Good day and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. With the Daytona Supercross taking place this past weekend, for me anyway, this always marks the official beginning of Spring. Also, with setting the clocks ahead one hour, the days are longer and it gives the sun a better chance of warming things up. Yes, Spring is in the air and this guy couldn’t be happier about it.
The gate dropped on perhaps the most prestigious race of the season, the Daytona Supercross! This year marked the 50th Anniversary of this incredible event, and during the television broadcast on Saturday evening, one by one they showed all of the past winners. To see all of the riders who paved the way over the years was amazing, from Jimmy Weinert, to Ricky Johnson, to Jeremy McGrath, to Chad Reed, to of course the winningest rider of all, Ricky Carmichael. RC won the Daytona SX five times. Over the years this race has certainly changed as years ago the track was much different. These days the RC designed track brings in a lot of clay to build the multitude of obstacles on top of the infield grass. In the early years and really right up until about ten years ago, the track builders used to just dig the jumps and whoops into the dark Daytona sand. They would still bring in some clay to build the bigger jumps, but most of the track was dug into the ground. This made the ever-changing track extremely challenging to ride. In the four times that I raced the Daytona SX, it still stands out as the roughest track that I have ever ridden. Even on Saturday evening while we were watching the race, I was explaining to my son that TV doesn’t even come close to showing how gnarly the Daytona track gets. When you see the top riders on the planet struggling to get through some sections, you know the track is challenging. There were a few instances where the Daytona track jumped up to bite a few of the riders. Some of the crashes we saw on Saturday are get-offs that we usually only see at Daytona. This was not only because a few of the obstacles were difficult, but mostly because this track is like a living breathing animal and it changes with each lap. This Daytona SX track attribute has remained unchanged since its inception 50 years ago; it’s forever changing. As a rider, you can come around one lap, find the perfect line and think you’ve found gold. Then you come around the very next lap and your golden line is either gone or has changed. At this point you must adapt by either changing lines or slowing down. Sometimes it’s too late to do either, and you get out of shape and crash. For years we’ve seen this happen to even the best riders at Daytona, and yes, we saw it again on Saturday night.
In years past, the difficulty level of the Daytona track has sometimes made the racing boring as almost all of the riders are trying to survive rather than race forward. However, the 450SX main event on Saturday night was very entertaining. To see the three best riders in the 2020 series battle for most of the race was pretty cool. At one point, Ken Roczen had checked out and was enjoying a five second lead. On a track like Daytona a five second lead is perfect as it allows you to take the lines you want, and with all of the switchback sections, you can easily keep an eye on your competition. For the first half of the main event, Roczen was managing the race perfectly and looked poised to win his second wire to wire race in a row. But then about halfway through the race things began to change as the new Mr. Daytona, Eli Tomac, started to find his groove. At first, Tomac’s charge to the front was slow, but then he got around Cooper Webb, found a few new lines and within a couple of laps he had caught Roczen and was all over him. At this point I’m sure Roczen got a little tight as he began to second guess his speed and line choices. Then, with Tomac right behind him, Roczen tipped over on the slowest corner on the track and Tomac snuck by. Roczen wouldn’t give up though, and after taking a couple of laps to regroup, he reeled Tomac back in. When they crossed the finish line they were only a few feet apart. It was a great race and a perfect way to celebrate 50 years of the Daytona SX. Sadly, our only Canadian entry, Davey Fraser, missed making the night show by one spot in the 450SX qualifying. I’m sure Davey was disappointed that he didn’t qualify, but good on him for signing up and giving it a go. As I said last week, I wish a few more of our top riders would race Daytona. Although it’s one of the toughest races they’ll ever do, it’s one of those races that every pro rider should do at least once!
With the opening round of the 2020 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series only a month and half away, all of our top riders are busy training. The GDR Honda Team is currently in the Tallahassee area pounding away laps, Cole Thompson looks to be in fine form as he won the 5th Annual Pro Circuit Open SX last week at the Tampa MX Park against some very stiff competition. Entered in that race as well was MX101 FXR Yamaha riders Marco Cannella and Luke Renzland, as well as new Monster Energy Thor Kawasaki rider Marshal Weltin. The OTSFF Yamaha Team is busy training in South Carolina at ClubMX, and they most certainly look ready for 2020. Finally, I spoke to Jess Pettis last week – he’s waiting for the final okay to throw his leg over a bike again. As of now it’s been six months since he injured his knee at the Montreal SX so you know he’s more than ready to race. With the KTM Team photo shoot coming up in two weeks time, that will probably also mark Pettis’s first ride on his new KTM. This will give him about two months to get ready for the opening round of the 2020 MXTour in Calgary.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great pre-March break week. Gopher Dunes was not only open yesterday but it was busy with riders as the weather here in Ontario was beautiful on Sunday. Have a good week and good luck to all of our amateur riders who are racing today in Daytona at the RCSX.