Good day and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. As we mentioned last week, the 2021 line-up of motocross and off-road Yamaha’s have already hit the floors of your local dealers. This is a great time to purchase a new YZ and make yourself a member of the Blu Cru.
Well the moment that a few months ago, we thought might not happen in 2020, went off with a bang this past weekend at Gopher Dunes. After multiple schedule changes and postponements, the gate finally dropped on the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. As we’ve mentioned a few times over the past month, the 2020 MXTour is a condensed version with only five rounds, four in Ontario and one in Quebec. However, with four of these rounds featuring a three moto format, this adds up to 14 motos in each class, just three shy of last year’s series. Not bad considering that the world has had to deal with this Pandemic. So not only did we hear the sounds of bikes rocketing off of the starting line for their opening moto on Saturday, but we also heard the sound of everyone in our industry breathing a massive sigh of relief. Finally, our country’s best riders were given a stage to showcase their immense skills on. So at 10:30 on Saturday morning the gate dropped and the 450MX riders blasted off of the starting line to begin this very unique season.
Coming into the 450MX Series, I don’t believe anyone in their right mind thought that Dylan Wright wouldn’t win at least one moto this weekend. After-all, Gopher Dunes is technically his home track and in recent months he’s had more than a few laps around this sandy circuit. Also, a few weeks ago at the AMO Provincial race, Wright was very fast and looked extremely comfortable on his new GDR Honda 450. So if there ever was a perfect scenario for a rookie rider to get their feet wet in a new class, \the MXTour starting off at Gopher Dunes was it. With that said though, even with the home court advantage you still have to go out and perform and perform and that is exactly what Dylan Wright did this weekend. Three dominating moto wins (two of them were by over 15 seconds) on a knarly track most certainly served notice to all of the other riders in the 450 class that Wright is ready to challenge for this championship. Dylan was so good this weekend that I’m guessing that there are only a handful of riders on this planet who could’ve beat him. It was definitely a statement race for Dylan and it was the second time in two years that the GDR Team has dominated this race. Remember last year Mike Alessi won both 450 motos in stunning fashion.
Behind Dylan was a host of fast (and older) riders who did their best to keep the Honda rider honest. If you watched the race on television (or tried to) I’m not sure if it could do justice to how hard Phil Nicoletti was charging in all three motos. Phil rode all three motos with the utmost urgency and determination and if Dylan had made any mistakes, the #54 Yamaha was right there. In Moto 1, Phil got off to a decent start but pushed his front end through a soft berm and went down. From there, he would remount and charge up to third, passing Matt Goerke as the two riders crossed the finished line. Phil would comment after the race that he didn’t come here to finish off of the podium. In Moto 2, he got into second place early and did his best to keep Dylan in sight. When that task proved too difficult, Phil settled into a solid pace and took a well earned second. In the final moto, with the track at it’s absolute worst, Phil was at his best and for 25 minutes he stayed within striking distance of Wright, even logging the fastest lap of the moto on Lap 2. If Dylan had looked back he would’ve seen Nicoletti doing everything he could to close the small gap. It stayed like that until Lap 12 when Wright was able to go two seconds faster than Phil, two laps later Wright was five seconds faster. After that it looked like both riders had decided that their battle would best be postponed until Round 2 and that it was time to just survive the final few minutes of Moto 3. Behind Dylan and Phil were Matt Goerke, Tyler Medaglia, Shawn Maffenbeier and Sam Gaynor, who all rode strong and at times showed some incredible speed. I’m willing to bet that at Round’s two and three at Walton Raceway the racing will be much closer.
One rider who was missing from the second two motos this weekend was Red Bull KTM rider Cole Thompson. The #16 came into the 450MX series as one of the title favourites and I had even picked him to win the opening moto on Saturday. When he grabbed the holeshot and led the field around on the first lap I looked like a genius. That was as good as it got for Thompson as he lost the lead before the first lap was completed, and from there he went backwards until he settled into 5th. Then on the final lap he went down and when he remounted and got going again, he skipped some of the track and ended up getting docked five more positions. Cole would end up getting scored 16th in Moto 1, thus putting him out of this shorten championship before it really got going. On Sunday, Cole rode a lap of practice and then headed back to the KTM truck and called it a day. Very few people knew this but Cole came into the weekend nursing a very bad infection that came from an open wound he got at the last AMO race at Gopher Dunes. In that incident Cole had clipped a lapped rider who was just getting up from a crash and he suffered a laceration to his upper arm. Apparently everything was okay for a few weeks as they took care of it as they should have, and then this week it got infected. To make matters worse, Cole injured his shoulder in his late moto Saturday crash and just like that his opening round was done. I’m obviously not a doctor, but I’m guessing that he can get this infection sorted out quickly and be ready to race again at Walton. At this time I’m not really sure the extent of his shoulder injury, but since he did try to ride on Sunday morning I’m thinking that it just needs time to rest. Cole should be back at Round 2 and with Walton Raceway being his favourite track, hopefully he can get things back on track and challenge for moto wins. As I’m sure his mechanic Steve Beattie is telling him, it ain’t over until it’s over!
In the 250MX Class, my predictions were a little more accurate as Jess Pettis was able to win all three motos and further solidify himself as the 250MX title favourite. Pettis was on rails all weekend long and although I couldn’t see the entire track, I really only saw him make a few small mistakes. Behind him was a hard charging and very motivated Marshal Weltin who made it known yesterday that he also wants to challenge for this title. Weltin could’ve and should’ve won a moto or even two yesterday and he had a few looks at the lead. But Pettis rode smart and really let everyone else make mistakes. Also as expected, Marco Cannella and Tanner Ward were fast and they finished third and fourth overall respectively. Ryan Surratt, who finished 5th overall looked good also, but never got near the front of the pack. Hayden Halstead was he his steady self and rode hard during all three motos. Quinn Amyotte also looked strong and went 7-8-7 for 7th overall. Jeremy McKie, who was nursing a very serious shoulder injury gutted out three solid motos to finish up in 8th overall. As far as the rookies in the 250MX class, Ryder McNabb had an up and down weekend to finish up in 11th overall. McNabb’s highlight came when he finished 6th in Moto 2 and looked like he belonged in the pro class. Unfortunately he was involved in a massive first turn pile-up in the opening moto and after a pit stop to change a muffler, he could only get back up to 25th. McNabb looked solid though and he should finish better at Round 2. Another rookie 250MX rider who caught the attention of more than one person when he battled for the Moto 3 lead with Pettis for two laps was Jacob Piccolo. He also had an up and down rookie type weekend as he struggled to find any consistency. Piccolo obviously has a ton of raw speed and he appears to be getting fitter each year. He’s still a teenager so you wouldn’t expect him to show the same strength and endurance as his older competition. Also, yesterday was very hot so some riders, even some of the fittest, simply got hot and overheated. I’m sure this is what happened to Piccolo in the final moto as he faded back to 13th. On a harder packed track (like Walton) and on a cooler day, I wouldn’t be surprised if Piccolo finishes a moto on the podium and even leads for a few laps, he’s that fast! Finally, the award for the most laps ridden this weekend goes to female sensation Eve Brodeur, who not only raced and won the WMX class on Sunday, but she also raced all three 250MX motos. I’m sure Eve slept very well last night, she might even still be sleeping as you read this. Great work Eve, we’re all proud of you!
So that is a brief look at what happened on the track at Round 1 of the 2020 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. I’ve heard from more than one person that the television broadcast had some issues, but honestly I have no idea what happen with that. Hopefully they have everything sorted out for Round 2 and it runs smooth and looks better. And with that the MXTour Nationals are back and it’s another step toward our lives getting back to normal. Whether it’s the riders, the mechanics, or anyone involved with the series, it’s time to assess how the weekend went and then begin to prepare for Round 2 in less than two weeks. I hope everyone had a great weekend.