Good day. Welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. This past week Yamaha released their new motocross and off-road models for 2021. Do they ever look cool. There is even a Monster Energy Edition YZ250F complete with a clean – looking graphic package. With these new 2021 bikes, next year is definitely going to be another successful one for the Blu Cru!
Raise your hand if you woke up this morning as stiff as a board. I feel as if every single person who was at Gopher Dunes yesterday, regardless of whether they rode, feels unwell today. Let’s call it the Gopher Dunes flu, as yesterday took its toll on everyone. Also, due to the social distancing restrictions, the paddock at Gopher Dunes was very spread out. If you weren’t able to park there on Saturday, you most likely ended up with a long walk from your pit area to the starting line. At times it was frustrating, but a small price to pay for racing in 2021.
Everyone will agree that the Gopher Dunes track was especially rough and challenging yesterday. As in the past, a downpour affected the track: The extra moisture allowed the sand to pack more, making the bumps more rigid and less rolly (if that makes any sense). Gopher Dunes was a beast yesterday. My hat goes off to all the riders who went out there and battled. As we’ve seen during the opening two rounds of the AMO Ontario Provincial Series, Round 3 was very well attended in all classes. Unfortunately, the race yesterday also had a visit from the local by-law officer. Someone had called in a complaint. I’m not sure what the complaint was, or if once again, it came from someone inside the Gopher Dunes gates (Let’s hope not), but in the end, nothing came of it and the racing went on. No doubt, at any large future event, questions and complaints about a lack of social distancing will occur: our new reality. It’s baffling to think that in our sport, some of the complaints have come from people who are actually at the event, but crazy times always seem to make people do crazy things. Anyway, this is what we’re dealing with, but thankfully, the races will still go on.
As I was hyping up all week long, yesterday at Gopher Dunes was like “mini” pro national as a good number of pro riders were in attendance. In fact, if it weren’t for the 14 day self- isolation rules that are still in effect, there would have been a few more. American riders like Matt Goerke, Phil Nicoletti and Marshal Weltin arrived in Ontario last week, but have to stay put for 14 days. It’s too bad, as I’m sure all of them would’ve loved to have been at the race yesterday battling it out and getting in some gate drops. It’s crazy to think that here we are in mid-July and most of these riders have had hardly any gate drops since 2019; some haven’t had any. This circumstance definitely gives riders like Dylan Wright, Cole Thompson and Jess Pettis a slight advantage heading into the opening round, as they have at least a few races under their belts. That is, it’s not a huge advantage, as all of the top riders have been training hard and doing practice motos with other fast riders. But as everyone knows, there is nothing like lining up behind a starting gate and going through the mental exercise of an actual race. Let’s take a quick look at the Top 5 from yesterday’s Cash Class at Gopher Dunes.
In my opinion, all the top riders came into this weekend with a different agenda and different goals. For some, this race was their first of the season, a great chance to see the level of their training and speed. For others, yesterday provided a great opportunity to cement that their training is right on track and that they’re ready for Round 1 of the MXTour. As I mentioned above, the track was knarlly and the Cash Class motos were 20 minutes long. Hopefully, all of the riders got the answers they were looking for. Now they have just under two weeks before the gate drops on the Triple Crown Series. Overall winner, Dylan Wright, looked very fast yesterday and in complete control of each moto. His speed was good, his fitness was good, and also his bike set-up appeared to be right on point. He even found a big #9 to put on his front plate so at least he had one number on his bike this week. If Dylan was looking to further home in on his preparation for his first 450 season, I would suspect that he left the track last night feeling very good about himself and his program. If you want my prediction (Here it is even if you don’t want it), Dylan will win 450MX motos later this summer in the Triple Crown Series. He may even win more motos than anyone else. He will do this simply because he has all of the tools to do so and also because deep down, he believes he can. In life and in sport, when you believe deep down that you can do something, on most occasions you accomplish those goals. As I said, Dylan will win races this summer, but whether he can remain consistent throughout the entire series might be another story. You win titles on your bad days and it will be interesting to see what Dylan’s bad or off days are like in this series. Either way, he’s going to be fun to watch and he’s only going to get better.
Cole Thompson wasn’t far off Dylan in yesterday’s Cash Class, and in both motos Cole kept him close. Cole also looked like he was playing safe on the rough track and didn’t appear to want to get into a knock- down battle with Dylan at a local race. It’s fun to watch these two battle as they’re such opposite riders on the track. They approach the track and how to ride it completely differently. I guess difference is one of the beautiful features of our sport: lots of different ways to find success. Anyway, I saw Cole after the final moto looking happy with his races and where he’s at. Smoothness and consistency are going to be Cole’s best attributes later this summer as he goes for his first 450 outdoor title. Third place rider, Shawn Maffenbeier, also looked solid yesterday, finishing probably where he expected. This race was Shawn’s first in a long time. I thought he looked solid, fit and confident. I know he’s been training hard back in Kamloops, really looking forward to battling for wins in the 450MX class this summer. Shawn is on the cusp of the next level. If he can just get to the front and win a moto or two early in the series, he will challenge for the 450MX title.
Fourth overall yesterday was Jess Pettis, who was racing for the first time since he destroyed his knee at the Montreal SX in September. Think about that for a second: the last time Pettis lined up behind a gate was ten months ago! Thankfully, he remembered what to do and from the drop of the gate Pettis looked great. Obviously, he was underpowered in the deep sand on his 250F, but he rode hard and looked solid for the entire race. After the race, he told me that he felt great and that he was beyond excited to be back at the track. It’s been a long road back for Pettis and even though he’s coming off a serious injury, he’s probably the 250MX Championship favourite heading into the Triple Crown Series. Another rider who looked very solid yesterday was Marco Cannella, who went 6-6 for fifth overall. With Luke Renzland not coming to Canada in 2021, Cannella is now the leader of the MX101 Yamaha Team. Like Maffenbeier, Cannella is another rider who needs to win a moto early, or at least finish very well, in order to build the needed confidence to take a run at a title. Marco rode great yesterday and his lap times were also good. Undoubtedly, he also left the track last night feeling very good about his race and his preparation heading into Round 1.
There you have your Top 5 for the Cash Class yesterday. Now all we have to do is wait two weeks and we’ll be back at Gopher Dunes for the opening round of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series. It will be interesting to see if Derek Schuster and his crew do any track changes for Round 1 as they usually do. Whether they do or not, we know it’s going to be rough and nasty, most certainly a challenging track on which to start the series. This coming weekend in Ontario it’s back to Walton Raceway for Round 4 of the AMO Provincial Series. I will see everyone there on Saturday for practice.
Have a great week and thanks for reading!
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