Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Yamaha Motor Canada Monday Gate Drop. Now that we’ve reached the middle of February, it’s time to start thinking about spring and when it might arrive? Before we know it our 2021 riding season will be here and it will be time to hit the track. It’s not too late to head to your local Yamaha dealer and pick up a new or used Yamaha motorcycle, ATV, or a UTV.
Well, finally Mother Nature decided to be kind to our sport, and other than dispersing some rain on Friday and again on Saturday morning, once the bikes hit the track for Round 7 in Orlando, the clouds parted and the sun eventually came out. Leading up to the race this past weekend the forecast was calling for a 100% chance of heavy rain throughout the day and night in the Orlando area. Everyone, including the riders, teams, media, and of course the weather experts, was predicting a very wet and muddy Round 7. But like I said, other than a little mud and some soft conditions in the opening practice session, the Orlando track was in great shape when the gate dropped. The design of the Orlando 1 track was a duplicate of the track that was built inside Camping World Stadium in 2007, the last time that the SX Series visited this popular vacation city. That year, fans were able to watch Ricky Carmichael race in his final SX race in Orlando, and what a race it was. For almost 20 laps RC and James Stewart battled hard and put on quite the show. Although Stewart won that night, RC gave it everything he had and he made sure that he went out like the champion he was. I was fortunate enough to be sitting in the stands that night with Ryan Lockhart and like every fan there that night, we stood the entire main event. It was most certainly a memorable evening of SX racing.
So while this past Saturday night wasn’t quite as exciting as that warm March night in 2007, the racing was pretty good. In the 250 class, Jett Lawrence was able to ‘jet’ out of the starting gate (see what I did there) and never looked back. Behind him was a frustrated Colt Nichols, who regardless of how hard he tried, just couldn’t make up time on the young Australian. There were a few moments when Colt got close, especially on the final lap, but he wasn’t able to make the pass. Colt’s biggest competitor in the 250SX East Series, Christian Craig, had a big get-off in his heat race and suffered a broken hand. But remarkably, Craig came back, won the LCQ, and then rode extremely smart in the main event to finish in third. Yes, you read that correctly, after breaking his hand Craig came back and ended up third in the main event. It was a great performance and one that could end up giving Craig his first SX title when the series concludes in May. Now the 250SX East riders get a ten-week break before resuming their series in SLC. This coming weekend the 250SX West Series kicks off in Orlando with riders like Justin Cooper, Jeremy Martin, and Carson Mumford lining up.
In the 450SX Class, the riders had their hands full with the quickly deteriorating Orlando track. With the rain during the week and again on Saturday morning, the rare Florida clay that was used to build the track was struggling to hold up to the powerful 450 bikes. When the conditions get like this and the riders have to constantly think on toes and either take the rough lines or search for new ones, Cooper Webb almost always finds success. I’ve noticed on a few occasions that Webb isn’t a rider who needs to look for smoother lines during the main event as sometimes those lines can be slower. A perfect example of this was in the right-hand corner after the finish line jump. The fastest line was the tight inside and for the first part of the main event, all of the leaders were using it. Then, as that rut got deep and choppy on the exit, a few riders began using the outside berm before another rut develop in the middle of the corner. As the main event moved into its second half the outside two lines were smoother and most likely less work for the riders who chose to take it, but they were a little slower. From what I could see on television Webb kept taking the faster inside line despite the rut being deep and choppy. This is one area where he appeared to be making up time on second place rider Ken Roczen, who at times looked like he wanted to push the pace to another level, but with the track going away I think he made the wise decision not to. In the end, Webb rode a smart race and grabbed his second win of 2021, while Roczen did the same to finish second and hold on to the red plates. After seven rounds Webb is just 13 points back of Roczen for the points lead in the 450SX class. As I mentioned above, the Florida swing continues with Round 8 in Orlando this weekend and then a weekend off before the series heads to the most famous motorsports racing venue on the planet, Daytona International Speedway on March 6.
In Canadian moto news, the 2021 Triple Crown MXTour Series schedule is getting released this coming Wednesday. From what I’m hearing now there will be tentatively scheduled western rounds in June before the series heads back east for races at Walton, Gopher Dunes, Sand Del Lee, and Deschambault. There is also talk of going out east to Riverglade Raceway but like the rounds out west, everything is dependant on the Covid-19 restrictions. If things don’t improve much beyond what we saw last summer in Canada then the MXTour Series may end up looking like it did in 2020. As you all know, travel is difficult right now and there is even talk of implementing further restrictions within Canada, although I’m not sure how you keep a Canadian citizen with no criminal record from travelling within their own country. Anyway, let’s cross our fingers that the MXTour Series will be able to go to all of the scheduled venues this summer and will also be able to host at least a certain number of fans. If it can’t and the 2021 series ends up being exactly like last year, then that’s okay also. With Covid-19 fears still raging and Canada’s vaccine program being rolled out slower than my 1992 YZ125 was, this year could be another ‘make the best of it’ race season.
Well, that is it for me this week. In Ontario today it’s Family Day so I hope everyone is having a great time hanging out with their families. In my humble opinion, family means everything and at the end of the day, it’s really the most important thing we all have. During our lifetime friends, even good ones, come and go, but our families are forever. Happy Family Day everyone and thank you for reading. Here are some family-orientated James Lissimore photos I found from the 2020 Walton TransCan.