Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. We are now into September and one of the best riding months of the year. As you saw this past weekend, the final round of the 2020 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series took place at Sand Del Lee. Since this column is sponsored by Yamaha Canada I’d like to take this time and congratulate all of the Blu Cru riders who competed in the Series. It was shorter than normal but it wasn’t any less exciting. Now it’s onto the SXTour and the final four rounds of the Triple Crown Series at the Gopher Dunes AX track.
Well, that’s a wrap on the most unique Pro National Series we’ve ever had in this Country. Five rounds, two double-headers, three motos per weekend, mud, sand, and heat, the riders and teams got just about everything thrown at them during the past two months. And it all ended up taking place in one Province. It wasn’t the ideal schedule and it was a shame that we didn’t up go out West, or to Riverglade and Deschambault, but the MRC Racing crew did the best they could with what they had. In the end, the racing was great and now we have four champions to celebrate. So before I get too much deeper into this column, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate Dylan Wright, Jess Pettis, Eve Brodeur, and Weston Wrozyna on their 2020 Triple Crown MXTour Championships.
As I’m sure everyone has heard by now, it was a very interesting weekend at Sand Del Lee. It all began last Monday when I receive a text telling me that I may have to cancel my hotel in Quebec City and book one again in Ottawa. Due to some very strange circumstances, the final round in Deschambault had to be cancelled and move back to Sand Del Lee. As sad as it was that the series wasn’t going to be racing on one of the rider’s favourite tracks, it was awesome that we were going to finish up the series at Sand Del Lee. Over the years, some of the best national racing we’ve seen has taken place at SDL and I think it was only fitting that for the first time the MX101 Crew got to host the final round of our national series. With great weather all weekend long, the track was in great shape and every rider I spoke to was very happy with the conditions. The racing reflected the great conditions and during every moto there were exciting battles.
Of course, not all was good at the final round as during the opening 450 moto on Saturday there was an ugly incident between Phil Nicoletti and Dylan Wright. Nicoletti was leading the moto right from the drop of the gate and Wright was not far behind in second. For the first few laps, there wasn’t much speed difference between the two and Wright appeared happy to follow Nicoletti around. I mean, as far as the 450 Championship was concerned, following Nicoletti was the best strategy for Wright as the GDR Honda rider didn’t need to win the moto. However, something changed about five laps in, and Wright, who had found a couple of faster lines, began to get impatient and was right on Nicoletti’s rear tire. For the next few laps, the two 450 Series heavyweights went at it tooth and nail and when Wright tried a pass in the back section, Nicoletti shut the door. I think at that moment the battle took on a new tone mentally for both riders as their intentions became clear. For Nicoletti, he simply was not going to let Wright by as he couldn’t afford to give up any points in this moto. For Wright, when he tried the pass and got the door shut in his face, I’m sure that his adrenaline skyrocketed and in his mind, the battle was really on! Half a lap later we all saw what happened and I’m sure everyone cringed at the sight of these two champions coming together in the air. As bad as it turned out for Nicoletti, it was a miracle that both riders didn’t end up on the ground in ball with possible career-ending injuries. I watched it live and as bad as it looked in person, since then every replay I’ve watched makes the incident look even worse. It was ugly and as I said, it could’ve been catastrophic for both riders.
Thankfully, Nicoletti looks like he’s going to be okay. After spending an eternity at the hospital on Saturday afternoon, Nicoletti was walking around at the track yesterday and even visited the podium to congratulate Wright on his 450MX title. Let’s be honest, Nicoletti is a true warrior and a class act all the way. I’m sure no one would’ve blamed him if he remained in this trailer all day and tried to feel better. But he made the effort to come out and watch the first 450 moto yesterday and cheer on his teammate Shawn Maffenbeier, and also be at the podium to give Wright a well-deserved hug. He would tell me at the end of the day that his entire body hurt and that he was obviously bummed that his season had to end this way. But as his Instagram said yesterday, “You sometimes have to pay the toll if you want to rock and roll.” I’ve never heard this saying before but it’s sure fitting in this situation.
Whenever an incident like happens the first thing we want to do is lay blame. Was Dylan being too aggressive? Did Nicoletti come over and take Wright’s line away? When you watch the replay I’m quite sure that a case could be made for both riders sharing the blame on this one. Yes, I think Nicoletti came over in the air as his momentum seemed to be carrying him that way, and yes I also agree that given that particular section and his 24 point lead at the time, Wright was overly aggressive in that situation. However, given how badly both of these riders wanted to win that moto, and the fact that the battle was beginning to heat up in the previous laps, I think you just have to call this an ugly racing incident. Both riders were going for it and it went bad, very bad. Don’t we as fans always plead for these riders to be more aggressive? Well, in this case they were and it didn’t end up very good. Sometimes this sport is a nasty piece of business and even the top riders make mistakes! Heal up Phil and I’m sure I speak for all of your Canadian fans when I say that we cannot wait to see you line up again in 2021!
With Nicoletti out after the opening moto on Saturday, Dylan Wright cruised to victory in the remaining motos and secured his first ever 450MX Championship. What a summer it was for Wright as he was the dominant rider from the first gate drop at Gopher Dunes to the final one yesterday. It was also cool that Wright was able to wrap-up his first 450MX title at the track he grew up at. Many of the locals remember his first few rides at SDL as a little kid and to see how far he’s come is truly amazing.
In the 250MX class, this summer it has been the Jess Pettis show and Round 5 was no different. Pettis won all three motos this weekend and was virtually uncontested from start to finish. It’s hard to believe that almost a year ago Pettis was lying on the ground at the Montreal SX with a badly injured knee, and now he’s once again our 250MX Champion. Pettis was very good this summer and hopefully, he’ll be just as fast next year on a 450 machine as someone has to step-up and battle Dylan Wright. There was talk this weekend that Pettis injured his knee again a few weeks back and since then he’s had to watch what he does during the week. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out for Pettis as he’s scheduled to begin testing a 450 very soon, not to mention the upcoming SXTour ronuds. Anyway, Pettis rode incredibly during all five rounds and it was great to see him come back from his injured knee and win another championship. Imagine how good the Wright/Pettis/Nicoletti battle is going to be next season in the 450 class!
Well, that is it for me today as I will have more on the MXTour Series tomorrow. As I mentioned at the beginning, it was another great weekend at Sand Del Lee and the MX101 crew did a fantastic job with the track and the facility. Now the riders and teams have a weekend off and then it’s onto the SXTour. In closing, I also want to pay tribute to Matt Goerke who raced his final outdoor national yesterday. Matt has had a great career and a lot of success in Canada and we wish him well with his future endeavours. On the track, he’s been entertaining to watch and he’s given this sport everything he has over the years. Off the track, he’s been a humble champion and great to deal with. All the best Matt and thank you for the memories. Matt capped off his career with a solid second overall at Round 5 and second overall in the 450MX Series. I hope everyone has a great week and good luck to all of our kids as they return to school. Thanks for reading and if you have any comments please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org