The ‘Vancouver Island MX Championship Series’ concluded in Campbell River on August 26th in dramatic fashion. The Island Championship finale was, in my opinion, one of the best days of racing on the island in a long time. My heart was all a flutter through most of the day as I anticipated each race knowing who had to do what to earn or maintain their position in the final standings. There was, of course, triumph and heartbreak. For every kid I felt great for as they did what they had to do, I felt equally heartbroken for those who came up a little short. That’s the nature, and the beauty, of racing! Many of the Championships came down to the last day, or even the last moto, of the series. In particular Junior, Youth, and Intermediate, generally the most competitive classes, didn’t disappoint. Daniel Vanderbasch clinched the two fastest classes, Youth and Intermediate MX-2, at the final round. These two classes had a significant increase in riders this season, up almost 25%, so it was especially impressive for Vanderbasch to win both of them. The size of these ‘almost Pro’ classes bodes well for racing on the island over the next few years. The notion of having the last round of the Championship in the fall sort of came about by accident, we ran out of dates in the spring, but I think it turned out to be a great idea! It was obvious as the racing went on who had been practicing all summer and who went to the beach. The long break seemed to reinvigorate many of the riders and the turnout was great for a fall season race. Enthusiasm seemed high all around, and with two of the clubs offering summer racing and NMA holding the Ryan Lalonde Summer Camp, it felt like many of the riders were especially keen to show off their newly developed talents at the final round. Many riders upped their game and came out and put in performances I’m quite confident they could not have done in the spring. The upshot of all this is that the races were all very exciting with many new faces at the front of the pack. I think many riders are keen to start the fall Club Series and continue what they started at the final Championship round. The new format of the fall Club Series will allow many of these riders to test their skills against the riders they will have to face when they move up a class next spring. Congratulations to those who triumphed, and condolences to those who came up a touch short. I’m so impressed with the effort so many of these racers put in over the summer. It was an epic day of racing!
The younger 50cc class Championship was not won this year, it was decimated! Adam Polichek won every moto he contested and came close to doubling the points of his nearest competition Sebastion Sulyok, who finished 2nd in the series. Most of the riders in this class achieve their goals if they successfully navigate the course on two wheels, and that’s normal for a five year old. Polichek though is already racing; I mean, really racing! Polichek, incidentally, went over to Kamloops and won the B.C. Championship in this class the following weekend. It’s going to be interesting to see if he continues to develop at this phenomenal rate as he progresses up through the classes. We could be witnessing the rise of one of the ‘special ones’ here. Ty Cyr rounded out the podium in the younger 50cc class. Likewise in the older 50cc class, Cameron Bradley continued his dominant ways this season. After posting a perfect season last year, Bradley came within one moto and a bit of bad luck of doing the same thing this year. In the older class though, there are several riders who’re ripping it up pretty good. Hudson Scheres, Ryder Roth, Kyron Ketch, and Cole Wasmuth have all picked up the pace and appeared like they might be closing the gap a little on Bradley…until the final round. Cameron Bradley is one of about 20 riders who participated in the Ryan Lalonde Summer Camp and the extra training and seat time seemed to raise his game yet another notch for the final round. Bradley was jumping stuff he never jumped before and riding with even more confidence and style, leaving Scheres, Roth, and Ketch to battle for the remaining podium positions for the day and the season. Scheres ended up 2nd, Roth 3rd, and Ketch 4th in both cases. Although the 50cc classes had 22 riders race in total, there were generally only half a dozen or so at each event. I’d be keenly interested in hearing from some of the 50cc parents what we might be able to do to get more of these riders out to the races more often.[Gallery not found]
The 65cc class was one of the most shaken up classes as a result, presumably, of the summer break and the amount of riding done by different riders. At the final round none of the six riders finished in the same position in both of their motos, indicating a parity that wasn’t apparent in the spring. Justin Daniels has pretty much had his way in this class throughout the season and he did win the final event and the Championship, but it wasn’t without a fight at the final round. Kolton Pieters and Cameron Bradley both appeared to have closed the gap on Daniels over the summer. Pieters in particular was sensational at the final round. He got the jump on Daniels in the final moto of the season and rode spectacularly to hold off the Champion all the way to the checkered flag. Again, I’m beyond confident in saying that this simply would not have happened six weeks ago! Pieters also attended the Lalonde summer camp…are you seeing a pattern here? My hat’s off to Kolton for the hard work he put in over the summer, and also to Ryan Lalonde for the difference he made in these kids in five days of riding. Cameron Bradley put in a 2-3 day and clearly had better control of his clutch than he did at the end of the spring session. Bradley ended the title chase in 2nd behind Daniels, Pieters was 3rd, Wyatt Soderstrom 4th, and another vastly improved rider, Damien Mclaughlin rounded out the top 5.[Gallery not found]
There was no real change in the pecking order at the top of the older 85cc and Supermini classes, but because Joe Nikirk missed a round and Harrison Bradley was so consistent in his 2nd place finishes, Bradley walked off with both Championships. Wyatt Scheres finished third in both classes. Nikirk won the finale and Bradley was second in both classes, while Scheres scored a 3rd in the older 85cc class. The fact that all three of these riders placed in the top 5 at the B.C. Provincials speaks volumes for the quality of mini racing on the island. Nikirk is your 2012 B.C. Champion in the 85cc 12-16 class and Bradley was the runner-up. Scheres finished 5th. Yes, I’m getting a little tired of hearing how much better the mainland riders are than us! Special note must be made of Autumn Gould who rode her KX85 to an impressive 5th overall in the older 85cc class. Austin Gregg, who’s raced sporadically this summer, put himself ahead of Scheres in both Supermini motos this weekend and snagged the final podium position. Newcomer Steven Lakberg Green was a welcome and competitive addition to these classes at the finale; he finished 4th in the 85cc class and 5th in Supermini. In the younger 85cc class, class Champion Wyatt Youland took himself out of the weekend’s races early when he suffered a concussion in a Supermini crash. He had a big enough lead to still win the Championship, but his absence left the door open for a new and first time winner in the 85cc 7-11 class. Many might have been surprised by the new found speed of Tanner Meyland, but (as his step-dad) I wasn’t. At the end of the spring session Tanner said to me, “Jim, I want to practice a lot this summer.” It was music to my ears and I made sure I got Tanner out riding as often as possible. His improvement was dramatic! Meyland entered the final round with a slim 10 point gap over Brandon Johnson for 2nd place in the series, but Johnson has traditionally beaten him so the position was far from locked up. I’m sure I was more nervous than Tanner all day. Michael Masters, himself vastly improved, took both holeshots and Meyland came around about 3rd on the first lap in both motos behind Masters and Johnson, but he was able to dispatch both riders fairly handily on the first lap of both races and he never looked back…I mean literally, I’ve finally beaten that bad habit out of him! Johnson crashed in both motos, but regardless, it was evident that he had nothing for Meyland on this day and this track. Also vastly improved from the spring was David Bradley who worked his way up to 2nd in both motos. Masters held on for 3rd and Bradley Nelson was 4th in both motos. Brandon Johnson managed to crack the top 5 in the second moto, but he was clearly off his game. I suspect this is one of the clearest instances where the amount of seat time riders got over the summer break affected performances and results. The top four riders on the day, Meyland, Bradley, Masters, and Nelson all rode a lot over the summer. Johnson, who beat all these riders fairly handily in the spring, got very little seat time over the summer and had to settle for 5th overall at the finale and 3rd in the series. I’ll say it…I’m so proud of the fantastic effort Tanner put into his riding this summer and so happy all the hard work was reflected at the final race of the season. Way to go little buddy![Gallery not found]
Where are all the Ladies on the island? This season we had only four Ladies who raced more than half the races. As a general rule classes are not run unless there are at least five contestants, which means, had the rules been strictly followed, there would not have been a Ladies class this year. Come on Ladies! Find some friends with bikes and drag them out to the races! As it was the class was won by Autumn Gould, and she put an exclamation mark on the season by winning the final round. Autumn also finished 5th in the 85cc 12-16 class, that’s how well she’s riding these days. Camille Baker missed several rounds to race the Nationals, but she still managed to finish 2nd in the Championship series. Ana Jellema is new to racing this season, but she was really coming on strong in the last couple of rounds. She finished 3rd in the series and at the final round she battled tooth and nail with Jesse Jenkins, but couldn’t beat her in the final moto and had to settle for 3rd behind Gould and Jenkins, who finished the series in 4th.[Gallery not found]
There was a decent turn-out of Beginner riders for the final round, although in reality several of them are now technically Juniors. CMRC policy is to move Beginners up to Junior as soon as they have accumulated 6 move up points, which is roughly two moto wins or the equivalent in podium finishes. Because there are so few Beginners on the island however, VIMX traditionally allows riders to complete a series despite having earned their move up points. Looking at the standings I think one can safely presume that MX-1 winner David Hill, and MX-2 competitors Ryan Cooper, Bryce Kosak, Jackson Boates, and possibly Gabriel Geddes Skelding have all pointed out of Beginner and will be Juniors in the fall Club Series. Cooper and Kosak went 1-2 at the finale, and Kurt Kohlhofer rounded out the MX-2 podium in just his second time out racing. In the series standings Cooper won the Championship, Gabriel Geddes Skelding finished 2nd, and Kosak was 3rd.[Gallery not found]
The Ageless Classes
All the age classes this season were won by newcomers to the Island Championship series…which is a good thing! The fast man of the age set was clearly Dwayne Richmond, who won both Vet Master and 40+. Richmond is fast enough to be competitive in the fastest classes on the island, Youth and Intermediate, and only a few guest appearances by the likes of Jeff Banks, Dwight Dockendorf, and Derek Thompson interrupted his impressive string of victories. The finale in Campbell River, however, was one of those races where Jeff Banks showed up and demonstrated why he’s a legend in these parts. Although Richmond was clearly able to ride Bank’s speed, Banks prevailed in both Vet Master motos and won the class. Bearing in mind that Banks is first and foremost a freestyle rider, it’s kind of awe-inspiring to see him beat a guy like Richmond and hang in with the top 3 in the Intermediate class! Like Richmond, Banks is one of those guys who seems truly ageless. Although Richmond stomped all over the +40 class, a couple bad motos and the incredible consistency of Jason James class kept the title chase very close in the Vet Master class. Richmond still won, but only by a measly 4 points! It does bare noting that at the halfway point of the season Derek Thompson led Richmond by 102 points in this class. Then Thompson mysteriously disappeared. Anyone knowing the where-abouts of Derek Thompson is kindly invited to share that information. We’re worried about you Derek, please call home! Jeff Stites and Paul Hansen swapped moto finishes in the battle for the two remaining podium positions behind Richmond this weekend in the +40 class, with Stites eventually prevailing in the second moto to take 2nd overall. David Maloney was quick and very consistent in the +40 class all season and nailed down second in the series while, despite missing the final round after a nasty crash, Jason Cissell hung on to the final podium position. Shawn Aigner won the Vet Beginner Championship and put a stamp on his fantastic season by winning both motos at the season finale. David Maloney finished 2nd in the series and 3rd at the finale. Aigner and Maloney are both new to racing on the island; it’s great to see new old faces out at the races! Dan Nikirk put his bike ahead of Maloney in both motos at the finale to take 2nd overall, he was riding great! Stuart Abernethy finished 3rd in the Championship and, although I don’t want to give away his age, I will say that he’s pretty solidly into his 50′s which makes his consistent top 5 finishes very impressive in a class that starts at age 30![Gallery not found]
I’ve gone on and on all season about how great the racing has been in the Junior class, and the battle for the Championship at the final round concluded the saga in epic fashion. The most intense championship battle of the day undoubtedly, was in the always competitive Junior MX-2 class. Going into the final day of racing four riders were well within striking distance of the title. Alex Haley led the series by a scant 8 points over Isaiah Haylett, and Stephen Weme and Eli Titus were also still very much in contention. In the first moto of the day Haylett made up 7 points on Haley and entered the final moto of the season down by a single point. Weme and Titus both had miserable motos and pretty much dropped out of contention. Between Haley and Haylett it came down to whoever finished ahead in the last moto of the series to win the title. You can’t ask for better racing than that! Haley admitted he felt sick to his stomach all day and even shed a few tears in staging before the last moto. The pressure on these kids is intense. Neither rider got a fantastic start in the final moto, but Haylett especially was buried deep in the pack. Haylett dug deep though, and was picking riders off every lap moving toward the front, but Haley was also riding great and moving forward. I could barely breathe anticipating the possibility of the two riders finding each other on the track, but then, about midway through the race, the intensity got the better of Haylett and he crashed. Haley kept it all together and moved up to 3rd place by moto’s end, thereby locking up the title. I felt great for Haley, but my heart was heavy for Haylett. It was a strange sensation of conflicted emotions. I know how much the title meant to both kids; it’s a shame someone had to lose in a battle like this. None-the-less, Alex Haley was very quick and easily the most consistent rider in the Junior class this year; he very much deserves to be the Champ. Haylett ended up 2nd in the series, and Stephen Weme was 3rd. I know the word is overused and tired, but the Junior MX-2 season really was epic! The Junior GP class was only slightly less intense. Haley had a pretty good grip on the title going into the final round and Nathan Donohue-Bragg was pretty solid in 2nd, but the battle for the final podium position was very tight between Haylett and Eli Titus. Titus led Haylett by 2 points at the start of the day, but a tough first moto erased that deficit and Haylett locked up the final podium position for the series by finishing just ahead of Titus in the final moto of the season. Titus has to be the tough luck story of the series. I pointed out in my preview to the final round that he was within a whisper of being either just on or just off the podium in both Jr. classes. As it turns out he just missed on both counts, which is a tough pill to swallow for a guy who was capable of winning the class on many days. Although my focus and attention was on the title contenders, two of the fastest Juniors in attendance at the final round were not series regulars, and the fastest of the series regulars were not the championship contenders! Graham Scott rode the series for parts of last year, but has been plagued with injuries and did not ride the CMRC series this year until the final round. I understand he’s been fairly active riding at Westshore in Victoria however, and he looked well practiced and completely dominant in the Jr. classes at the final round. He got solid starts, got to the lead quickly, and opened a substantial gap on the competition in short order. He was deceptively fast. He was so smooth it was hard to tell how fast he was going…until you took note of how far behind 2nd place was! Second place in the Jr. displacement class was occupied by Dean Tipper most of the day, although he was actually one of two bikes competing in the MX-1 class. Tipper was able to keep Scott honest for most of the race, but eventually faded just off the pace of Scott, but still ahead of the rest of the pack. Tipper did not race in the GP class, where he would have actually had some bikes to race against! I have to say I’m glad to see the MX-1 classes being eliminated for the fall series. To my mind it’s ridiculous to run classes for 2 bikes when you can run them in a GP class. The fastest riders this weekend, of the regular Junior series contenders, were Nathan Donohue-Bragg, who we’re used to seeing at the front of the pack, and Jacey Wissman, who I think we’re going to get used to seeing at the front of the pack. NDB, as I like to call him because I hate typing out his full name, has been winning motos all season and, if not for a couple bad luck days, might well have won a title. From the first time I saw NDB ride in Beginner last season I had him pegged as having the style to go fast. Now he does. He won Jr. GP and finished 3rd in Jr. MX2 behind Scott and Jacey Wissman at the finale. Jacey Wissman just started coming on at the last few rounds of the series. It was at the Nanaimo Amateur day were he first served notice that he was a force to be reckoned with, and this weekend he was clearly among the fastest few Jr. riders on the track. His three 2nd place moto finishes attest to how consistently fast he was. He ended up 2nd in both Jr. classes. This Junior season really was fantastic from a competitive racing point of view, but I have to say it really leaves me scratching my head when it comes to move-up points for next season. In past years we generally see one or two kids shine, and it becomes clear who has outgrown the Junior class. Last year it was Jason Abernethy and Chase Krompocker in the Spring, and then Dylan Hansen in the fall. This year though, no one has really dominated the class. Despite winning both Jr. classes, I think even Alex Haley would admit that he did not really run away from his competition. In fact NDB, Isaiah Haylett, and recently Jacey Wissman have often seemed to be a tad quicker, and in terms of riding improvement I would dare suggest all three of these riders made bigger gains this year than Haley, who was pretty competitive at many races last year. My gut feeling is that although all of these riders have likely earned their move-up points, I would support any and all of them spending another year in Junior if they so desire. In fact, if I was to pick one guy to move to Intermediate I would pick Graham Scott, who almost certainly has not earned his move-up points! To support this I would point out that Scott finished 2nd at the B.C. Championships (congrats Graham!), while Haylett finished 19th (Haylett finished 2nd in Schoolboy though). There has been a lot of talk around the campfire about adjusting the move-up point system to compensate for the relatively few riders who compete on the island, but I’m not sure this is really necessary. CMRC is pretty good about allowing VIMX members to inform them as to who should really move up despite what the points say. I really look forward to the fall Club series and seeing these Jr. riders compete in the Under 30 class against Intermediate riders. It will give a good indication of where they really stack up, and may sway both the riders themselves and the VIMX board one way or another in regards to whether or not they’re ready to move up.[Gallery not found]
As fantastic as the Junior class was this season, I was even more impressed with the improved size and quality of the Intermediate class. As an indication of this improvement I will point out that all three of the island Intermediates who attended the B.C. Championships placed in the top 5! Again, please stop telling me how inferior our racers and race programs are! Of course there tends to be faster riders on the mainland, but it’s simply a numbers game. There are more riders on the mainland, therefor there tends to be a few faster riders…there are also a lot more slower riders! I would argue that ‘per capita’ we are just as fast if not faster. Although he missed several events to race the Nationals, I think very few would argue that Ryan Lalonde has set himself apart in the Intermediate class. In fact, he started backwards in the final moto of the season and still led the race by the midway point. Lalonde though, is pretty much Pro calibre now. I will argue with CMRC to keep him in Intermediate for one more year based solely on his meteoric rise and relative inexperience, but it’s likely a lost cause. He earned a top 100 Pro number this year (#98), and that makes it hard to argue he’s not ready for the Pro class. Lalonde aside though, there are several other riders shining in the Intermediate class. At the top of this list I have to take my hat off to Daniel Vanderbasch. Vanderbasch won both the Youth and Intermediate MX-2 Championships, and finished right behind Lalonde in all four of his motos at the finale. Well, not right behind, but next in line anyways! In my ‘Top Prospects’ articles I had Vanderbasch pegged at #4 behind Lalonde, Corey Cardinal, and Blaine Morrow, but to his credit he appears to have worked hard during the off season (something he makes a habit of), raised his game yet again, and then came to the final round and made me eat my words! No matter where he started, Vanderbasch was able to catch and pass all but Lalonde in Campbell River. I jut can’t say enough about the fortitude and never-say-die attitude of this kid. All three of the guys I put ahead of him on the ‘Prospects’ list got there primarily because of their ‘natural’ gifts. Vanderbasch, on the other hand, has had to work his way up from mid-pack in every class he has ever contended. This is the kind of guy who really epitomizes what this sport is about for me. Congratulations on a phenomenal season Daniel! I’m more than happy to eat my words in this instance. All this is not to take anything away from Blaine Morrow, Damon Riesach, or Jason Abernethy, all of whom have also made tremendous gains this season. Morrow and Riesach both struggled a bit last year, as is normal with first year Intermediates, but man did they ever look good this year. Both riders were able to beat Corey Cardinal straight up at various points in the season, something they definitely would not have done last year. As for Cardinal, I’ve mentioned that he’s lost his focus a little this year. Apparently he was not at the final round because he forgot there was a race that weekend…I think that pretty much says it all. Abernethy is a first year Intermediate who seems to have skipped right past the first year hiccups straight to being a contender. He finished the season in 2nd place in Intermediate and 3rd in Youth. He accomplished this largely through consistency, but he clearly closed the speed gap on the fastest Intermediates as the year wore on. In fact, at the last round he battled Morrow and Riesach straight up very competitively several times during the day. The last race of the season was also witnessed the rise of Dylan Hansen, who finally lived up to his promise and captured two podium finishes in the Youth class, and then went over to Kamloops and scored 5th at the B.C. Championships. Add him to the list of vastly improved Intermediates on the island, and also pencil in Bryce Currie, who hasn’t raced a lot but always looks great when he shows up, and Jesse Ryan, who always has great speed but still struggles a bit with consistency. Jeff Banks rode Pro GP (the only competitor in the class) at the final round and showed that he can still battle with the best of the Intermediates on the island. I said it in the Vet section of this article, but I’ll say it again. Jeff Banks is ageless and awesome![Gallery not found]
And that wraps up a fantastic season of racing! Personally I think it was a step in the right direction. I liked not having so many double-headers. For me this made the weekends less stressful and more enjoyable all around. I’d like to see maybe one or two double-headers next year, especially if we can get Port McNeill back into the fold, but on the whole I like the series a little more spread out. It seemed kind of anti-climatic completing 8 rounds in 4 weekends and, if you had any mechanical or injury issues, you could easily be out of it in one missed weekend in such a compressed series. As it turns out I also really liked having a break before the final round; it seemed to build the excitement and allow riders to rest, practice, repair or whatever they had to do to get ready for the finale. As many of you already know, the fall ‘Club Series’ will be run significantly differently this year. VIMX is trying to address some of the complaints regularly heard about the days being too long, and the classes too small. The number of classes has been reduced from 21 to 13, mostly by getting rid of the Beginner, Jr., and Intermediate MX-1 classes which traditionally only have a couple of bikes entered. All these classes will be run as GP classes (thus dropping 6 classes right there). The Vet Jr. and Master classes have been combined since Vet Master usually only has about 3 contenders, and the +40 class has been split into +35 and +45 to accommodate riders almost 40 and well over (this is the one instance where we actually added a class, but it will be run together, cost no time, and hopefully be more appealing to more age guys). In short we tried to eliminate the classes that had ridiculously low sign-up numbers. Invariably this will mean that some riders who might have been contenders in a very small class will have to accept that they may not trophy in a larger class, but this is the fall and I really think it will make for better, more fun racing for all involved. I’m especially excited to see the Under 30 class which will be the 2nd class for those running Intermediate or Jr. GP (Beginners will not be allowed in this class for safety reasons). This class has been run at several of the track’s summer races and is a lot of fun. I hope to see 30+ riders on the gate for this class! Of course I’m not deluding myself, I realize this class will tend to be two races within one for the most part (Jr/Int), but I think it’s important that the fast Jr.’s get a taste for how fast the Intermediate class is, and I also think it’s important that all our boys get a chance to start on a full gate. Plus, I think you might be surprised how competitive some of our fast Jr.’s will be against mid-pack Intermediates. Mostly though I hope everyone comes to the races with an open mind and the intention to have fun! In my experience the fun of racing is battling with the guy closest to you regardless of where you are in the pack. The new format will put more guys/kids close to each other and hopefully eliminate the tedium (for both riders and spectators) of 3 riders riding around all alone for 15 minutes! I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing me say it, but when I raced there were 60 kids in the 85 class and 120 kids in the Jr. class and there was no Beginner or age breakdowns. You raced the guy closest to you, had fun, and worked hard to get to the top of the heap. When you finally won a race against 100 guys it sure felt a lot better than being the best in a class of 3! I also had to walk three miles through 6 feet of snow to get to school!
Don’t forget to put together your relay team for the fall: 1 mini, 1 Jr., 1 Intermediate, 1 Vet! And bring a pair of underwear or bra you can use to pass off as you change riders (I’m not actually sure how this will be done, but I like the under garment idea!). See ya’ll soon!