Derek Schuster Talks about this Weekend’s OPC and Hosting National Round 1 During COVID-19

By Billy Rainford

Derek Schuster talks about what it’s like running an event in these COVID-19 times as we close in on Round 1 of the Rockstar Triple Crown Tour MX Nationals at his Gopher Dunes track. | Bigwave photo

We’re now less than 3 weeks away from Round 1 of the 2020 Rockstar Triple Crown Tour MX Nationals that will be hosted at Gopher Dunes on July 25-26.

Derek Schuster is the man in charge of things over there in Courtland, Ontario. They will also be hosting Round 2 of the AMO Ontario Provincial Championships (OPC) this coming weekend.

With so many questions and concerns about the COVID-19 restrictions, I thought I’d give Derek a call to talk about some of the main things that go along with hosting big events in these really strange times.

Presented by Fox Racing Canada

Direct Motocross: Thanks for talking with us today, Derek. For starters, people seem to almost be most curious about whether or not they need to be wearing a mask when they are on the Gopher Dunes facility property.

Derek Schuster: The short answer to that is yes. The reason I say that is because in order to be on the starting line with a rider you’ll be required to wear a mask there. When you are at your pit area or that type of thing on the property, you are not required to wear a mask.

We know not everyone is going to be down at the start line with a rider, but we’d like to see everyone bring a mask in case it’s needed.

You don’t want to see injuries happen, but if that were to happen you’d want to be near the person that’s injured when medics are there and that’s also when you’d need to have a mask on. We’re asking everyone to bring masks, same as at the last one.

We won’t make anyone wear them unless they’re in an area where social distancing is nearly impossible, like at the starting line.

And these are the county rules that we are trying to abide by, right?

Ya. We went to our county with some guidelines and information to try and put this all together and that was one of the things that we outlined in there, so we feel it’s important that we stick to that.

We don’t feel that we’re in a position to move away from that, so we’re going to stick with that for now and it’s going to stay like that at the national, too, I would assume. I don’t see anything changing in the next three weeks.

Talking about things to remember for this weekend’s OPC, you have to go online and sign the waiver again, right?

Yep, you do your registration online and fill out all the forms on there. That way it’s paperless when you get to the track. And honestly, I actually really like it from what I’ve seen so far. It makes everything run really smooth on race day.

I think that’s something you could see that stays once all this pandemic stuff is done.

What about the 7:30am riders meeting. How does that run?

The riders meeting is also played over the FM radio station that they advertise. That’s something that’s kind of nice, too, having it on the FM station. I know that sometimes people are running a little behind, unloading and stuff. This gives them the opportunity to just flip the station on at their vehicle and listen to it without having to run over to the riders meeting.

What about getting food on site? Will there be food to purchase or do you need to bring all of your own?

We didn’t have any food vendors at our last race and there won’t be any at this one. It’s hard for me to say whether or not we’ll have something set up at the National or not. I know Walton did have some stuff set up at theirs. That part is a work in progress, but there won’t be anything at this race this coming weekend.

What about water to wash your bikes and that sort of thing?

That is one of the things that we’re not able to provide. One of the key things that the county wanted to confirm for people coming to the event was that they were self-sufficient, which means bringing food, bringing drinks, bringing water, and bringing your own power, too. That’s basically what they wanted to see as far as being self-sufficient.

Now, what about overnight camping?

Yes, we do allow overnight “parking.” Again, when we were working with the county when we held our last event and typical camping wasn’t allowed, so as long as people came in a self-contained unit they were able to stay overnight.

The county did recognize that there’s a lot of people traveling quite a distance. We have people coming from eastern Ontario, northern Ontario, and all these different spots. Some people are driving 7, 8, 9 hours. We want to try and accommodate them but also make sure we’re doing our part to not have it turn into a big party because people have been cooped up for 2 months prior to that.

We call it “overnight parking” and that’s how we want to treat it.

Obviously, the OPC’s are a big deal, but would you almost call these dry runs for the upcoming Nationals?

100%. This goes back to some conversations that Brett Lee and I had a couple months ago when we were trying to hold these events in June. We both said that if we’re going to be able to pull off having a National in July or August or anything like that, we definitely need to try to have some sort of dry run and host some sort of events and get a race or two under our belts.

That’s a hundred percent reason why…I shouldn’t say 100% of the reason because obviously we want to be back to having amateur races, but that’s a big reason why those races happened. It was really important that we worked out any kinks before we tried to hold a National.

No, you cannot do your 14-day self-isolation quarantine at the track. | Bigwave photo

This coming Friday will make it 14 days before the racing start on the 25th. There was a rumour going around that you were going to allow American riders to do their quarantine time at Gopher Dunes in their campers, but that’s not the case, right?

That is correct, ya. Unfortunately, because our business is open to the public daily I’m unable to have it happen where they stay on the property to do their quarantine when I have other people here who aren’t doing the quarantine that are just here to ride for the day. I can’t have them mix.

And I also think that doing your quarantine at a motocross track would lead them to wanting to practice and ride and that kind of thing.

I just can’t take the risk here if somebody was to get injured or that type of thing who would require medics or an ambulance. One of the first questions that they ask you is if the person injured is from the country or have they been out of the country in the last 14 days.

If you’re under quarantine, the first question you’re going to have to answer is that very question. I just think it’s too risky to allow riders to come stay here while in their quarantine.

I recommended to a lot of people that were asking me about it that if it were me and I had a US or foreign rider on my team I’d be making sure that they were in the country before July so that way, once that quarantine is over, they’re still going to have plenty of time to finish their prep for the Nationals.

If someone were to show up at your gate, is there any way you would know of their documentation? Do they have to present anything or is this more of an MRC question, I guess?

That’s definitely an MRC–related question but I guess the key thing to remember that registration for our event will already be open by the end of this week. There’s going to be a cutoff time for registration, I’m assuming the Wednesday before the race.

I guess you could still sign up for the event and not be in the country but I’m under the understanding that the Jetwerx group will be asking for documentation showing that they’ve been in the country for the proper amount of time.

Maybe this will change but are we assuming there will be no spectators at the Nationals?

Ya. There’s not going to be spectators for the Nationals, but it will work similar to our amateur race where we do have amateur classes and you will be able to come on the property as a racer. So, basically, the only people that are going to be allowed on the property for the race would be the Pro riders and their crews, and amateur riders and their crews.

If you were planning to come and watch the race, I assume that you’ll also be entering one of the amateur spots available over the weekend as well.

OK, now how about a more fun question for you? What, if any, changes do you have in store for the track for the Nationals?

The change that I have coming for the track is already done. I tried to make good use of our COVID time in the spring when we were closed for the 2 months and made a bit of a change during that time.

It’s not a super-huge change but it’s a pretty decent size one that we took our time to do. It’s already been raced during the first race a few weeks ago and will be again this weekend. That’s really the only change that’s coming for the National from last year’s layout.

People are racing the National track this weekend, albeit a little smoother.

Well, thanks for talking with us as you continue to work on the track there. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we let you go?

No, I think that’s everything. I would like to say that I’m pretty excited that we’re finally able to count down these days to getting racing here. I think it’s going to be really special once we do get going even without fans.

A ton of people have put in a ton of work to get racing back going. Even for the riders, they’ve had a really long off-season and I think it’s pretty challenging to try and stay motivated for that long when you see a delay and then another delay and you never really know when you’re going to start racing.

Oh, and one last thing, I guess there will be a lot more eyes on our Nationals since the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross season has been postponed down south.

Ya, I think that’s going to make things pretty interesting as well. People will probably be paying close attention and watching and seeing what’s happening with our series. That’s, obviously, pretty cool, of course, just getting more attention internationally.

OK, thanks again for taking the time, and I’ll see you this weekend.

See you on the weekend, Billy. Thanks.