Yamaha Motor Canada Presents The Monday Gate Drop

Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. With Christmas Day almost upon us, I would like to take this opportunity to pass along a big Happy Holidays from the incredible people at Yamaha Motor Canada. May you have a safe and healthy holiday season!

Well, after taking a few weeks off from writing this weekly column I’m back. Why was I absent? It’s a long story and one that is not full of joy. So, I won’t go into it as this is the week before Christmas and we should all be joyful. But the important thing is that I’m back and ready to type!

The 2021 LRX Arenacross in Brooks, AB was a massive success!

Whenever a new event happens in this country it’s always an exciting time. This past week in Brooks, AB the gate dropped on the first-ever LRX Performance AX and by accounts, it was a massive success. Over the past number of decades, winter AX events have been difficult to pull off in Canada unless it’s the Future West AX Championships, which have been running successfully for years. However, unlike the Lower Mainland of BC, which remains somewhat mild during the winter months, the rest of us in Canada are forced to endure negative temperatures from December to March. These conditions make doing any type of indoor race very difficult as you obviously need a large heated building to make an event work. This is one reason why it was so cool to see this cool new race take place in Brooks this past weekend. With over 600 entries, two days of racing, riding schools, and just about everything else you’d expect from an exciting AX race, it sounds as though everyone had fun this weekend in Alberta. Here is a Facebook post from the crew at the Alberta Dirt Riders:

With a 6 hour drive, it gave us time to reflect on the first AX in Alberta in approximately 12 years.

First off, we want to thank all the Families, Racers, Pros, Staff, and Volunteers for all the hard work and understanding this weekend.

Unfortunately, we were plagued by endless timing equipment issues. Was it perfect NO? Was it to the high standard that we usually hold ourselves to DEFINITELY NOT. Was it amazing to be racing in a barn at -25 in December ABSOLUTELY!

We struggled but in the end, we succeeded in putting smiles on so many young riders. We got to race against our friends and we were able to hang out and talk about it after. We had a tremendous amount of support with 640 entries over 2 days, putting almost 1300 bikes through the gates.

To see multiple qualifiers and a packed pro class was unbelievable. To hear the crowd cheer them on was unforgettable. Needless to say, big changes are coming to our timing system for the 2022 season.

Thank you to everyone that attended the race this weekend we will continue to grow and learn new things to keep pushing Alberta Moto. I think we need a full AX season next winter!

Congratulations to LRX Performance’s Paul Lavoie and his entire crew for pulling off this great race. The weather was definitely cold outside but the action inside helped to warm things up. I remember going out to Alberta in the early 1990s for a few winter AX races in Medicine Hat as well as at the Saddledome in Calgary. They were promoted by a guy from Medicine Hat who at the moment I cannot remember his name. Anyway, it’s been a while since one of these events has been held in Alberta so it’s great to see them back. 

With less than three weeks to go until the gate drops on the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Series all of the riders are no doubt excited to head to Anaheim. After two months of training and multiple test sessions, it will soon be time to see if all of this work will pay off. Hopefully, California doesn’t go all Covid crazy again (like we have in Canada) and bring back capacity limits for sporting events. If they do then this will no doubt affect the opening rounds of Supercross in the Golden State. At this point who knows what the people in power are thinking and how a States like California will treat the rise in cases from this new variant of Covid-19? But regardless of how many spectators are allowed inside Angel Stadium, it’s going to be so exciting to see the gate drop on a new season of SX. I know we say every year that this is going to be the most competitive season of SX ever, but don’t you just feel like 2022 is going to be just that? The young guns like AC9 and Sexton are ready to go, Dylan Ferrandis is no doubt ready to battle for this title after winning the 450 outdoor series last summer, and then there are riders like Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin, and of course defending 2021 Monster Energy SX Champion Cooper Webb. There are endless storylines are heading into the 2022 SX season and it all gets underway on January 8th at Angel Stadium. 

How good is the battle going to be in the 250SX West class between Justin Cooper and Jett Lawrence? Photo by Matt Wellumson

In the 250SX West class, the battle for the Championships is also going to be exciting as defending champ Justin Cooper will be taking on his archrival and probably the most popular rider on the planet, Jett Lawrence. Although these two riders have respect for each other I’m not sure how much they like each other? And I’m sure that racing against each other in a SX series will only further deepen their divide. This battle is going to be incredible to watch and so is the rest of the 250SX West class. Our own Jess Pettis will be there after his successful two months of training at Baker’s Factory. Jess is coming into 2022 fit and confident and if he can get off to a good start then I believe he will be a top-five rider in this series. I will catch up with Jess this week as he moves from Florida to a rented house in California. We may also see a few other Canadian riders on the starting line in Anaheim as Julien Benek and Cole Thompson may be there. Young Benek has yet to decide which 250SX Series he’s racing and last week Thompson announced that he has moved to the BluCru and may race the 250SX West Series and selected 450SX East rounds. If I were the agent of these two talented SX riders I would first tell Benek to keep training and get himself 100% ready for the 250SX East Series. Although every rider wants to be on the starting line in Anaheim, the opening rounds of the 250SX West Series always seem like a complete madhouse. Also, I feel like Benek’s smooth style and lightning speed through the whoops would best suit some of the eastern tracks. Personally, I’d love to watch Julien tackle the deep ruts in Indianapolis or the deep sand whoops in Daytona. Either way, 2022 is going to be an exciting season for Benek and I cannot wait to watch him. 

Cole Thompson will be racing selected SX events aboard a Yamaha in 2022. Photo by James Lissimore

As for Cole Thompson, I think it’s great that he’s going to continue to race next year. From what I heard after this past season it almost sounded like Cole was done with racing altogether. However, with that said I was surprised to hear that he was even entertaining the idea of racing any 250SX events in 2022. If I were him, I wouldn’t even bother with this class and just focus on the second half of the 450SX Series. Cole is a 450 rider now and I think if he can take the next month to train hard and also get his new YZ450F set up the way he likes it, then he could be a main event guy once the 450SX Series heads east. Also, if you can consistently make 450SX main events then there is some money to be made through the purse and contingency. In the 250SX class, unless you’re a factory rider finishing inside the top five there is very little money to be made in my opinion. As I mentioned with regards to Benek, I’d love to see a well-prepared Cole Thompson racing on the tougher east tracks with his smooth style. I believe that he could surprise a few people in the 450SX series once he got comfortable!

On the track or off of the track and at any level this sport demands passion and effort. Merry Christmas everyone! Photo by James Lissimore

With the opening rounds of SX fast approaching as well as Christmas and the beginning of a new year just over a week away, this really is the most wonderful time of the year. Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a safe, healthy week and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas on Saturday. You know something has really become clear in the past few months and that is that although we’ve seen some incredible growth in our sport during the past two seasons, this industry has become more challenging than ever to navigate through. Whether you’re a rider, a parent, a track owner, a dealership, an industry person, or a member of one of our sanctioning bodies, passion and a true love for this sport is more important than ever. If you’re not willing to get down and dirty in the trenches of this sport, then you’re not going to find any success next year or beyond. Motocross is an incredible sport as so many of us know, but it comes with a price and its advanced membership, meaning that you just can’t be involved at an arm’s length, you have to want it, good, bad, or otherwise. As the saying goes, if you’re not willing to get your hands dirty all for the love of this sport then now is not the time to be involved in motocross. This past year we’ve seen so many incredible people step up and go the extra mile to make our sport work. People like Steve Simms who a year ago was forced to build his new TLD GASGAS Team from scratch. Steve could’ve gotten a mechanic job with one of the teams or went and did something else, but he didn’t, and look what he created. Or how about Ryan Gauld, who has put Ontario MX on his shoulders in the past few years and made it great again. Or all the pro team owners and managers who have still found a way to go racing despite massive budgets cuts. Then there are the track owners in Canada who have had to work around Covid-19 restrictions as well as many other challenging factors that make hosting events difficult. And then there’s all of the riders and their families who each weekend load up their bikes and travel to races. Without you, there would be no racing! So, to all those who work hard to make the wheels of this sport turn, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! Thanks for reading this week and look for some more year-end wrap-up stories in the coming week, including my annual Golden Elbow Awards.