wrong in the mud at Walton and reinjured the same knee. At this time last year, Jess decided not to have major surgery again and instead opted for a less invasive one to clean up some other issues he was having with his knee. He then went to Baker’s Factory to train for SX and although he had a great two months of preparation there, at the opening round of SX Pettis would again injure that same knee. This time he was forced to get it surgically repaired again, this time though he had it done in Nashville with a Surgeon that KTM USA had recommended. He was on the long road to recovery yet again. Thankfully he was able to rehab his knee successfully again (and in record time) and at the beginning of July with only a few weeks on the bike Pettis came out swinging at the opening round of the 2021 Triple Crown Series at Walton Raceway. Pettis was on fire this summer as he traded moto wins with Wright and with three motos to go in the series he sat just a few points behind the GDR Honda rider. But then at Round 7 disaster struck yet again for Pettis as he ran in trouble while trying to pull a tear-off in the air and crashed hard. The force of the impact not only knocked him silly but also broke a few of his vertebrae and left doctors amazed that Jess was still able to walk.
His 2021 season appeared to be over as Jess once again licked his wounds and headed back to Prince George, BC. But then just two weeks later he showed up at Walton Raceway at the last minute and somehow went 5-5 in his two motos and held on to second overall in the 450 MXTour Series. How he did it with a broken back only he knows. That day he could barely walk around his paddock in between qualifying and his motos. But he held on to second overall and the large sum of KTM bonus money that went with it. My point is that these two have been to hell and back in the past year and yet they’re both heading off in search of glory. I know it’s not easy to be a pro rider these days and that every one of them shows an incredible amount of perseverance each year. However, there is just something about Jess and Dylan’s story about the past year that is truly remarkable. I guess Phil Nicoletti was right when he said that “If you want to rock and roll you have to pay the toll.”
Looking at the current races remaining in this country and in the east the schedule is winding down while in the west a new series is set to begin. After months of planning and preparation, the 2021 Future West AX Championships kick off this Saturday at the Heritage Park Arena in Chilliwack, BC. With all of the rules and restrictions that are still in place in BC, it’s an amazing feat that the crew at Future West have once again been able to put together this exciting long-standing series. As of right now, I’m not sure which pro riders are planning on racing his weekend in Chilliwack but one big name pro from Ontario is headed west this week to compete as well as to teach some motocross schools. GDR Honda rider Tanner Ward has decided to race this series for the first time (I believe it’s his first time) and he will race under the Cycle North Honda tent. This is a good deal for Tanner as he no doubt wants to keep racing and make a little bit of money in the process. As always, the racing should be exciting this weekend in all classes as the riders battle on the large Heritage Park track.
As I mentioned above, racing in the east is winding down as Motopark held the final rounds of their MP Cup events this past weekend. I wasn’t able to make it but I spoke to a few riders who went and they said the MP crew had the track in great shape and for the most part Mother Nature co-operated. Also, this coming Saturday is both the final round of the AMO Racing True North OPC Series as well as the series end banquet at Walton Raceway. As of right now, the forecast looks promising so Barry and the Walton crew will have the track ready to go. This has been another great season for AMO Racing and for the riders and families who support it. Entries have continued to increase as has the ease at which it is to go racing for everyone. All you have to do now is sign-up online during the week and everything is taken care of, including gate fees as well as the race and practice schedules being completed by Friday afternoon. This process has all but eliminated the long Sunday morning registration line-ups and confusion about when you practice and race. Also, the addition this year of some of the younger classes racing on Saturday afternoon has allowed AMO Racing to run a cleaner and more efficient program on Sunday. Meaning, more people go home happy after having good races as well as a good overall experience at the race track. Also, I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves Denise Gauld’s (Ryan’s mom) cheerful greetings at the front gate every Sunday morning. I’ve been fortunate enough to have known Mama Gauld for over twenty years and through all of the ups and downs that life and motocross have sent her way she’s always kept that smile and cheerful disposition. Well, thankfully we get to experience it all one more time this coming weekend before we part ways for a long and cold winter in Ontario. Don’t forget that the racing begins on Friday this week with the kid’s classes and then the main program will be on Saturday. And then on Saturday evening is the year-end banquet under the stars at Walton Raceway.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving weekend and I hope you’re also able to get some fun fall riding in. Thank you for reading and in closing, I want to say congratulations to Trystan Hart on winning the Reno Nevada Endurocross main event this past weekend. Have a good week and again Happy Thanksgiving!