Things to Watch For at Gopher Dunes this Weekend

By Billy Rainford

As we get set to go racing again at Round 4 of the 2019 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Canadian MX Nationals at Gopher Dunes, we thought we’d take a look at what we should be looking for on Saturday.

Gopher Dunes is the stop on the circuit that tends to polarize the riders most — you either love this place or it gives you nightmares.

The track outside the tobacco town of Tillsonburg, Ontario (“my back still aches when I hear that word…”) is known to be the toughest test of rider and machine on any Pro Motocross circuit on the continent, so it always gets a ton of added attention.

The weather forecast seems to change on the hour, but right now they’re calling for 28 degrees Celsius/82 Fahrenheit, and that’s pretty much perfect!

Here are some things to keep an eye out for on Saturday:

250 Class

First off, let’s have a look at the 2018 results as a reminder:

  1. Jess Pettis 1-1
  2. Josh Osby 4-2
  3. Tanner Ward 6-3
  4. Dylan Wright 3-6
  5. Hayden Halstead 7-4
  6. Joey Crown 5-5
  7. Marco Cannella 8-8
  8. Christopher Fortier 12-7
  9. Westen Wrozyna 11-9
  10. Jake Tricco 13-10

1 – Jess Pettis went 1-1 for the overall last season. He’s been working his way back from injury over the first 3 rounds of the 2019 MX season. With this month-long break in the racing, he should have had time to get himself back up to form and should be the one to watch to repeat.

2 – Dylan Wright is racing his team’s home race at Gopher Dunes. He has proven that he’s got what it takes to win these races this season. He’s the AX champion and would be leading the 250 MX standings right now were it not for being docked positions. Will Dylan come out swinging and give his team something to celebrate at their own race? He was on the podium here as an Intermediate, so…

3 – Marshal Weltin is racing Gopher Dunes with the red plate as the points leader. This guy puts in time on the sand tracks of Club MX and so should be at home on the tough track this week. Will he leave the Dunes with the red plate for his Sky Racing Team?

4 – There are a ton of local Southwestern Ontario riders who ride at this track a lot. You can see by last year’s results that they do very well here. Will we see one of them step onto the podium again this year like Tanner Ward did in 2018 to become a local hero?

5 – Joey Crown just showed great speed at Red Bud last weekend. He wanted to come to Gopher Dunes and race his 250 2-stroke but then realized it’s against the rules for him to do so. Will he show up anyway on a 250F and line up for this round, since he’s from just over the border in Michigan?

*Update: Joey will not be at Gopher Dunes this week. He wanted to race his 250 2-stroke in the 250 class but it’s against the rules and his 250F isn’t ready from last week at Red Bud. Hopefully, we see him at a round before the summer is over.*

6 – Tyler Medaglia took the win in the 450 class (4-1) in 2018. He’s now in the 250 class and should definitely be in the conversation to repeat in the little bike class. It was his first 450 win in 10 years last season, so you know he’d like to make another memory this season in the 250 class.

7 – It’s an off week in the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Championship series, so who’s going to cross the border to come play in the sand?

8 – Will anyone show up who can challenge #1E Eve Brodeur in this WMX series? She raced the Women’s West series for no points and will be coming into this East series in top form. She’s a guest on the ‘Moto Central Live Show,’ too, so we’ll talk to her about this.

450 Class

2018:

  1. Tyler Medaglia 4-1
  2. Dillan Epstein 1-4
  3. Colton Facciotti 3-3
  4. Cole Thompson 5-2
  5. Kaven Benoit 6-5
  6. Luke Renzland 7-6
  7. Chris Canning 8-7
  8. Cade Clason 9-8
  9. Liam O’Farrell 10-10
  10. Keylan Meston 11-11

1 – Everyone loves to watch Matt Goerke race at the Dunes. He’s from Florida and thrives on the hot and sandy conditions of what’s considered the toughest race in North American Motocross. He’s on a new team from last season so it will be interesting to see how happy he is on the sand track this week. If things go like we’ve seen in the past, Matt can be untouchable on this track. He wasn’t happy with his 2-DNF last year so you know he’ll be pushing the levels this year.

2 – As you can see, some of the riders in the top 10 from last year won’t be here in 2019. That opens up a few places for some fresh faces in the premiere class.

3 – #711 Tristan Lane is up from Florida and word has it that he’s fast in the sand. It’s his first time up in Canada so it will be interesting to see how he does in what is likely to be sand like he’s never seen in a 2nd moto. He’s going to be a guest on the Moto Central Live Show presented by Sneaky Weasel Beer Friday night, so we’ll ask him.

4 – Phil Nicoletti is sitting 2nd in the MX title chase but looks like he’s ready to start making a push for some wins. Is a track like GD the place where he can start this charge? We’ll see.

5 – Colton Facciotti has the points lead and is going for his 6th 450 title. Will he push the limit to give the GDR team a win on home turf?

6 – Cole Thompson wants to take this MX title very badly. He’s won here before and will be hungry to claw back a few points on Facciotti and Nicoletti in front of him.

7 – Will Mike Alessi show up ready to go for wins? He’s been battling a bit of an energy bug but said that he’s now got it under control and should be back up to strength. He’s another rider who has shown he can win in the deep sand.

Overall

1 – This is the most challenging track on our circuit — it’s famous for being so. What will we see this year? Will someone step up and have a breakout race and shock the crowd?

2 – This is round 1 of the eastern swing of the Nationals. We’ll see lots of new faces joining the series to race the final 5 rounds.

3 – They’ve added a new grandstand on the tree side of the track. Will fans show up to watch some great racing? I can’t understand why we’re not always tripping over spectators at these events?! Show me some more exciting racing…anywhere! If you can be there…be there.

4 – Fuel. Will running out of fuel be an issue, like it has in the past? We’ve seen several riders lose wins after running out.

5 – The weather. Will the humidity go through the roof like we’ve seen in the past? Will teams all have their ice baths ready behind their rigs for riders to plunge themselves into between motos? I’m guessing yes, and it always makes for good photo ops.

6 – How will the track come around? Being bottomless sand, we know it’s going to get rough, but it’s shown differing levels of roughness in years past. We’ll have to wait and see how much water the crew lays down and what fresh tricks Derek Schuster has up his sleeve this year. He’s also on the ‘Moto Central Live Show’ Friday, so we’ll ask him.

These are just some of the stories to follow along with as the racing unfolds Saturday, July 13th at Gopher Dunes.

This is a round that always has riders in two camps: those who look forward to this challenge and those who just want to survive and make it to the next round. The interesting part for us is watching who ends up on which side.

See you there!