Renowned singer/songwriter Bob Dylan is known for coining deep and meaningful phrases such as “The times they are a changin’” and “The answer is blowin’ in the wind”, but when asked what he thought were the best lyrics written in the new millennium he answered, “Woo-hoo” by Blur. I get it; this is the woo-hoo generation and motocross is the ultimate woo-hoo sport! The opening round of the VIMX Island Motocross Championship in Campbell River was all about ‘woo-hoo’! The weather was beautiful …woo-hoo! The turn-out was great…woo-hoo! And the racing was awesome…woo-hoo! I couldn’t get that damn song out of my head all weekend!
The race attracted better than expected ridership, perhaps the most we’ve seen for a few years. I was in awe watching the pits fill up Friday night. The economy hasn’t been good for motocross, but people are finding a way to make it out. It was great to see our old racing cronies again. The motocross community is like our extended family and it was touching walking around from pit to pit Friday night seeing many people I haven’t seen for several months. Perhaps it’s the intense nature of the sport that bonds us; when a racer is hurt the entire community feels it. When a bike breaks down everyone pitches in to help fix it. In this sport you need your friends. It was great to see my motocross family again at the first race. Especially encouraging was all the new faces showing up to race. There were new riders in virtually every class which bodes well for the season. I tried to get around to meet as many as I could and welcome to the newcomers to our extended MX family that, like the saying goes, puts the ‘fun’ back into dysfunctional! If you’re an old hand at the races make sure you make the newbies feel welcome. New racers…woo-hoo!
By the time Sunday rolled around I was more than ready for some racing action. I was nervous even though I don’t race anymore…old habit I guess. I remember the feeling before the first race though; a mixture of excitement and anxiety that leaves you unable to eat or sleep properly. I suppose all racers are similar, laying awake for nights before imagining that first race. Visions of laying a whipping on the competition, running through an imaginary set of events in our mind, riding like we’ve never ridden before, taking the checkered flag…and then we wake up! All but one rider in each class will wake up to a different reality than this, but all will have a story and a thrilling day to store in their memory banks. When the racing finally got going I wasn’t disappointed by the action. Almost all of the classes had more riders than we’ve seen in recent years, but the turn-out in Intermediate was amazing. The usual suspects from the past few years, plus the fast Juniors from last year and a few returning heroes, led to nearly 20 riders in the premiere classes. It was awesome to see that many fast guys on the gate! Woo-hoo!
So…to the racing!
The Campbell River track was prepared flawlessly as the youngest tykes on their 50cc machines took to the track. The deep sand at Campbell River usually causes the youngsters some trouble, but this season the class seemed more competent from top to bottom; the sand was no trouble. Continuing his perfect season from last year was Cameron Bradley who won both motos in the 7-8 year old class. Right behind him were a slew of riders very similar in speed. Ryder Roth finished second overall, but Cole Wasmuth, Hudson Scheres, and Kyron Ketch are not far behind. Adam Polichek won the younger 4-6 year old class.
Last year the 65cc class had dwindled down to four or five riders. I was thrilled to see ten bikes line up for the Pee Wee class this weekend. Colby Egeland was pretty much in a class of his own as he rode away from the field, leaving Andrew Bradbrooke and Justin Daniels to battle for the runner-up position. Bradbrooke came out the victor, but Daniels was never far behind in third. Cole Farup and Kolton Pieters rounded out the top five.
If ten riders in the 65cc class thrilled me, I was absolutely titillated to see eighteen 85cc bikes hit the line for practice! Joe Nikirk has dominated the 85cc division on the island for several years now, and this season appears to be no different. He won everything, but not without a battle from Harrison Bradley. Bradley got ahead of Nikirk in one race and held him off until the second to last lap when he overshot a berm and Nikirk shot by. Bradley is close, but Nikirk still has an edge. Not far behind these two is Nolan Egeland who picked up a string of third place finishes. Wyatt Scheres and Austin Archer have been racing head to head for what seems like a life-time now. Every weekend they are wheel to wheel, and after all these seasons I still couldn’t say who’s faster. This weekend was no exception. Archer got the upper hand in the 85cc 12-16 class, finishing 4th, but Scheres battled back and beat him in the Supermini class! Just behind the fast five there were a lot of new and less familiar faces. Collum Wasmuth is back, and new comers Jeffrey Furrell, Mitchell Nelson, and Tyler Wilson showed themselves well. Welcome to the family boys! In the younger 85cc class it was all Wyatt Youland. Youland won both motos and seems far more stable and consistent than he has been in the past. Rounding out the podium were Brandon Johnson and Tanner Meyland who swapped 2nd and 3rd place finishes in their two motos.
Camille Baker is a National caliber women’s motocross racer and she had no trouble winning the Ladies race this weekend. Brittany Stokes and Lindsey Mclean swapped podium positions with Stokes taking 2nd overall due to her better finish in the second moto. Chelsea Masters seems to have gained a lot of speed over the winter. She dueled with Tracey Marshall for most of the second moto and held her off to complete the day in 4th both motos.
The Ageless Classes
There were also quite a few new names in the Vet and +40 classes. I guess it’s true, 40 is the new 20! Ryan Townsend won both Vet Master races rather handily but Corby McCartney, Arlen Roth, and Jason James had some serious battles for the remaining podium positions. In the end McCartney won the reserve position and Roth edged out James for the final podium spot. It should be noted that McCartney was fast enough to finish 2nd in Intermediate MX1, even winning a moto in doing so! Matt Kerrigan won Vet Jr. again. Matt has been the picture of consistency over the past few years; he doesn’t appear blazing fast, doesn’t do a lot of the jumps, but manages to win very consistently. Mike Whyte ended up second overall after Aaron Smeeth, who came second in the first moto, had a nasty accident in the second moto. He was apparently punctured by his lever. I know this sounds almost impossible, but I got the word from an eleven year old so it must be true. Whatever the case, he left in an ambulance so we hope he’s okay. On the topic of ‘scary moments’ there were a few other nasty ones in the Vet classes. Dean Tipper finished a solid 4th in the first moto, but endoed off the finish line drop off and tumbled really hard down the hill, then Aaron Symonds had the front end fall off his bike! It was another scary moment, but Aaron walked away safely. After all the devastation David Maloney was third overall in Vet Jr., Dan Nikirk fourth, and Stuart Abernathy fifth. Dwayne Richmond looked very fast winning both +40 motos, leaving Jason Cissell and Jason James to finish second and third respectively.
I’ve always thought the Junior class name is a bit of a misnomer. Juniors are the young up and comers, and often among the fastest riders on the track. I’ve known Juniors who could run top five in the Intermediate class, in fact I don’t think it’s uncommon. Anyone who reads this report regularly knows that I love the Jr. class. As I’m fond of saying, they’re fast enough to be very entertaining, but just inexperienced enough to be very entertaining! After the first day of racing one names pops out. Alex Haley was fast, and smooth. He won three of his four motos, and come from dead last to 5th in the other. Other contenders for the season will be Stephen Weme who finished 2nd in Jr. GP and took advantage of Haley’s bad start to win Jr. MX-2. I expected these riders to be at the front, but several riders really surprised and impressed me this weekend. Justin Barzilay, Isaiah Haylett, Nathan Donohue-Bragg, and Tanner Cardinal all found themselves on the podium at least once during the day, with Donohue-Bragg winning the second MX-2 moto. I suspected Haylett might be near the front after I saw him ride at Nanaimo’s Open House, but he was riding even better than I anticipated. Haylett’s for real this year kids! I also knew it was only a matter of time before Donohue-Bragg made a dent on the Jr. class, but I can’t say I expected to see him win a moto on the first weekend of the season. He was a beginner this time last year remember! I think he was a little excited too. On the last lap as he was about to win his first Jr. moto I gave him the thumbs up on his way by me. I think he forgot he was still racing; right in the middle of one of the gnarliest, whooped out sections of the track, he took his hand off the bars to give me a thumbs up back! His bars started to swap out immediately as if to remind him what he was supposed to be doing. He grabbed them mid swap, a micro-second before it was too late! My heart almost stopped. Juniors are so entertaining! Tanner Cardinal has just moved up from the small wheel class and has had very little seat time on his YZ125. I knew he’d be up there, but again, a podium finish is a bit more than I expected out of him. Eli Titus was a favourite at the start of the day, and led part of the first moto before he crashed and tweaked his knee. He’ll be in the running as the series goes on. It’s going to be another fantastic year in the Junior class! Woo-hoo!
Then there is the truly fast – the Youth and Intermediate classes. Once you’ve won your fair share of Junior races you are moved here, where the talent pools! I was through the roof to see nearly twenty riders contesting this class. This is where boys become men and spectators are treated to some fantastic racing. Winning the Youth class gives you the right to say you’re the fastest rider at the track. That honour this weekend goes to SG Power rider Ryan Lalonde. Lalonde was a revelation last season, and has only gotten better over the winter. He won all four of his motos with relative ease; he never looked strained. He’s now doing what the very best riders do; he’s making it look easy! The other revelation for me was Corey Cardinal. Cardinal has been at the forefront of island motocross for many years and won this class last spring. Unfortunately he has only ridden half a dozen times since. This kind of break from riding would have serious consequences for most other riders, almost certainly dropping them several positions down the pecking order. Cardinal, however, picked up almost right where he left off and beat everyone except Lalonde in taking four runner-up finishes. They say you can’t beat hard work, what they don’t tell you is that it’s hard to beat natural talent no matter how much work you do! There were a lot of very fast, talented riders out trying though! Daniel Vanderbasch and Blaine Morrow seemed especially close to the mark. Vanderbasch finished third in Intermediate and Morrow was third in Youth. Both riders were able to keep Cardinal in sight, something neither of them could have done last year. In fact many riders have upped their game. Damon Riesach has always had a lot of pure speed, but he had a hard time maintaining it for a whole moto. At the first race of the year Riesach showed that he’s prepared to last, he rode hard from beginning to end in all his motos. Bryce Adams was one of the fastest riders on the track…and off the side of the track! His results don’t show how fast he was going when he was going, they show instead that he wasn’t going at the end of most of his motos! I hate to put an entertainment value on a rider’s misfortune, but every time Adams came by I saw some wildly entertaining riding…often at his expense. He was the only rider I saw jumping on to the table in the rythym section before the tunnel, and he damn near bounced off the track every time! I know he got a new 450 and, as talented as he is, he didn’t appear in total control of the power this weekend. I say this out of respect and fondness…I don’t want to see anyone get hurt. Of the juniors who moved up to Intermediate this year Jason Abernethy and Jesse Ryan seemed the most prepared for the intensity of the faster class. Abernethy managed to finish 5th in Intermediate MX2, and Ryan had two 6th place moto finishes…in different classes. I was surprised to see how fast Bryce Currie was. Currie didn’t ride the fall series last year, and he was not dominant in the spring Junior series, so I was really impressed with how well he rode. I’m so excited to see this kind of talent out racing on Vancouver Island. This is where champions are bred! Woo-hoo!
That about sums up this weekend’s opening round of racing action. I’m already excited to get to the next round in Nanaimo on April 29th. I’ll be posting all the rider’s photos individually later this week. I won’t be able to do this after this round, it’s just too daunting a task, so if you want access to your photos make sure you visit me in Nanaimo or purchase your photo package online here.
I also want to thank the companies who have stepped up to advertise on this Race Report and help keep it going. I’m so grateful to: SG Power, VI Honda, Arrow Cycle, RidersWest Magazine, VIMX, STS Racing, Speed Merchant, R.E.Cycle, and Ride Industries. While you’re waiting for you photos to be posted please take a moment to go to these businesses’ websites (links in the sidebar at the top of this article), visit their Facebook pages, and thank them for their support. Without them this wouldn’t be possible!
See you in a couple of weeks!