Good day and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. I hope everyone is staying healthy as we all battle through the Covid-19 Virus. It doesn’t sound as though we’ve seen the worst of this crisis as it’s still spreading its way through our population. However, hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, though, stay home as much as you can and let’s try to continue injecting as much money as we can into our economy.
So how is everyone’s self isolating and social distancing going? Beginning today on www.mxpmag.com we will be taking a look at how some of our young riders are coping with being at home. Are they still training, are they doing school work? I guess we’re going to find out this week. Also, in case you missed my interview with Seth Rarick, here is the link to the story I did late last week. Seth is now helping Aldon Baker train the TLD KTM and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna riders at the Baker’s Factory in Florida. It was definitely cool to hear how the top training facility in the world is handling the current crisis. https://www.mxpmag.com/honda-canada-racing-presents-mxp-chatter-with-seth-rarick/
With Feld Entertainment announcing last week that the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series will not resume until the fall, all of the riders can now fully commit to preparing for the outdoor series. Finally, Jetwerx released a press release this morning with the updated Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series schedule. As you can see, the AXTour Series has been moved to the Fall and the opening round of the MXTour has been pushed back a week to June 7th. Here is the new schedule from Jetwerx.
So, with racing and life for everyone pretty much on hold, there have been a ton of throwback videos and photos on Social Media and YouTube. This past week I started posting all of the rounds from the 2016 Rockstar Energy MX Nationals. That was the year that the KTM Thor Factory Racing Team swept both the 250 and 450 classes as Cole Thompson and Davi Millsaps took home championships. I will be posting more this week and in the coming weeks as we’ve had such great racing over the years in Canada. I started with 2016 simply because it was one of my favourite years in Canadian motocross. I attended every round, and I cannot stress enough how entertaining the racing was in the 250 and 450 classes. It was very cool having Davi Millsaps come up to race our series, and he certainly raised the bar to a very high level. Prior to the series in 2016 I remember when the rumours began to circulate that Millsaps might be coming north to race in Canada. With Cole Thompson moving back to the 250 class for 2016 and Kaven Benoit getting ready for his rookie season in the 450 class, KTM Canada came to two conclusions during the off-season. First, even though it was Benoit’s first year racing a 450, they knew that he would challenge for moto wins all summer long but they didn’t want to put a large amount of championship pressure on him. After all, Benoit had just come off two 250 titles in a row so he knew how to win, but in this day and age jumping up to the 450 class is a big step. Second, with Kawasaki, Honda and Yamaha winning the previous 450 championships, KTM wanted to win both classes very badly. In a nut shell, with KTM winning pro titles all over the world, KTM Canada wanted some bragging rights as well within the Orange Brigade family.
In early April of 2016, KTM Canada flew myself, James Lissimore and Billy Rainford of Direct Motocross to California to document both their team photo shoot as well as the Orange Brigade West Coast Camp that Tanner Ward and Jacob Piccolo were attending. When we arrived at the team photo shoot, which took place at the KTM/Husqvarna team SX track, we were met by JSR and team riders Cole Thompson and Kaven Benoit. At that time, it hadn’t been officially announced that Millsaps would be joining the team. All JSR told us was that there might be a surprise guest showing up. I think we all knew who that ‘surprise’ guest would be, but until it actually happened there was still that cloak and dagger element. Well, about half an hour later, in pulled this jacked-up 4×4 pick-up and out hops Davi Millsaps to meet his new team. Billy and I each got to do a quick interview with Millsaps, and you could tell, even in that initial conversation, that he was coming to Canada to win! At the time he was still recovering from an injury so he hadn’t returned to riding yet, but he had been doing some mountain bike rides and light training. Millsaps is a big strong dude and is built more like a football player than a motocross rider. In fact, later that summer, series announcers Marc Travers and Brian Koster started calling him “The Kingpin” because of his intimidating stature on the track. During our interview I asked Millsaps about our Canadian tracks and if he had any fears that he would struggle with them. He kind of shrugged and said that tracks are tracks and that they’re all the same. His answers appeared to be from someone who was very well trained in dealing with prying media. Just give the right answers and don’t give any more information that need be. Interesting enough, later I found out that in the weeks leading up to the opening round he watched countless videos of past Canadian races to see what our tracks were like, and he asked a lot of riders who had raced our series what to expect. In short, Millsaps did his homework, and when he showed up in Kamloops for Round 1 he was as prepared as he could possibly be.
KTM Canada definitely took a gamble in 2016 bringing Davi Millsaps up to race our series as anything short of a championship would’ve been seen as a complete failure. In the end, it all worked out as both Thompson and Millsaps won their Championships, and Benoit also rode brilliantly throughout the series. The three riders all got along well, and from talking to Cole and Kaven throughout the series, having Millsaps around was a great learning experience for them. You could in fact make the argument that it made both of our Canadian riders a lot better. I mean, if you look at what Benoit did in the final rounds of that series and then in Italy at the 2016 MXoN, those were without a doubt the best races of his career. As for Thompson, he moved back to the 450 class in 2017 as a title contender. As I said, that year was a lot of fun to be a part of and it was great that KTM Canada made such an effort to give the media such an inside look at the process. Anyway, I will be posting the final few rounds of the 2016 series today and tomorrow on our website. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope you’re staying safe and remaining as healthy as possible. Also, the latest issue of MXP Magazine went to press last week, and since you’re most likely stuck at home, here is the link to the entire online issue. I love the photo of Dean Wilson that James Lissimore provided for the cover. The cover shot came from practice at the Glendale SX when a little bit of Arizona sun was shining through the partially opened roof. I hope you have a great week, and don’t worry, we’ll all get through this crisis.