Yamaha Motor Canada Presents The Monday Gate Drop

Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. As we welcome in 2022 all of us at MXP Magazine as well as all of the fine people at Yamaha Motor Canada hope you have a healthy and successful year. If you want to be like Eli Tomac and join the Blu Cru for the 2022 season, now is the time to head to your local Yamaha dealer and check out one of the new YZ models. 

Angel Stadium is waiting for the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Series to kick off this weekend. Photo by James Lissimore

Well, after months of anticipation the official countdown to the opening round of the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Series is underway. In just five short sleep’s all eyes in our sport will be fixated on Angel Stadium in beautiful Anaheim, California. After having to move the opening round last year to Houston, the series opener is back where it should be in Southern California. The opening round of SX is exciting in so many different ways as not only do we finally get to see who is really going fast and is the best prepared but usually by this time of the year our cold Canadian winter has set in and it’s fun to watch events from warmer climates. According to my weather app, the forecast in Anaheim is 17c during the day and 8c in the evening. I know that isn’t exactly on the warm side of things, but considering how cold it’s been in certain parts of Canada I’m quite sure we’d all be wearing shorts and t-shirts if we were walking around the paddock on Saturday. Anyway, at least as of right now there is no rain in the forecast and that is great news for everyone. 

These two Star Racing Yamaha riders are going to be tough to beat in 2022.

So, other than Justin Barcia, who in the past has made the opening round his pet, which rider does everyone see winning the 450SX main event on Saturday night in Anaheim? If you go through the list of names in the 450SX class there appear’s to be about ten riders capable of pulling off the win at Round 1. As we’ve witnessed in the past there is a big difference between winning the opening round and being a championship contender. For the few riders that see themselves as true 450SX class title favourites, winning the opening round most likely isn’t a priority. Riders like 2021 champ Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac, Dylan Ferrandis, and Ken Roczen (who I would consider being the four favourites to win the 2022 450SX title) know that it’s a long series, and winning the opening round isn’t that important. What is important is getting through Saturday in one piece, gaining some confidence, and setting yourself up for a solid series. One qualifying session, one heat race, one main event, one round at a time, I know it sounds cliched but compartmentalizing a long series like this one is the only way to remain in the moment. However, of these four riders, I believe Dylan Ferrandis is the one who could throw caution to the wind and attempt to come out swinging this weekend. After winning the 450 outdoor title last summer, Ferrandis is no doubt confident coming into the 2022 SX Series. I can honestly see him wanting to drop the hammer quickly and try to make his fellow competitors play catch up at Round 2. As you can tell that my pick for the opening 450SX main event this weekend is Dylan Ferrandis, or Chase Sexton as I think he’s a dark horse for the 2020 450SX title. 

Jett Lawrence is my pick to win the opening round of the 250SX West this weekend. Photo by Matt Wellumson

In the 250SX West, we have a different scenario playing out as I believe there is one rider who really stands out. There is little doubt that the 250SX West Championship is Jett Lawrence’s to lose as we head into the opening round. With Star Racing Yamaha announcing last week that Colt Nichols and Justin Cooper are switching coasts and will not be defending their 2021 Championships, to me, this leaves the door wide open for Lawrence to dominate. I did think that Cooper perhaps didn’t have the raw speed of Jett, but I love his race craft and consistency so I believed that he could beat Jett in a long series. Now, sadly that battle isn’t going to happen. I also enjoyed watching Nichols win his title last year but I don’t think he has what it takes to beat Jett week in and week out. So, unless Jett beats himself, I don’t see anyone else stepping up to beat him consistently. One other rider who I think will be fast and if he can find a way to remain healthy for an entire series he could be a title contender is Austin Forkner. Everyone, including myself, assumed that Forkner would win a 250SX title by now, but due to mistakes and injuries, things haven’t worked out for him. Is 2022 Austin Forkner’s year? He most certainly needs it to be as next year he’s heading to the 450SX class. Only time will tell I guess. 

Jess Pettis is locked and loaded for Round 1.

As for our Canadian riders, there will two former 250 champions on the gate this weekend in Anaheim. Jess Pettis and Cole Thompson will both be lining up in the 250SX West class and although they’re each coming in different mindsets, both are extremely excited to go racing. For Pettis, he’s coming into 2022 motivated, healthy, and more fit than he’s ever been. After two months of training at the Baker’s Factory Pettis is ready to go and I believe that if he can get through the opening few rounds in a good position, by the time the 250SX West series returns to Anaheim for Round 4 we will see him battling inside the Top 5. As I mentioned last week in this column, Pettis is a natural good starter as well as a fast learner. In the past, we’ve seen him excel on building confidence from good finishes and then being able to apply it to the following race. If Pettis can get some good starts in the opening rounds and experience what the pace is like at the front of the pack, he will no doubt be able to get comfortable with that speed and then with his high level of fitness, be able to maintain it for the entire length of the main event. The key though for Pettis is staying healthy, not just at the races but during the week as well. I know it’s easier said than done for riders trying to compete at this level, but you have to think that this JP’s last chance at success in the 250SX class so he must find a way to succeed. In talking with him a few times over the past few weeks I get the sense that he’s in a really good place right now both mentally as well as physically. Although he suffered a wrist injury in late November that kept him off of the bike for a few weeks, that time allowed him to work solely on his fitness and when he got back on his bike, he felt better than ever. Jess has been in California now for a week and is ready to go for this weekend! 

Team Thompson are looking for success in the 250SX West Series. Photo by James Lissimore

Tomorrow on this website I will post the interview I conducted with Cole Thompson yesterday as he driving through Arizona on his way to California. Yes, Cole Thompson will be racing a YZ250F this weekend in Anaheim and he couldn’t be more excited about it. With some help from Thor, Parts Canada, Factory Connection, as well as an Allan Brown-built motor from the crew at MX101, Cole’s bike will be pretty much stock. However, I got a sense from Cole (and you can read it all for yourselves tomorrow) that like Pettis, he’s also in a really good place right now. For the first time in a while, Cole has stepped outside of his comfort and I feel like he’s been able to draw confidence from that. Also, he loves his 2022 YZ250F so that has aided in his decision to go and race A1. Basically, Cole wants to not just go racing but he wants to go and race the best! As I said, he’s in a good place and I think he can do well if all goes as planned. Either way, it’s going to be great to have two top Canadian riders to cheer for this weekend in Anaheim. 

AMO Racing is ready to go for 2022!

In other news, the PRMX Kawasaki Team will be in Anaheim with Justin Hill under the tent. Justin comes in with a lot of raw speed and if he can get some decent finishes early in the series then he could do well. There is also some speculation that if all goes well then we could see Justin racing in Canada this summer. That would be very cool! Also, AMO Racing opened their 2022 membership portal on Saturday, and from what I heard it was very busy. Maybe it was Gauldy’s NYE Instagram post that got everyone excited to buy memberships? I think he wins for the best NYE Social Media post so congrats to him (laughs). If you’d like to buy a 2022 AMO membership then just go to www.amoracing.com. Finally, with the final rounds of the Future West AX Championships coming up next month registration is now open at www.futurewestmoto.ca

Happy New Year from the Blu Cru! Photo by James Lissimore

Well, that is it for me this week. Happy New Year everyone and I hope that you all have a healthy and happy 2022!. My picks for this weekend are Dylan Ferrandis to win the 450SX main event and Jett Lawrence to win the 250SX West main event. Thank you for reading and good luck to our Canadian boys at Anaheim 1.