Night One in Sarnia
By Billy Rainford
Heading into Friday at Progressive Auto Sales Arena on the campus of Lambton College in Sarnia, Ontario, most bets were on local rider #16 Cole Thompson to be the one to beat on the tight, indoor circuit. Other riders who excel in these conditions are #22 Tyler Gibbs, #84 Tanner Ward, and #229 Mitchell Harrison.
When we arrived at the track for riders meeting, the first thing noticed was the dirt. It wasn’t going to be an issue with mud, that’s for sure. With the dry summer we’ve had, the conditions would be perfect for racing.
The track layout looked pretty basic, but there was a rhythm section that would challenge riders to go for the double-triple section that could possibly separate them. Following a 180 left-hand turn came a short but tricky whoops section that only a couple riders were able to skim.
They came back down the start straight, into another 180 left and over the finish line double to complete a lap on the 4-lane hockey arena floor course.
The gate had 8 spots for riders so a couple had to line up in a second row when the board turned sideways.
Coming to line up were a few new riders up from the USA that included #53 Chris Blackmer, #103 Nate Mason, and #170 Devin Simonson back from injury.
BC rider Gibbs took pole position in both the 250 and 450 class after qualifying. He, like most riders, found it beneficial to race the 250 in both classes. There were, however, a couple riders who only had 450’s and so they had to manhandle the big bikes on the tight floor that proved to be a little more bike than was necessary. Those riders included #13 Daniel Elmore, #19 Ryan Derry, and #43 Dario Zecca.
Speaking of qualifying, it didn’t even take a complete lap for Gibbs and Thompson to find each other in the corner before the finish line. Gibbs went inside and let Thompson know that he wasn’t going to simply roll over and hand the 2-time Triple Crown champion another title. There wasn’t any actual contact, but the message was clear.
There were 2 Heats in both classes.
250 Heat 1:
#34 Wyatt Kerr grabbed the holeshot as his dad, Andy Kerr, came in for a high five. Thompson was on his rear wheel and made the early block pass to take the lead. Harrison was into 2nd and making up time in the whoops section by continuing to skim them.
Behind them was a nice battle for 3rd between Americans Simonson and Blackmer. Blackmer hurt himself in the rhythm section and was looked at by the medics. In true Blackmer fashion, he said he didn’t need to go to the hospital and that it was simply a back issue he’s been dealing with. #27 Guillaume St Cyr followed them with a gap back to #40 Preston Masciangelo.
250 Heat 2:
Holeshot to Tanner Ward ahead of Mason and #14 Quinn Amyotte. Mason would fall in the whoops as Gibbs was charging through the pack after a bad start.
Ward would take the win as Gibbs closed in with Amyotte, #26 Westen Wrozyna (who was dealing with a leg injury sustained the day before in practice), Blackmer, and #146 Tanner Scott.
450 Heat 1:
Mason fired up his bike on the line and there was trouble with the motor of his 450. With a hand raised, they were given the time to run back to the pits to grab his 250.
Once again it was Ward with the holeshot with Simonson in tow. He would be money off the start in almost every race.
Masciangelo and Elmore would get close in the rhythm section after turn one with Preston finding the ground hard. He would be OK but out of this Heat and headed to the LCQ.
Simonson was close to Ward and the two of them had separated themselves from a battle between Mason and Harrison. Behind that fight was a 3-way race between Elmore, Kerr, and St Cyr. Kerr would go down and drop to the back of the pack.
450 Heat 2:
Holeshot to Blackmer from the outside gate. Then it was Gibbs, Thompson, #33 Jeremy McKie, Wrozyna, and Amyotte.
Gibbs would take the lead and finish with a gap back to Blackmer, Amyotte, Thompson who had troubles, and Wrozyna.
250 LCQ: Top 2 go through
Holeshot to McKie ahead of St Cyr, Masciangelo, Scott, and Kerr.
Mason would get by St Cyr on the last lap and take the final transfer spot behind McKie.
St Cyr went into this one angry after being denied in the 250 LCQ and grabbed the holeshot. Wrozyna, Elmore, McKie and #19 Ryan Derry followed.
Wrozyna would get to the front ahead of St Cyr and McKie.
250 Main (15 laps):
Ward was lined up on the inside and Blackmer all the way over on the outside again.
Holeshot to Ward followed by Thompson, Harrison, Amyotte, Blackmer, and Gibbs.
Both Thompson and Harrison would make inside moves to get by Ward and push him to 3rd.
Behind them was a battle between Amyotte and Gibbs.
450 Main (15 laps):
Another holeshot to Ward followed by Blackmer, Gibbs, and Thompson.
At the end of lap 1, Gibbs was in 2nd ahead of Blackmer, Thompson, Simonson, and Harrison.
Simonson would crash at the end of the rhythms section and Thompson would also fall trying an inside move on Gibbs.
At the half, Ward had a comfortable lead over Gibbs, Harrison, and Thompson, but then Harrison also went down. but got going again quickly.
Harrison would make up time as Gibbs and Thompson battled ahead of him for 2nd.
Super Final (12 laps):
Ward would get the jump again and lead the pack out on lap 1 ahead of Thompson and Blackmer. Gibbs went down in turn 1 and would have to come from the back of the pack.
Ward would get sideways heading into the rhythm section, allowing Thompson to get by and take over the lead on lap 2.
It was Thompson, Ward, Blackmer, Simonson, Amyotte, Mason, Wrozyna, Harrison, St Cyr, and Gibbs.
Harrison hit Wrozyna pretty hard to make a pass and kept moving forward to pressure Mason for 6th.
Thompson had a gap out front ahead of Ward who had Blackmer, Simonson and Amyotte fighting for 3rd.
When Thompson took the win he did the brush the shoulder gesture as the partisan crowd went crazy for their local hero.
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