Photo Report | Gopher Dunes Sandstorm Arenacross | Atlas Brace

By Billy Rainford

Photos by Emily Nicholson and Bigwave

The 9th annual Gopher Dunes ‘Sandstorm’ event took place this past weekend at the famous sand track outside Tillsonburg, Ontario. Saturday consisted of the Arenacross portion and the inaugural Shift Holeshot Challenge.

With a perfect set up and ideal weather conditions, the Arenacross track was ready for some tight indoor-style racing. The crew was careful to design a track that would be challenging for the top riders yet safe for those just getting their feet wet in this more technical discipline.

The official results were unavailable at the time of this post, but here’s a look at some of the racing action.

These are what everyone was after Saturday.

You could see every inch of the track from the top of the grassy knoll, but sometimes you just need to get as close to the action as you can.

The view is what makes AX such a great sport for spectators. All you had to do was turn your head and you didn’t miss a thing.

The only way anyone is going to get better at Arenacross is to actually ride Arenacross. Congrats to all these little riders who lined up and got some experience.

Arenacross is all about timing and rhythm. You can’t make any split-second decisions or things can go wrong fast. These 50cc riders will use that knowledge to improve.

Young #48 Carter Ward trying to follow in his big brother’s footsteps.

#199 Kyle Cooper looked great out there and took the win.

Mark Booker gives #17 Nolan Booker some last-minute encouragement.

Sometimes, all it takes is for the rider to know you’ve got their back. #2 Brandy McLarty all set to go.

Chris and Ayrton Pomeroy at the line.

Ayrton gives the thumbs up to show Robbie Quantrill he’s ready to go.

Ayrton and Nolan were the 2 riders to beat in the 65cc class.

Nolan took 2nd in moto 1 and wore his Walton TransCan bib because he really missed the event this year. He took the win in moto 2.

Ayrton used his smooth riding style to take the win in moto 1 but then crashed while leading the 2nd and fell back.

#109 Cole Wilson and Jaimey Keast doing their best impression of a married couple…

Open Intermediate moto 1 blasts off the line.

Just like old times.

#42 Austin Watling and #184 Tanner Ward went head to head…again.

They were having a great battle in the first moto.

Until a little error by Ward let Watling get away for the win.

#124 Tyler Evanitski.

#617 Cooper Hicks.

Tanner Ward over the finish line jump.

#42 Austin Watling.

Open Junior moto 1 hits the track. #45 Clarke gets the front end up just a little.

#371 Chapman.

Arenacross always makes for some tight racing.

#241 Daylen Vanderslagt took the Junior class.

#25 Tristan Dares was the rider to beat in the Supermini class.

Tristan went unchallenged in the Supermini class for the win.

It was great to have Nathan Bles back on the line in the Open Pro class.

Moto 1 heads out. That’s Colton Facciotti, Tanner Ward, Dylan Wright, Austin Watling, Kyle Keast, and Nathan Bles.

Colton got out front early in both motos and finished 1-1.

Nathan showed he hasn’t lost the skill, but his race fitness wasn’t quite where he wanted it as he gave chase.

Nate had #14 Dylan Wright on his rear wheel early.

Of course, Watling and Ward went at it behind them.

Dylan would work his way into 2nd but then a bent rotor would take him out of the 2nd moto. 2-DNF gave him 7th.

Tanner’s never-give-up riding gave him solid 3-3 motos for 3rd overall.

Austin Watling was smooth on his 450 and finished 5-5 for 5th.

#464 Kyle Keast went out and took 4th with 6-4 motos.

I didn’t see any water anywhere, but if someone is going to find it, Dylan Wright is your guy! He’s always exciting to watch, that’s for sure.

#126 Chris Pomeroy was the only Vet rider to line up so he got thrown to the wolves. He said he “got lapped more Saturday than I have in my entire life!” He was 6th (7-6).

Were’ still waiting for the young Canadian to come along who can dethrone Colton Facciotti. Until then, he’ll just keep winning. He’s been doing just that for a really long time. Let’s go, kids, where are you?!


1. 10 Colton Facciotti HON 1-1

2. 77 Nathan Bles KTM 4-2

3. 184 Tanner Ward KTM 3-3

4. 464 Kyle Keast HSK 6-4

5. 42 Austin Watling HON 5-5

6. 126 Chris Pomeroy KTM 7-6

7. 14 Dylan Wright HON 2-DNF

The pit bike race was a blast and lots of the top riders lined up. Here’s Kyle Keast reminding Kenzie Hennessy who’s boss as Cooper Hicks leads the way.

These things are pretty much ‘anything goes’ and Austin Watling reminds the rider on the Kawasaki about it.

Swing and a miss by Dylan Wright on Watling.

He made it stick on the next lap around.

Ayrton Pomeroy takes his dad high in this corner. He would actually stuff him off the track in the final corner of the race!

Watling tries to return the favour on Wright. Dylan would actually throw a chain or something and fall way back.

The crowd loved it. Kyle Keast jumped the finish line double and took the win ahead of Watling, who got by Hicks who washed out with 2 corners to go on the ‘bonus lap’ for 3rd.

Jeff Fullerton from Shift Racing was the guy behind the Shift Holeshot Challenge that took place when the sun went down.

Jocelyn Facciotti and little ‘Cindy Lou Who’ ready to watch dome drag racing…they knew what was coming.

They held heats in all the classes and came out with winners in each.

The full Facciotti clan.

Short, shoes, and a tee shirt. It didn’t really matter for this.

That angle is probably not going to move you ahead in the competition.

Mike Parliament, Tanner Ward, and Steve Simms.

Donk (on Matt Goerke’s winning 450), Dylan Wright, and Nathan Bles.

My flash didn’t go off here but Dylan Wright tried to wheelie through the whoops after this one and things went wrong for him.

He was fine and they all laughed about it.

Robbie Quantrill was the official starter and finish line official. Neither was very easy.

The final came down to Donk, Tanner Ward, and Austin Watling. Watling took the win, but didn’t know what was coming next.

Colton Facciotti came out looking like the Great Gazoo to challenge Austin in a best 2-out-of-3 battle.

Austin won the Shift $100 but Colton would match it and donate to charity if Austin could beat him…or something like that.

The psyche job started early when Austin pulled his knuckles away, leaving the 4-time Canadian champ hanging.

The boys prep for battle. Can you believe we used to actually race with our faces hanging out like that?!

Race #1 to Watling!

Kerri Schuster gets a few moments rest away from her twins and what do we do? We stick her with Maggie the Lap Dog. Thanks, Kerri.

Race #2 goes to Facciotti.

Race #3 goes to Facciotti, and his $100 is safe…and this time their knuckles touch.

OK, one more shot of Colton in this helmet.

Anyone want to caption this one of MP1’s Mike Parliament?

#241 Daylen waits for his $100 that he’s told isn’t coming. Just the Pros were racing for cash.

Jeff hands Austin his $100 cheque and the champagne.

Austin needed some help popping the cork, but really seemed to get into it once he got it going.

Hey, a win is a win…celebrate it!

Austin celebrates with his mom and their little dog.

And that was it for the first-ever Shift Holeshot Challenge at the Gopher Dunes Sandstorm. This 2-day event should really develop into a festival-type race. What a great way to celebrate the end of a long summer of racing. See you at the races…