By Billy Rainford
I’m not gonna lie, most of the time as I’m typing my Monday Morning Coffee I have a huge bucket of tea in my hand. But this week, I’ve finally made it back to cell service and I’m sitting in a Tim Hortons in Golden, BC taking a look at all my stuff from the weekend…and I have a large COFFEE in my hand.
We all made our way to Nisku, Alberta (just south of Edmonton by the Airport) for Round 1 of the 2023 Canadian Triple Crown Series MX Nationals at RAD Torque Raceway. We hadn’t been to this multi-use facility in quite a few years, but the thing I remember most about last time was that they didn’t really like us or our dirty dirt bike racing ways.
When we arrived, we were greeted with smiles and shown our way through the main gates and into the pits. This was on Thursday and I think we were all a little surprised that the track and its layout weren’t quite yet easily discernible. All we keyed in on was the fact that there was an on/on section, a rather aggressive rhythm section, and a Supercross finish line double.
What was cool was that I was told the owners of the facility were happy to let the Jetwerx gang do whatever they thought they needed to do to make the track. They cut gaps in fences, piled dirt up over guard rails, and even cut an off-camber section into the side of the grass that brought riders from the MX section back to the entrance to the infield! It seemed like they had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted.
It rained pretty constantly on Thursday but the forecast was for sunshine and warm temperatures the rest of the week and weekend. I’d been here before and knew that meant dust was going to be the enemy going forward.
I did my first “Bigwave’s Walk and Talk” of the season and tried to get some of the team owners and managers to go on camera with their initial thoughts on the facility. None of them wanted to go on record. I knew that wasn’t a great sign.
I even spoke to someone off camera who told me that they were considering making this round “optional” for their riders.
I’m not here to just rip on everyone and everything that went on this weekend, but I’ve also got to call a spade a spade. I know everyone was working hard to make this a great season opener, and I was too, but it was starting to look like we were fighting a losing battle with the track right from the start.
I was told that they would complete the build as planned and then take a good look at it and make necessary changes to try to make a track that would provide good, safe racing, as well as keep people entertained in the stands.
They toned down the triple, they got rid of the on/off, and generally made the track more ride/raceable for everyone. It was a good move that seemed to appease many of the naysayers.
I think the idea of a hybrid track that puts riders in front of stands for the majority of the laps is a cool idea and I think it could work in the future, but we simply missed the mark this time. And the bad part is that it was the first impression for the riders, teams, and fans for the season.
I had long talks with members of the traveling circus from all different sides of the event. I tend to see things from my media side, but that never means I know the full story of how and why certain things happen. Everyone is trying to make things work from their particular angle and those efforts on-site should not be forgotten.
Like I said, everyone worked hard and nobody wants to see an event fail, but things snowballed and I think anyone you ask will look back at this round through glasses that are not rose-coloured.
Like everyone always says in these situations, “It’s the same track for everyone.” Sure, but let’s not use that as an excuse to forget about trying to make improvements.
I learned later that water trucks were ordered and then the wrong ones showed up. And then I heard that a spray nozzle broke and the new truck was unusable. It’s compounding problems like these that add to an already potentially poor situation.
The dirt in the area is hard-packed, there’s no other way to put it. It needs to be worked before an event and during it to keep it safe. I remember last time we were here there were huge dust problems on Amateur Day that had everyone on hand in water trucks and manning hoses trying to salvage the racing. It’s tough soil to stay ahead of, that’s for sure.
The start was short and made a 180 left-hand turn before heading up a hill and out onto the MX portion of the track. The dirt was dry and marbly and you knew it was going to make the first turn a bit of a leg-paddling struggle. It also made gate pick extra important, as the inside of the doghouse was a huge advantage.
Everyone seemed to agree that the “outdoor” part was fun. When we got there, they had a booter jump that would have had riders’ heads in the clouds. That was another thing they toned down before the first practice started. The other big table-top-type double jump was still very big and photos of the top WMX riders hitting it will illustrate that!
I’ll cover the actual racing in another column and with video highlights, once I make it to my sister’s place in Kamloops.
But speaking of the racing, I will say that the schedule on Saturday just seemed way too busy. We had 2 motos of WMX, 2 motos of PreMix, and 3 motos of Pro 250’s and 450’s each. I’m not sure how obvious it was to the casual fan sitting in the stands what was actually going on and who was winning what.
I went back to the track on Sunday for Amateur Day to make sure I saw all the local up-and-comers trying to make their way to the TransCan at Walton Raceway in August. To be honest, this is some of my favourite racing to watch.
I missed the first few motos but wasn’t worried because my plan was to stay to catch the ones I’d missed in moto 2. (How’s that for some foreshadowing?)
I did get the opportunity to see some of the faster Alberta riders for their first motos and will say that I’m impressed with a few of them as title contenders in August.
When the final first moto was done, we headed to intermission, so I wandered into the pits to chat with some people and grab a drink. I made my way back to the van in the amateur pits and waited to hear when we were getting going again.
More and more time passed and we finally heard, “OK, annnd we’re back for more racing!” over the PA system.
I grabbed my cameras and made my way back into the infield with several others only to learn that it was the dragstrip announcer we were hearing in the pits.
And then I saw Kyle again who let me know they had decided to cancel the rest of the day’s racing for safety reasons.
Here’s the official statement from Jetwerx that Kyle was good enough to make and send to me to post:
“It was a group decision with myself, the head official, president of ACM, and another board member.
“Just not being able to properly water the infield without it turning to an ice rink. Safety was our main concern. The outfield dirt was fine, just need to improve the dirt on the infield.
“Jetwerx will take the L on this. We appreciate everyone for coming to race, watch, and spend the weekend. ACM was a huge help as well as the folks at Rad Torque.
“We will continue to look for ways to bring motocross to new levels here in Canada.“
So, as you can see, our season got off to a bit of a rough start. Quite a few of the racers and teams I spoke with basically said that the season will “officially” start this week at Whispering Pines in Kamloops, BC.
Let’s see if I can make some lemonade…
Greg Poisson was quick to point out that he thinks the hybrid format is cool and that he’s seen it be very successful in other parts of the world, like in Australia.
I’m not against the format, I’m just against having riders who’ve never raced Supercross in their lives show up at round 1 of the MX Nationals and find a track with full-sized obstacles like it’s the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series!
We could have had a more MX-style track in front of the stands and the racing would not have suffered. It may have made it easier to maintain throughout the day, too.
I’m commenting on this race with the benefit of hindsight. Let’s chalk this one up to experience. Like everyone else has already said, I think we appreciate that they’re willing to try something new in an attempt to draw in some new spectators and fans, but this one simply came up short.
Also, this is just my opinion. We’ve all got our own and MMC is where I have the chance to voice mine. You can agree or disagree with me and that’s fine. As I joked in an IG Stories post on Sunday: “Back in the day we had 2 types of track, this or this but muddy.” And that’s the truth! We didn’t know any better and I don’t remember ever complaining about it. The conditions were the conditions and we just dropped the gates and sent it.
Were those the good old days? I don’t know, but I bet we have some people in the comments who do!
Have a great week, everyone, and I’ll see you for the first gate drop of the 2023 WCAN.