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 a new month I for one cannot believe how fast the month of May went by. It seems like just yesterday we were locked down in April wondering what the future would hold for us. As far as the Covid-19 Pandemic, as expected things have progressed slowly. Thankfully though, the restrictions have eased slightly and for the past week we’ve been allowed to ride at most practice tracks. As we make our way through the first week of June, let’s hope we continue to see this health emergency improve so we can get a little closer to what our normal lives used to be.

Before I get to what went down in Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon, let’s talk about our sport here in Canada and when racing might return in this country. In Ontario at least, AMO Racing is still planning on starting up their racing season on June 14th at Gopher Dunes. From there, the Ontario series will visit Moto Park the following weekend and then Walton Raceway on June 28th. I’ve had more than a few people ask me during the past week if these races are really going to happened and how AMO is going to pull this off. From my understanding these races will happen as planned, although there will be some very strict restrictions in place as you can imagine. All of the information of these restrictions will most likely be released by AMO this coming week so we can all plan for it. Just like in SLC yesterday, how good is it going to be to see the gate drop at Gopher Dunes in less than two weeks!

Walton Raceway was in fine form for practice this past weekend.

On Saturday, my son and I made the hour drive to Walton Raceway for some practice and I can tell you that the track was in epic shape. The weather was cool and damp, which I’m sure assisted in keeping the moisture inside of the Walton Raceway soil. It was a good day of riding, and if everything goes well I guess we’ll be racing there in a few weeks. Other than the great conditions at Walton on Saturday, one of the things that impressed me was that the Walton crew now has a few flaggers and a paramedic on site for each practice day. To some, this may not seem like a big deal but I’ve always been a huge advocate for trying to inject as much safety into our sport as possible. I can tell you that having a flagger on some of the blind Walton jumps on Saturday made me feel a lot more at ease while I watched my son rip laps. With less racing and more practice days than ever during this 2020 riding season, we’re all going to have to be extra vigilante as we navigate our way through this unusual year. This coming Friday and Saturday, Walton Raceway announced that they’re opening the track for some pro suspension testing. This means that the track will get tilled extra deep and will be prepared as if it were a pro national. So if you want to ride with some of our top pros in some very unique track conditions, head out to Walton this weekend.

Soon it will be time to break out the sand tires and go racing. Photo by James Lissimore

As far as the 2020 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series is concerned, I’m hearing the start date has been pushed back a couple weeks to the July 25/26 weekend. The opening round, by all accounts, will still begin at Gopher Dunes and from there the series will travel to (in no particular order) to Sand Del Lee, Walton, hopefully Deschambault (in September), and perhaps even Moto Park. I know this makes for a mostly Ontario-only MXTour Series, but with New Brunswick and Quebec not allowing any events this summer and teams now finding themselves with a lot less funds from certain sponsors, the important thing this summer isn’t where the races are held, it’s that we have races take place at all. Even the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series in the USA is apparently being shortened and only going to tracks in certain States that will allow races to take place. So at this point any MXTour Series that the MRC can run is a great thing, in my opinion.

It was sure great to see this scene unfold again on Sunday in SLC.

Well, after 85 days the riders of the Monster Energy Supercross Series returned to the track yesterday in Salt Lake City for Round 11. The main events not only took place at 2pm local time in SLC, but were also broadcast on the main NBC network. So hopefully more people than ever tuned in to watch the stars of this sport do battle. For the die-hard fans of SX, regardless of the excitement level of both the 250SX and 450SX main events, we were just happy to see dirt bike racing of any kind back on the track. For any new fans of SX that might have taken a break from their normal Sunday afternoon routine and tuned into SX for the first time, other than the pure excitement of watching extremely brave and fit athletes guide their 230 lbs bikes through the air, sadly the racing didn’t bring them to the edge of their couches. When it was announced that this would be a day race, it never dawned on me that during this time of the year temperatures in SLC could reach 90F. It was bloody hot, and although the track crew did their absolute best to keep the track watered (without making it muddy), by the time the gate dropped for the 450 main event, every inch of the SLC circuit was blown out. Also, to make things safer for the riders, who hadn’t raced in almost three months, the track designers came up with a fairly easy design for the first race back. I can understand the thinking behind this as you don’t want to have anyone get hurt because the track is too technical, however all of these riders train daily on tracks that are much more difficult than any normal SX track, so I think they could’ve handled a tougher track. It also might have made the race more appealing to viewers. Since SLC was supposed to be the final round of the series (not the final seven rounds) the original track design had the riders leaving the stadium (like they always do in Las Vegas), doing a large sweeper corner and then coming back into the stadium. Perhaps the series is saving this particular design for the final round on June 21st? My point is that although it was incredible to be able to watch a live SX again, unless the track design and track conditions improve slightly, I’m not sure how exciting six more rounds of the same thing are going to be, especially if Eli Tomac continues to win and there is no exciting points battle for this championship. But hey, it’s like we tell our kids when they’re not completely thrilled with something, you get what you get and you don’t upset! The work that Feld has had to do and the hoops they’ve had to jump through to even make these final seven races happen is amazing, so let’s sit back and just be thankful that our favourite sport is not only back but that it also beat a lot of other sports back into the theatre of play.

Once Eli Tomac got out front in the main event it was clear sailing for him and his Monster Energy Kawasaki.

As for the results on Sunday, I’m not sure if they surprised anyone. With a ten point lead it looked as though Chase Sexton was more than content to let Shane McElrath win the 250SX main event. In the 450SX class, we all knew that Eli Tomac would be very good at the first race back. First of all, this quarantine and self-distancing that we’ve all had to get used to sounds pretty much like how Tomac and his family live their life in Cortez, Co. Tomac lives his daily life at over 6000 feet elevation so to come down to SLC, which is located at just over 4000 feet above sea level, is no issue for him. Heck, his cardiovascular system probably loved the thicker air of Rice-Eccles Stadium. As for the rest of the riders, I’m sure they will be better in the coming races as their bodies acclimatize to the high attitude. A clear sign of how difficult the main event was for even the top riders was after the race during the podium interviews. I mean, have we ever seen Tomac out of breath on a SX podium? Not that I remember. And he’s used to riding at this elevation. Either way, I’m sure Roczen will better at Round 12 on Wednesday. I mean, he has to be as now he’s eight points behind Tomac in the 450SX standings. As I said, I think every rider will be better as we move on to Wednesday and then Sunday.

Your socially distanced 450SX podium from SLC.

Like all of us, these riders have had their lives turned upside down during the past few months. First, they had their series stopped in its tracks and then postponed indefinitely. Then, they were told that the outdoor series was going to happen before the final SX races would finish, so they started to test and train on outdoor tracks. Then, that all changed and these final SX events were announced. In between all of that the riders took some time off and probably didn’t even think about racing for a few weeks. My point is that these top riders are creatures of habit and any deviation from their daily routine is difficult to process at the best of times. So for them to be a little cautious during their first race back is completely understandable. But I’m sure they all slept great last night knowing that Race 1 is now behind them and Wednesday night should provide more exciting racing. Anyway, it was great to see racing back and we should all be proud that our sport is helping to pave the way for others to return.

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a safe week and a fun first week of June. Stay healthy and thank-you for reading. If you have any comments or questions please email me at chris@mxpmag.com.