By Billy Rainford
I know I don’t have to tell you how great it felt to be back at the races, but it sort of falls into my job description, so I’m going to anyway.
DMX World HQ is in London, Ontario. We’re in the fortunate position that this is where we are going to see the bulk of our 2021 Canadian Triple Crown Series again this summer. Having said that, the travel is part of this gig that I really enjoy. It’s been awful being stuck at home all year, unable to criss-cross the continent like I have in the past bunch of years. But it looks like we’re almost back!
It was Round 1 of the AMO Ontario Provincial Championships at Gopher Dunes this past weekend. With the tough sand track set to host pro racing again this summer, I knew it was going to be a good chance for many of our touring pro riders to shake things out and grab some gate drops before the real racing starts in a couple weeks, so I loaded up the #DMXVan and Maggie the Morkie and headed one-hour southeast of my place to check it out.
I grabbed breakfast and coffee on the way and it just felt right being on the road and headed to cover some racing again. Gas was at $1.32 per litre on Sunday morning here in Southwestern Ontario, but, with so little travel this past year, collecting a fuel receipt felt great.
I assumed there would be a lot of riders taking advantage of the good weather and the chance to race, but I didn’t expect to see what I saw as I approached the track from the north. I could see that they had trailers lined up along the road in front of the Supercross track, but then saw that the rest of the place was absolutely jam packed with racers and their rigs.
It turned out, they had trailers parked all the way over to Frank Schuster‘s house at the far end of the property! People were ready to get back to racing. Word on the street was there there were over 800 entries. There were qualifiers in a bunch of classes and I knew we were in for a long day.
As the morning moved on, the heat rose and the humidity intensified with it. It was going to be a classic Gopher Dunes sufferfest, for the riders, crew, and, most importantly to me…me. And of all days for me to not bring along my Scott mountain bike! It was a mistake I would live to regret.
I got there just as Pro practice was rolling along. I hurried to get my camera gear slung over my shoulders and headed to the edge of the track just in time to see defending Canadian 450 MX Champion GDR Honda Fox Racing’s Dylan Wright destroy the berm in front of the big “Gopher Dunes” sign. Then I saw the #2 of Thor Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Marshal Weltin…then the #3 of MX101 FXR Yamaha’s Shawn Maffenbeier. I was in for a good day of pre-season racing!
Of course, I’ll be posting an in depth photo report this afternoon (when I get back from a massage to see if that helps my current back situation), but I’ll talk a little bit about what I saw and learned here, too.
I was trying to figure out the best way to bring the action to everyone across Canada and the world, but it became obvious immediately that the cell service is still lacking at the track. I couldn’t tweet anything and there was no chance of posting any photos to Instagram. Yes, there is a spot in the first turn and on top of that big pile of dirt you always see Derek Schuster and his crew on top of at the western edge of the track where you get a bar or two of service, but that doesn’t really help when you want to move around the track to also shoot photos and video.
My plan was to go Facebook Live for the Pro motos, or Cash Class as it’s called at these races, but it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to make that happen from the side of the track. If you happened to be on FB yesterday morning, you may have enjoyed a nice live stream of the inside of my pocket for a few minutes before I noticed and deleted it. Ugh.
Anyway, I ended up shooting a bunch of video of the first of their 3, 20-minute motos, and it would turn out to be the last we’d see of Dylan Wright for the day, on the track, at least.
It was definitely an off day for the home squad.
In the first moto, Shawn Maffenbeier got the holeshot and held off the pressure of Dylan and Marshal Weltin for a bunch of laps. Dylan looked like he was looking for the right spot to make his move and he did so somewhere around the halfway point of the race and started to pull a gap on Maff and Marshal.
Then, as Dylan came through the straight that leads to the right-hander that takes you up the big mound in the middle of the track, he seemed to stall the bike and plant his right leg. All seemed fine as he re-fired his bike and kept the lead but he immediately slowed down and cruised to end the lap and headed back to the GDR shop.
Maff took over the lead but then fell coming out of a corner and Weltin took over the lead. Marshal looked calm and cool and would take all three moto wins with Maffenbeier pressing the whole time behind him. They were the class of the field and gapped the rest each time.
When I spoke to Derek after the race, he said Dylan was OK but that they (read “he”) had decided it wasn’t worth risking any further damage this close to the series start and Dylan sat out the rest of the motos. Derek was quick to point out that the decision wasn’t all that popular with Dylan, as he wanted to get back out there.
Also taken out for the day that race was one of the team’s 250 riders, #84 Tanner Ward. Tanner went down pretty hard and banged up his leg pretty good. That crash would also put him on the sidelines for the rest of the day.
Add to that the first turn crash in moto 3 that then took out their remaining 250 rider, #18 Ryder McNabb! He will be fine but that was it for the home team for that day.
They’ve obviously got tons of laps on this track, so it was more about getting some gate drops for the home team than it was about getting settings dialled for when the real racing starts. Either way, it was too bad we didn’t see them on the track any more on Sunday. I hope all three are feeling better today.
I stood on top of the big dirt mound for moto 2 and went Facebook live. No, it’s not a great piece of racing cinematography, but it gives you a sense of everyone’s speed:
Open Cash Class from Gopher Dunes – Moto 2Posted by Direct Motocross on Sunday, June 13, 2021
I went back to shooting video clips for the 3rd and final Cash Class moto, so that will be posted up as soon as I get at it later this afternoon.
There were lots of other things to talk about from yesterday, too, so I’ll head to see if we can get my back loosened up and then get back at it as soon as possible.
Results from the day will be up HERE. And because the cell service is so spotty there, the live timing didn’t seem to be available for people at home. I will say that there is a rumour of a cell tower going in on the road just south of the track, so let’s all cross our fingers for that.
Wow, I just realized how heavy that is on Canadian Kawasaki content. It looks like Team Green is back in the game in Canada!
MXGP of Russia – Round 1
MX2 – GP Classification
MXGP – GP Classification
Hey, MXGP, I think you can do a little better on these “highlights.” That’s just not enough.
It was a week off for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships, but Tyler Medaglia will be back in action when we head to High Point this coming weekend.
OK, I’m off to get some back relief, I hope. It was great to see everyone at the track yesterday. Hanging out with Robbie Quantrill at the gate, seeing Chris Pomeroy in his spot in turn one, seeing Tim Lee looking like he’s ready for his high school photo day (he gets it), slow nodding with medic Ron Cameron, riding around on the side-by-each with Derek Schuster, and talking about story-telling with Kenny Bland. It all just felt right.
Have a great week and check back later for a photo report and some videos from the day at the track.