Yamaha Motor Canada Presents The Monday Gate Drop

Good day and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. This has been a very interesting week, to say the least, in our sport. This past weekend at Round 3 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series in Manitoba, Yamaha riders in both classes rode hard through the challenging conditions. The Blu Cru didn’t win but they did their best in the final western round, and now it’s on to the tough eastern rounds.

The first and only 250 start was not a lot of fun of you weren’t in the lead. Photo by James Lissimore

As you may have heard by now, Saturday’s national in Manitoba was cold, wet, and thankfully short. In our world of Social Media, good and bad news travels extremely fast – too fast sometimes. By 8am on Saturday morning I’m quite sure the entire motocross world knew that everyone at Round 3 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series was in for a very challenging day.

When I arrived at the track at 7:20am, it had only been raining for a few hours and the track was still in somewhat decent condition. At this level in our sport I don’t think anyone minds a little rain during the morning hours prior to a race. However, Saturday’s conditions were made even more difficult by the cold temperatures associated with the light rain. Honestly, it felt like it was around 5c, and everyone was doing their best to not only stay dry but also to remain warm. This nasty weather was really a shame as the McNabb Family had their track looking incredible for Round 3. I didn’t have the honour of attending this race last year so Saturday marked the first time that I had seen this wonderful track in person. As much as I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, similar to last weekend in Prince George, this track is a great national track. With rain falling (honestly it felt almost like sleet or snow), the riders took to the track for the final western round of the MXTour Series. With Honda teammates Dylan Wright and Colton Facciotti holding the red plates in their respective classes, the stage was set for another unforgettable day in Canadian motocross.

Even though he had a broken finger, Matt Goerke rode smooth and took the win in the 450 class. Photo by James Lissimore

As the morning progressed and the rain continued to fall the track just kept getting worse, and by the time the gate was ready to drop for Moto 1 of the 250 class, conditions were very poor. Thankfully, mud races don’t happen very often because they really do make it difficult on everyone involved. Riders, mechanics, parents, track crews, as well as the media, everyone’s attitude takes a turn for the worse when they know that the conditions are going to be like they were on Saturday in Manitoba. The riders; well they know that in muddy conditions anything can happen and that always weighs heavy on their minds. The mechanics; they know better than anyone what a toll mud can take on their machines, the same machines they just spent all week preparing. For the track crew, their difficult job becomes almost an impossible one as keeping a track like the McNabb Valley track raceable appeared to be like spitting into the wind. Finally, for the media, we have to find a way to stay dry and remain somewhat optimistic about the entire day when talking to everyone. The phrase “It doesn’t look that bad” or “It could be worse” got used more than once on Saturday morning. In most cases, especially with the riders, those words were met with a grunt. Basically, no one likes a mud race, but they do happen and such is life in motocross.

Racing for 20 minutes plus two laps in tough without goggles. If you don’t believe me just ask Dylan Wright. Photo by James Lissimore

I’m not going to go into the full results from Saturday, they can all be viewed right here: http://www.rockstartriplecrown.com/results.html. However, as you can see there were no second motos on Saturday as the officiating crew made the decision just prior to the second 250 moto to cancel the remainder of the day. It was obviously a difficult decision and one that was received with mixed emotions, but honestly, given the conditions and information Head Referee Paul Kingsley had at the time, it was the correct call. Even before the opening 450 moto the track was gone! The first WMX moto as well as the first two-stroke moto had beaten the track up pretty good, too. What banners were up at the start of the day were mostly down, the yellow track markers that are usually quite visible were either bent over or brown with mud. Also, my biggest concern was the start straight and the first turn area as it was covered with a foot of mud with ruts everywhere. The 250 moto saw a massive pile-up in the first turn as some riders simply couldn’t see, and as they hit the deep mud and tried to turn, a bunch crashed. It was ugly and I’m glad the riders were okay. My overall feeling was that with limited machinery available to fix the track at least a little before the second motos, it was better to cut everyone’s losses and call it a day before something really bad happened. I mean, during the first 450 moto I think at least every rider went off the track at least once, some a few times. It was more about survival than it was about racing. If the track could’ve been fixed repeatedly from the opening practice session on, then maybe it could’ve been saved enough to run the second motos. But with accusations flying around that this rider cut the track and that rider cut the track, I think anymore racing would’ve opened up an entirely new set of issues. Basically, the riders who didn’t have a great opening moto maybe wanted to go out again, while those who were content with how they did in Moto 1 wanted nothing to do with another moto. I’ve been in their shoes before and it’s tough. As a rider in those conditions it takes so much extra effort, concentration and luck to complete a race and finish well that you just don’t want to tempt fate again. On the flip side, if you didn’t have a great first moto and you have the chance to redeem yourself, you want to go back out regardless of the conditions. This is where you need someone to make the sensible decision for you, and I think Paul Kingsley and Daryl Murphy got it right! And this comes from someone who used to know a few things about riding in the mud. In fact, three of my four national moto wins came in conditions very similar to what we saw at Round 3, so mud was never an issue for me. But that was a different time, and racing at the top level wasn’t as expensive or as complicated as it is in 2019. Saturday was handled correctly, the riders made it out of Minnedosa mostly healthy, the teams were able to savage some of their machines, and now we can sit back, relax and enjoy a few weeks off before the east half of the series begins on July 13th at Gopher Dunes. I also must say that just before I went to post this a press release came out stating that the MRC officials are looking at a few riders who might have cut the track and gained an advantage. So stay tuned for more on that. 

As you can see the McNabb Valley track was in rough shape for both pro motos Photo by James Lissimore

On a different subject, I’m sure all of you have now heard about the current movement to rid Canadian motocross of the CMA and its last remaining influence over our sport. This is a subject that has been going on since I was a young rider, and while it’s been simmering for a long time, last week it started to boil once again. On the surface getting rid of the CMA appears to be an easy thing to do. First off, I don’t think you can find too many people in our sport with a pulse who haven’t had a bad experience with the CMA and therefore could care less if they’re around. Second, the CMA doesn’t hold any motocross races in Canada and haven’t for a long time. So, whether you think the CMA should simply go away entirely or that one person in particular should go away and the CMA be restructured, I think everyone can agree that change is needed. With this latest movement that was first started last week and then quickly blew up into an industry wide phenomenon (#cmagoaway), there might just be a light at the end of the tunnel. In the past few days some very respected people in our industry have voiced their support for FINALLY getting rid of the CMA’s influence over Team Canada and the MXONs. Some are riders who have been part of Team Canada in the past, while others are simply people who have been around our sport for some time. There is even a petition going around on Social Media that you can sign. This is big and it appears to be getting bigger each day.

Our good friend Lawrence Hacking sent me this old magazine cover from the late 1970’s I believe. I guess Marilyn never did leave the CMA.

This has even gone as far as the GDR Honda Team and its Canadian rider combo of Colton Facciotti and Dylan Wright announcing last week that even if they’re chosen for Team Canada in 2019, they will not go until things are run differently. Is this the correct move? Will it make a difference? Should other teams and riders follow suit? We ran a poll on Twitter late last week and 94% of you agreed with the GDR Team and think that other teams should make the same announcement. In talking with some of the teams in the past few days, I think everyone agrees that they never want to deal with the CMA again, but they’re hesitant (at this time) to go as far as to say they’ll boycott the 2019 MXONs because of the possibility of their rider being chosen for the team. In some cases, it’s a black and white issue, hands down, while in other cases it’s anything but. I respect the GDR Honda Team for taking a stand, and anytime Colton Facciotti talks I listen to what he has to say. It’s no different than any of our top riders in the past. Back in 1992 when Ross Pederson was going to race the first ever (non CMA event) and CMA threatened him along with anyone else who dared to line up to race with a fine and the chance of not getting a pro license the following year, I think I could hear Ross laughing from his spacious Medicine Hat home. In the end, Ross raced, and looked what happened in the years that followed. But I also respect those who are currently waiting to see what happens. Those people aren’t necessarily less supportive of the movement, they just want to see which direction this is going, and in some cases how best they can help it succeed. It’s a free country after all. It might keep going the way it appears to be going, or it might, as it’s done so many times in the past 30 years, go nowhere.

Will we see this type of scene later this year in Assen? Photo by James Lissimore

What do I think? Well, this current movement feels different than in years past. The timing appears better than ever to either rid us of the CMA entirely or at the very least change the way they operate. Is boycotting the 2019 MXON a good idea? Will it send a message? I’d like to think if we don’t send a team this year then the FIM would certainly notice, and in the end, they will be made aware of why Team Canada wasn’t there. I do, however, feel bad for Carl Bastedo who is currently trying his best to put together a team for Assen in September. Carl has paid his dues in this sport and with this event many times over, and he most certainly doesn’t deserve to get disrespected in any way over this. He just wants to send a team and not have Canada miss a year at this event. You can’t fault him in any way for that. If Carl wants to and can put together the money, he will be able to find three riders who will gladly go to the MXON later this year. However, as it stands, he will not have the two red plate holders in our national series, and as this gets bigger and more powerful in the coming weeks, he may not have any of our top riders to pick from. Who knows? This is not about Carl and what he’s trying to do, and it’s not about one or two people anymore, it’s more about finally making things right, not just for the here and now but for the future of our sport. Sadly, these are the same words my Dad used in 1989 in a meeting with the CMA when he and group of Ontario fathers tried to start the Ontario Motocross Association. The idea of the OMA was not even to get rid of the CMA but to simply work under the CMA umbrella to help run Ontario motocross and help to make it better. You can probably tell how that went as it’s most likely the first time you’ve heard of the OMA. Let’s just say that I hope things work out better in 2019 than they did in 1989. Thanks for reading and have a great week!