Rockstar Energy MX Nationals | Good-Bye Nanaimo, Hello Prince George
By Billy Rainford
When we caught wind of the rumour that the 2017 Rockstar Energy MX Nationals may be bidding farewell to the beautiful island city of Nanaimo, BC, I have to admit, my wallet said thank you. The obvious concern about heading to Nanaimo each June is the exorbitant costs involved in getting across the Georgia Straight on the BC Ferries. That part always sucked. Of course, once you’d parted with your cash and were happily on board the Queen of Cowichan, Coquitlam, or Oak Bay and looking for killer whales off the top deck, you almost forgot about how much you had just paid, but not quite. However, it really felt like you were on an adventure.
If you are a big league team or a privateer with all your things loaded for a weekend of racing, you are likely in a big rig or at least a truck pulling a trailer. Check out these prices:
I first moved out to Vancouver in the fall of 1996 and so I was at the Wastelands when they held their first National in June of 1997. It was always a fun trip, but the track itself always seemed to leave a little bit to be desired. Local BC riders always flourished but most felt it wasn’t quite a ‘national caliber’ track. Well, there is no longer any debate because we won’t be returning to Vancouver Island in 2017.
The series will again head to the Whispering Pines track outside Kamloops, BC to kick off the 2017 Rockstar Energy MX Nationals. After that, we will now head north to the city of Prince George for the first time. Prince George is motorsports heaven. I made the trip a few years ago in the winter and got to taste the fresh mountain powder on a snowmobile with the gang from Cycle North Powersports. Everywhere we drove, people were smiling in their pick-up trucks pulling sleds in trailers – they love the outdoors up there!
This should be a great fit, but how was everyone involved and affected in the decision feeling? That was the question I wanted answered, so I got in touch with the 3 main players.
The three parties involved (that I spoke with) are:
Prince George Motocross Association (PGMA) – Kourtney Lloyd | Board Member
The Wastelands – Dave Taschuk | Track Manager
CMRC Racing – Mark Stallybrass | Owner/President
Kourtney Lloyd – PGMA
We’ll start with Kourtney Lloyd because she told me she has been the bug in Mark Stallybrass’s ear for the past several years about holding a National at her hometown track in Prince George, BC. She has been talking about it “since the Brett Lee days,” she said. She showed Mark around the facility a few weeks ago then he took some video of the facility and met with PGMA club president, Andrew Forbes.
It was noted that the grounds would need a few things done in order to accommodate all the team vehicles etc. and Kourtney mentioned that those improvements have “already been done!”
The club had a meeting of its own to determine the interest level of hosting such a big event and the result was a resounding YES.
There are also some rumours floating around that the gang from the TV show Timber Kings may be interested in cutting some ultra-cool wooden trophies for the event. Also, Kourtney has been in contact with several vendors who are excited about the prospect of setting up their food shops on site for the event.
The entire town appears to be getting behind this event, so it should be very well received from that end.
Dave Taschuk – The Wastelands, Nanaimo, BC
My first call was to the Wastelands track manager, Dave Taschuk. I wanted to feel out his emotions on the subject, first. To my surprise, he was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing. He understands the pressure getting big teams over to the island for one race puts on industry wallets. They sort of knew the writing was on the wall, so to speak.
Mark contacted the track’s liason, Blaine Johnson, and that is how Dave and the rest of the Nanaimo MX club found out about the decision. Although Dave didn’t seem phased, he did mention that he “loved seeing [the Nationals] in Nanaimo.” He added that there may have been a chance to speak with the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce to see about a special ferry rate or some funding to get the teams over with less cost.
On the bright side, Dave is happy that now maybe they can address some of the sections of the track that weren’t exactly “amateur friendly” to make it safer and more enjoyable for riders of all abilities.
Life will move on at the Wastelands in the absence of the Nationals.
Mark Stallybrass – CMRC
My longest conversation was with CMRC President and Owner, Mark Stallybrass. Mark is always very forthcoming whenever I give him a call to talk about anything pertaining to the national series. Mark confirmed that the series had been making an annual stop in Nanaimo since 1997 (except in 2009-10) and that they had a great relationship with the track and the club.
He said it really came to a head over the last 4 years with the factory teams’ and privateers’ concerns over the costs involved in getting to the island and back. Also, in 2016, 9 of the 10 stops on the circuit saw spectator numbers increase. Yes, the only one that didn’t go up was Nanaimo last summer. It was, in fact, down.
This wasn’t an easy decision for the CMRC to make – the national on the island existed before the BC Mainland rounds ever came around. The tour’s western stops were at the Wastelands and Antler Lake, outside of Edmonton, Alberta.
Mark had never been to Prince George before but was instantly impressed with the layout of the track. He said, “It reminded me of the track in Ernée, France.” It sits on the side of a hill and he commented that “you can see 98% of the track from one single spot in the pits!”
He added that local Pro rider, Jess Pettis, has an average lap time of around 2:15, so not much would have to be done to keep that consistent with what they’re after as far as times are concerned. “They have already doubled their parking area,” said Mark, “and the track is only about 12 minutes from Cycle North.”
“There is nothing of this magnitude in Prince George in the summer,” he added. The only concern is the weather in early June in central BC. The demographics of the area fit the sport and the event perfectly, so Mark is optimistic about the prospects of holding this event in ‘The Peeg.’
The track has a cement start pad so we’ll be keeping that number the same as if Nanaimo were still on the circuit.
All in all, the three parties we contacted were positive about the series and their tracks’ futures. Change is inevitable and we will have to wait and see if the PG community embraces the traveling circus so many of us call home during the summer months.
Distance Grand Totals:
Kamloops to Nanaimo to Calgary = 1484kms (plus BC Ferries costs)
Nanaimo population: 84, 228 (hellobc.com)
Kamloops to Prince George to Calgary = 1310kms*
Prince George population: 71, 363 (Prince George Citizen)
*A savings of 174kms and the price of the ferry.
It remains to be seen how the city of Prince George receives us this coming spring, but you have to think it will be with open arms and a ton of enthusiasm. We’ll be there! Thanks for all the great memories over the years, Nanaimo, and best of luck in the future. But how’s the surf up in PG?!