Yamaha Motor Canada Presents The Monday Gate Drop

Good day and welcome to this Family Day edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. With spring right around the corner and another Motorcycle Show this coming weekend in Toronto, if you haven’t already then it’s definitely time to get excited for riding. Hopefully a month from now we’ll all be riding and beginning our preparation for the 2020 race season. Motocross is the greatest family sport on the planet so lets all celebrate this Family Day together.

With this weekend marking the middle of February it’s great to see so many of our pro and amateur riders down south training in warmer climates. In my day, and by my day I mean a quarter century ago, most of us travelled down to Florida to train for the upcoming season of racing. Back then we went to Florida for a couple of reasons during this time of the year. First, on most days you can almost be guaranteed good riding weather during February and March, anymore north and you risk having too many days that are cool and wet. Second, 25 years ago Florida had almost all of the public tracks so finding a place to ride was easy. Also, historically the SX series has always moved east during this time of the year so it made perfect sense to set up shop in the Sunshine State. Heck, back in my day the opening round of the outdoor series was sandwiched between the Atlanta SX and the Daytona SX. So for a Canadian rider trying to get ready for our season you could head to Florida in early February, ride for a few weeks and then hit the Atlanta SX, the Gatorback National, and then the Daytona SX before returning in mid-March to hopefully ride at home. It was a lot to pack into six weeks but that was how it was done years ago.

With the Tampa SX taking place this past weekend it instantly brought back memories to the two times that I attended this event. The first time was in 1993 when I went purely as a fan to check out some Jeremy McGrath guy who had been dominating the early part of the series that year. At the time I’d just gotten to Florida the day before so my mechanic and I decided to drive down to Tampa from our home base in Ocala and see McGrath in person. Other than lining up with McGrath at the 1990 Toronto SX I hadn’t seen him ride in person so it was cool to see him in Tampa. Of course, he ended up winning that night after a spirited battled with Mike Craig. It didn’t take a motocross genius to see that McGrath on another level in SX and what he did in the years that followed certainly proved that. Remember, in those days there was no Social Media or Internet, so the only way we got information was either through monthly magazines, weekly publications like Cycle News, or from good old word of mouth.

Dean Wilson had his best finish of the season in Tampa as he took home a solid 6th in the main event.

Exactly five years later I would return to Raymond James Stadium, only this time it was to race against McGrath in the 250 class. Although my results that day weren’t exactly memorable (I missed making the main event by a few spots in the LCQ) what did stand out were the massive storms that moved through the Tampa area that day. The large amount of rain turned the track into a quagmire for most of practice, qualifying, as well as the night show. In those days there wasn’t any timed qualifying as riders outside of the Top 20 had to race their way into the all important night show. For the riders outside of the Top 20, this meant short but very intense qualifying races during the afternoon. Obviously with the muddy conditions, the afternoon qualifying races were extremely challenging and really all you could do was just try and get around the track without getting stuck. Up until that stage in my racing career I had ridden in some pretty muddy races, but that day and night in Tampa was the absolute worst. I recall that it stopped raining prior to the night show so the track did dry a little, but all it really did was develop deep ruts, really deep ruts! Then halfway through the evening the skies opened up again and it poured rain. It was a very difficult race, however looking back it was fun just to be on the starting line with those legends. My point is, being in Florida during this time of the year is quite an experience and one that every rider and their family should do at least once in their life.

Eli Tomac was on another level in Tampa and took home a dominating victory in the 450SX class. Photo by Mike Vizer

Thankfully there was zero rain at this year’s Tampa SX and we witnessed some very entertaining racing once again. In the 450SX class Eli Tomac was a rider on a mission and he dominated the main event. The track was challenging and it was most certainly the warmest night of racing that the riders have had so far in 2020. With evening temperatures hovering around 70 degrees with a little humidity, the riders were put to the test in Tampa. Other than Tomac, Webb and Roczen having a good night at Round 7, Dean Wilson also rode well on Saturday night and ended up with a season high sixth. Actually, Dean was the highest finishing Husqvarna rider for the second week in a row. Round 7 also marked the return of Broc Tickle to the 450SX class as he rode hard on his new JGR Suzuki to finish up in 12th. It’s great to see Tickle back racing and in a few weeks you’ll be able to read a feature story on him in the latest issue of MXP Magazine.

Racing in his first supercross for the Star Racing Yamaha Team Shane McElrath rode smooth and won the opening 250SX East round in Tampa.

In the 250SX East class, the Tampa SX marked the opening round for their 2020 series. There were a few interesting notes from their first main event of the season as Shane McElrath took his first win aboard his new Star Racing Yamaha, also it was great to see Jeremy Martin back on the race track after his devastating injury almost two years ago. Martin looked strong on his Geico Honda and ended up finishing in second. Finally, Joey Crown, had his best SX finish of his career as he took home a solid 8th overall in the main event. If you recall, Crown is a former Walton TransCan champion and in 2018 he came up just short of winning the 250MX title in the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. Sadly, last year was a disaster for Crown as he would spend most of the year sidelined with various injuries. However, to his credit Crown remained positive and kept working hard and in the past four months he’s won some big races including the Red Bull Straight Rhythm as well as the Geneva SX. Off of the bike Joey Crown is a great kid and he has a lot of fans here in Canada. Hopefully he can remain healthy and have a great 250SX East Series, at least he’s off to a solid start. If you’re looking for someone with a strong Canadian connection to cheer for in the 250SX East Series, Crown is your guy!

Well, that is it for me this week! I hope everyone has a great week and if it’s Family Day where you live, Happy Family Day from all of us at MXP Magazine. This coming weekend in the Motorcycle Show in Toronto so I look forward to seeing everyone there on Friday and Saturday.

Happy Family Day everyone!