Yamaha Motor Canada Presents The Monday Gate Drop

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Good day, and welcome to another edition of the Monday Gate Drop. As we witnessed on Saturday evening in Salt Lake City, Star Racing Yamaha rider Malcolm Stewart had a solid main event and ended up getting his first-ever podium finish in the 450SX class. Throughout the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series Stewart has looked great aboard his factory YZ450F and his SLC finish most certainly shows how far he and his team have come. 

And then there was one! Yes, after four months and 16 rounds of Monster Energy Supercross, now there is just one round remaining in what has been an extremely exciting series. From the opening gate drop back in Houston to Saturday night in SLC, we have witnessed great racing in every city. With one night of racing remaining, all three championships are still up for grabs. At the end of the day, that’s really all fans and media alike can ask for. Since Round 1 this series has produced non-stop excitement. From the battle for the 450SX Championship between Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen, to the Dean Wilson lapper-gate fiasco in Houston, to Cameron McAdoo’s truly unforgettable week in Atlanta, the 2021 series has kept us on the edge of our seats from Round 1. 

Even though the racing was exciting on Saturday evening in SLC, I’m looking forward to the day when the final round moves back to Las Vegas. I know that SLC has been a gracious host to the final round of Supercross and that the Utah Sports Commission is a big supporter of the Series, but I don’t like the tracks or the soil that is always inside Rice-Eccles Stadium. As well as the fact that there just never feels like there’s any real hype in SLC, not like there was in Vegas. Hopefully, as the Covid-19 restrictions keep improving in the USA that next year the Monster Energy Supercross Series can head to SLC for the second to last round before moving to the new stadium in Las Vegas for the final round. However, for 2021 having the final two rounds of SX in SLC will work just fine.

Prior to crashing and getting injured, Christian Craig was looking good on his Star Racing Yamaha. Photo by Matt Wellumson

As we saw on Saturday evening the SLC track was tight and technical compared to what the riders faced in Atlanta the previous week. The whoops were deep, the triple’s had very little run up to them, and the rhythm sections were steep and unforgiving. Because of this a couple of top riders went down hard during practice and were sore for the rest of the day. The most notable was 250SX East title contender Christian Craig who came into SLC just eight points behind his teammate Colt Nichols. Craig got a rhythm section wrong and was forced to hit the eject button in mid-air. If you watch a video of his crash I think you’ll agree that he got lucky as he was able to land his body on the downside of one of the jumps. However, due to the force of the impact, Craig posted on Social Media that he ended up fracturing his Fibula and banging up his ankle. It could’ve been a lot worse for sure but sadly Craig is back at home and healing up for the upcoming outdoor series, where he will again be racing in the 450MX class. It was a solid season for Christian Craig and I think it was his year to win the 250SX East Championship. At times he was the fastest as well as the most consistent rider in this class, but self-induced mistakes like the one in Orlando and again this past weekend in SLC, obviously derailed his chances. Hopefully, he can heal up quickly and head into the outdoor completely healthy. He rode well in the 450MX class last year as a member of the HRC Factory Team so I’m assuming he’ll do the same this summer on his Star Racing Factory Yamaha YZ450F.

It was so cool to see Jo Shimoda win his first 250SX main event in SLC. Photo by Matt Wellumson

So with Christian Craig out, all eyes turned to Colt Nichols to see if he would be able to wrap up his first-ever SX Championship. Nichols rode well in the main event, however, his nerves appeared to get the best of him in the early laps and he was forced to play catch up. While Nichols was getting himself sorted out, upfront Jo Shimoda was controlling the race and riding as if he had eyes in the back of his head. Throughout the 250SX East main event Shimoda had to fight off attacks from not just one rider but by a plethora of riders who all tried to pass him. But Shimoda remained completely unfazed by these attacks and after what I’m sure felt like a 30-minute race for the young Pro Circuit rider, he took the win and became the first Japanese rider to win a 250SX main event. What a cool moment it was for Shimoda, his team, his family, as well as for the country of Japan who over the years have sent many of their top riders over to the USA to race in the SX Series. It was also really cool to see Jett Lawrence so happy for his friend and former Geico Honda teammate after the race as the two riders stopped to congratulate each other. Lawrence, who many felt was going to easily win the 250SX main event on Saturday evening, got off to a slow start and was only able to charge to second place. What an occasion it was for both of these young teenage International superstars who came to the USA a couple of years ago in search of moments just like the one we witnessed on Saturday night. Also, Colt Nichols could only charge to third place and that wasn’t enough to clinch the 250SX East Championship. Nichols will head into this coming weekend’s 250SX East/West Showdown 23 points ahead of Shimoda. If all goes as planned for the Star Racing Yamaha Team, then both Nichols and his teammate Justin Cooper will leave SLC with their first-ever SX titles. It should be an exciting night of racing at the final round.

For the second week in the a row Ken Roczen gave away a sure win in the 450SX main event. Photo by Matt Wellumson

In the 450SX class, it was most certainly cool to see Marvin Musquin become the fifth different winner in the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series. Musquin has had a challenging past two seasons in SX and with not many years remaining in his long career, this win had to feel extra special. With Musquin’s win, Cooper Webb finishing second, and Ken Roczen holding on for a sixth-place finish, the 450SX title chase will also not be decided until the final round this weekend. I feel bad for Roczen as he was once again leading the main event before suffering a crash. These mental mistakes have to be so frustrating for him as he’s done all he can to win races and win this championship. When they interviewed Roczen after the race he didn’t know what to say, other than he just made another mistake and that he was trying his best. As I said, you have to feel bad for the guy as he’s been through so much and it’s a miracle that he’s in the position he’s in. Roczen is one of the top riders on the planet, he’s set for life financially, he has a great family, and he’s a great role model in our sport. However, with just one main event remaining he’s 22 points behind Webb. Mathematically he still has a chance, but it’s going to be tough. At least this championship fight is going down to the final round, as I mentioned above, that’s all we can ask for with regards to this series.

Like a lot of people I’m sure, I can’t wait to see the gate drop on the 2021 Triple Crown Series. Photo by James Lissimore

In Canadian moto news, we’re still waiting on the final 2021 Triple Crown Series Schedule. At this point, I don’t believe there is any way the series could travel out in June to kick off the opening rounds. As I said last week, 2021 is starting to look like a repeat of last year with regards to National and Regional racing. In Ontario at least, the Government issued ‘Stay At Home’ order is in effect until May 19th at least. After that, who knows what happens? Does the Province then go to ‘Grey’ which means everything remains closed but people are allowed to leave their homes freely for non-essential reasons? We’ll have to wait and see, but as of now all of the public tracks remain closed and we not be permitted to open until this latest order is changed. Like golf or almost outdoor activity, riding at say Gopher Dunes is perfectly safe to do from a health perspective, but if we’re not supposed to leave home, then how do people drive there. The Golf Association of Ontario did a study last year with Health Ontario and they couldn’t trace one case of Covid-19 back to someone golfing. But hey, let’s closed everything and give people more reasons to remain indoors where it’s been proven Covid-19 spreads most frequently. We’re a backwards society sometimes aren’t we?

Congratulations to Shelby Turner on her big win in Louisiana over the weekend.

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed this final Monday Gate Drop of April 2021. Next week we’re into May and my favourite month of the year. Please stay safe and healthy and if you can, get out and ride. Finally, congratulations to Shelby Turner on winning the Women’s Elite class this past weekend at the NEPG Enduro in hot and muggy Louisiana. Between this race and the GNCC Series, Turner has been having a great spring of racing. If you have any comments or questions, please email me at chris@mxpmag.com.