Monday Morning Coffee | Canadians at A1

With the driving 4000 kilometres in my rearview mirror, it was time to get down to the business I’d made the trip for – the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series. People often think I’m crazy for driving this far for races, but when you factor in the time I’m going to be here and what driving the DMX Van allows me the freedom to do, it starts making sense. Well, it maybe it doesn’t sound quite so ludicrous, anyway. 

With 3 Canadians trying to make it into the night show, there were stories to keep me focused and busy at Anaheim 1. #16 Cole Thompson from Brigden, ON rides for the Team Solitaire Heartbeat Hot Sauce Leatt team, #500 Julien Benek from Mission, BC rides for the Partzilla PRMX OGs team, and #518 Parker Eales from Maple Ridge, BC rides with support from Holeshot Motorsports Fox Racing KTM, all in the 250 West class.

Of the three, Cole is the rider with the most experience racing at this level indoors, while Julien and Parker have both put in a ton of laps in the Future West Moto Arenacross series out in Chilliwack, BC. 

The PRMX rig was parked inside the pits close to the Solitaire rig, so they were all set as the weekend drew near. Parker was a little late arriving with Kyle Springman and Kevin Urqhart but they ended up getting a plum parking spot just inside the gate. “Last to arrive, first to leave,” is how Kyle summed it all up. 

Cole was parked out in the big lot beside the pits, just like he was last season when I showed up and interviewed him. However, he was able to get the rig parked inside the gates and into the pits for race day. 

With all the rain the area has been getting lately, riding during Press Day was canceled, so we didn’t get to see anyone on the dirt Friday afternoon. The Round 1 Press Conference still took place inside the stadium, and it was broadcast live on the Supercross YouTube channel:

As I was going to the van afterward, I noticed a short Sprinter van had parked next to me. To me, it seemed to be exactly like the one Keylan Meston drives. Obviously, he’s not the only one with one of these things, so I wandered around the back to see what the plates were…Alberta! It was him. I snuck up along the driver side of the van and noticed the window was open. I popped up to surprise Keylan only to find some random stranger talking on his phone. I’m not sure who was more startled. After explaining the situation to him and apologizing, we both went on our ways. 

By the way, it turned out that Keylan was actually at the race but he’d flown down from Alberta. You can’t make this stuff up, folks!

The KTM guys checking out the track on Friday.

The question everyone was asking was about the condition of the track. Most feared it was going to be a mudder, but they had the track covered and were, at that point, doing everything they could to get the moisture out of the middle section of the track. It had stopped raining at around noon on Friday, so the track had a solid day of direct sunlight to help. 

I had been having out with Rick Hamer-Jackson AKA Hammertime from Kelowna, BC for the couple days prior to the weekend. We had a great time watching the World Junior Hockey Tournament gold medal game at a cool place called Billy’s at the Beach (seemed appropriate) and celebrated Team Canada’s win with…well, each other. 

We took a few minutes to do a Supercross Preview while parked in Andy Bell’s Newport Beach driveway. If you haven’t seen it, Hammer is an absolute encyclopedia of all things Moto-related and was a great guy to sit and talk A1 with. You can watch it here:

Thanks for a great few days, Hammer. It was great to catch up after all these years. I hope your drive home is going/went smoothly. 

By the way, I’m typing most of this sitting in the back of the van with the tailgate open at Newport Beach. It’s amazing how many people are driving slowly past and giving me the classic “nodder” of…approval???

Anyway, back to race day…

Cole Thompson at track walk.
Kyle Springman and Parker Eales at track walk.
Julien Benek at track walk.
Cole qualified 20th.

Cole qualified the highest but didn’t seem very happy with how it went. He’s clearly better than his 20th (1:03.753) place would indicate, but 20th put him into the Night Show, which is always the first goal. 

Parker qualified 48th.

Parker ended up qualifying 48th (1:09.915) and was finished for this round. He wasn’t overly happy with how it went but is looking forward to working hard this week to improve on that this weekend in Oakland. 

He looked good on the track. A lot of riders come down here and definitely don’t look comfortable or aggressive when they first try their hand at Supercross, but Parker looked like he belongs out there. If he can clean up a few things, he’ll breeze into the night show one of these weeks, for sure. 

Julien qualified 41st.

Julien was the tough result to swallow. Nobody wants to finish in 41st (1:06.992) place, less than .3 seconds off, but that’s exactly what he did. As you know, they take the top 40 to the Night Show and the rest pack up their pit. However, just missing it by one means there’s still a chance someone is unable to make it for any number of reasons, so you have to stay ready in case that happens and you get the green light to go racing. In hindsight, I guess he could have lined up behind Forkner…

As we all know now, he didn’t get in as first alternate and his night was finished. Not only is he trying to get comfortable on his new bike after injury but he’s also got to keep getting used to his new body. The kid is 6’3″ now! He’s closing in on Parker.

By all accounts, the A1 track was gnarly. And I don’t just throw that word around! Radical, sure, but not gnarly. #23 Chase Sexton said it himself. He said it was the “gnarliest” track that only Daytona can compare to. They all agreed to that at the post-race Press Conference.

The good thing is that, although Parker and Julien didn’t make the night show this week, they’re heading to round 2 in Oakland healthy. This discipline is all about control and progression. Of course, both of them are fast, but SX is a different animal. Things can go wrong even faster than they can in MX. Riders prove this fact again and again.

Cole Thompson headed to 250 Heat #1 on the inside gate. The preferred gates were closer to the middle of the inside section of starting gate, but Cole was hoping to get a good jump or squeeze his way on the inside of the first turn to make something out of a possible poor jump.

He was up in the top 5 or 6 after the first turn behind #508 Hunter Yoder riding for the Canadian Partzilla PRMX team. Cole was 8th with 2 laps to go. He made the pass on Yoder with 1 to go and grabbed 7th at the flag to move directly to the Main. Ahead of him was #41 Derek Kelly who was the rider who Cole got together with last season, ending it early.

Mitchell Harrison qualified 24th and finished 9th in the LCQ.

Canadian Triple Crown Series 250 Triple Crown champion #84 Mitchell Harrison was in a battle for 11th, finished 12th, and would have to go to the LCQ.

In the LCQ, Harrison had troubles off at the start and was at the back of the pack (I didn’t see what happened). He made passes the whole race but crossed the line in 9th (top 4 move on) and his A1 was finished.

250 Main

Cole was on the outside section of the split start for the 250 Main and didn’t get out to a good jump so he ended up pretty far back and crossed the line to end lap 1 in 12, which was better than where he was.

Robertson putting a move on Cole in the 250 Main.

#40 Stilez Robertson made this same pass on a couple riders at the end of the 3rd base rhythm section. He used a bump and run on Cole to take the position.

Cole is obviously one of the smoothest riders on the track, but he seemed to be a gear higher than the rest and wasn’t ringing out his Yamaha down the next section. I didn’t get a chance to chat with him after the races because we are ushered along up to the post-race press conference. I’ll be sure to talk to him this week.

Cole finished 13th in the 250 Main.

He crossed the line in 13th, again behind Kelly and ahead of #111 Alex Rodriguez.

Check out this clip showing just how smooth Cole looked out there:

So, now the question is about what’s going to happen this coming week in Oakland. There are rumours of cancelling the round altogether, but we’ll have to see how the week progresses before pushing the panic button. However, as I type this in Murrieta there is a flood warning being issued for the area.

It’s not raining around here yet, so I’ll head over to the practice track and see what I can see and who I can chat with.

Have a great week and I’ll also get to work on some other things from Round 1. Thanks for reading.

#388 Brandon Ray (B-Ray) is a walking highlight reel! His battle with #81 Ty Masterpool in his qualifier was intense and then he was flying in the LCQ but ended up sailing off the track without his bike. See you at the races…